LAKE FOREST – By no means is it like things were a few years back, but at least things are a little closer to normal.
Ryan Pace will be among ten people who will be back in their NFL Draft “War Room” at Halas Hall on Thursday when the team begins their selections. Other staff will be in the building in close contact, which is a far cry from the virtual draft day setup that was necessitated by the pandemic in 2020.
It will also feel more normal since the Bears are back in the first round with a pick – something that hasn’t happened in three years.
“Everyone on our team is excited this week,” said Pace to open his pre-draft news conference on Tuesday. “Our first draft with a first round pick since Roquan (Smith) in 2018, the quantity of picks we have with eight draft picks.”
With these positives and some feel of normalcy there comes the incredible challenge of improving a Bears’ roster in need of an upgrade at a number of positions. Unlike his previous four first round draft picks, Pace will be selecting out of the Top Ten, doing so at No. 20.
It’s only the second time in franchise history that the team has been in that position, taking defensive end Dave Gallagher from Michigan in 1974 and guard Kyle Long in 2013.
“It is unique, and I was just looking over the last ten years and the players that have gone in this range of the draft. As you look back on the hit rates of those players, common denominators as you look in this range of the draft. It’s interesting. It is harder,” said Pace. “When you’re picking in the top ten, it’s very easy to have 100 percent consensus throughout your building. We could have 15 reports on a player, everybody’s got this guy paid.
“But when you go further back, it gets different. I like to take everyone’s opinions in and you’re kinda weighing all that.”
He’ll have to do so for two days with quite a few scenarios likely ahead of him. Having pulled off deals in the last five drafts with the Bears, it’s likely that another one will take place sometime this weekend. In need of everything from an offensive tackle (Bobby Massie released) to cornerback (Kyle Fuller released), while always having eye out for a young quarterback with their 2017 first round pick Mitchell Trubisky out, there are a number of ways they could go.
Pace knows that, too.
“I just think as an organization we’ve got to be ready for every single scenario. However this thing plays out, however this board falls, that’s where all the preparation comes into play,” said Pace. “I feel like we’re in that spot, whether it’s trading up, staying put, trading back, all of those things are in play for us in the preparation.”
Like normal, just like the format of the draft itself, the pressure is on Pace to make that happen.