Ryan Pace’s first Bears draft always was ‘best player available’

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Bears GM Ryan Pace. (Sun-Times Media)

The Bears never broke from their big board. All six of the draft selections made by general manager Ryan Pace were “best player available” situations.

Only in the slimmest of margins, as Pace expressed by closing his hands tightly, would lead him to select a player for need over grade. And that never happened during his first draft as Bears general manager.

“You have to be disciplined with that,” Pace said Saturday night at Halas Hall. “When I’ve seen mistakes in the draft, it’s because you do that. We promised ourselves and we pride ourselves that we won’t do that.”

And really, with needs everywhere, the Bears could do no wrong. Needs were going to be met regardless, even secondary ones such as running back.

“We did have [running back] as a need, but honestly, it was still best player and he was the best player on the board,” Pace said. “That’s one of those situations where it kind of worked out hand in hand.”

The selections of receiver Kevin White (No. 7), defensive tackle Eddie Goldman (No. 39), center Hroniss Grasu (No. 71), running back Jeremy Langford (No. 104), safety Adrian Amos (No. 142) and offensive lineman Tayo Fabuluje (No. 183) all add depth and competition to their respective positions.

Pace was so locked into his first draft board that he didn’t realize that he repeated Phil Emery’s picks from last year by selecting a running back, safety and offensive lineman during Day 3 of the draft.

Pace was told it happened afterward.

“Honestly, I didn’t even think about that,” a smiling Pace said. “It was really best player available all the way through. That’s how it fell. We knew we had a lot of needs.”

Character, though, was of the utmost importance to Pace and coach John Fox. And all of the players selected met their firm requirements. Some intriguing players were definitely passed over because it.

“It was something that was stressed,” Pace said. “Me and John always talk about smart, intelligent, tough players and that was stressed. That wasn’t just happenstance – that was done purposeful.”

As far as trades for more draft selections, Pace said there were talks, but that “nothing really felt right.”

“We felt good about where we were picking and we didn’t want to risk that player,” he said.

One interesting factor for Pace was how his and player personnel director Josh Lucas’ evaluations blended with the staff members and scouts leftover from Emery’s regime.

Lucas worked with Pace in New Orleans, and they implemented their own grading scale for player evaluations.

“We had opinions that came kind of separate in, and they had their opinions, and over the months, we’ve been able to kind of talk and debate and come to a common ground on all of these guys,” Pace said. “I thought it was a bonus that we had our opinions that we brought with us from New Orleans on players that we scouted throughout the years and then they had their opinions. That kind of molded together for a good draft board.”

Email: ajahns@suntimes.com

Twitter: @adamjahns

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