Ryan Pace was confident the day before his first draft as a general manager.
“There’s a large part of me that wishes that draft was tonight,” he said Wednesday, standing on the sidelines of the Halas Hall practice field.
The Bears GM eschewed specifics in the name of gamesmanship, but gave some insight into how he’s approaching Thursday’s draft.
Here are five things we learned:
• What his draft room looks like. On the second floor of Halas Hall, Pace has identified 170 players on his board. His trade value chart has four different points systems, because NFL teams use slightly different versions of the ubiquitous reference guide for dealing draft picks.
Deputy Josh Lucas, coach John Fox and, to help with the salary cap in the case of trades, vice president Cliff Stein will be in the room. So will area scouts, for last-second questions about players in their region.
• He knows it’s a big pick. The top 10 is strong this year, he said, and a good place to be. Pace hopes to build the Bears the same way the 2006 draft helped construct the Saints into Super Bowl champions four years later.
“When you’re picking in the top 10, you’re hoping, you’re confident, that you’re going to get an impact player that’s going to get this franchise rolling,” he said.
• He’s open to almost anything. The Bears have had exploratory conversations with all six teams ahead of them and many behind them in case they want to trade the No. 7 pick.
He said the Bears have identified seven players with whom they’re comfortable but would consider dealing “if the right opportunity is there.” The Bears have a lot of needs and only six picks, so acquiring an extra selection intrigues Pace.
The Bears can only trade down so far, though, without getting diminishing returns.
“We have a point where we know, ‘This is as far as we’d go,’” he said.
• He’ll go for impact. Just because the draft is deep at a few positions — namely, wide receiver and edge rusher— doesn’t mean Pace would hesitate to draft a player from that group in the first round.
“An impactful player is an impactful player,” he said, “no matter what the depth is in the draft.”
The Bears will draft the best available player, he said, but within reason: if two players’ evaluation scores are similar, the Bears will turn to the position of need.
• Character counts. The Bears have already taken players off their draft board because of character or physical concerns, Pace said. Others are flagged to make sure the staff is aware of an issue before debating whether he is worth the selection.
He praised his scouting staff for researching players’ backgrounds, key considering the marijuana incidences involving edge rushers Shane Ray and Randy Gregory. Ray was cited Monday.
“The evaluation process of their character goes all the way up until the draft starts, really,” Pace said.