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Mel Kiper: Irish star could join list of Ryan Pace 'steals'

Bears GM Ryan Pace found "steals" late in the 2015 draft, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said Monday. (Sun-Times media)

Bears general manager Ryan Pace’s first draft was solid even though receiver Kevin White never played after having shin surgery, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper, Jr., said Monday. Whether the Bears could draft a player recovering from knee surgery — Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith — might be another question, but Kiper liked what Pace was able to do last season.

“They added some nice pieces after (the first round),” he said on a Monday conference call in anticipation of this week’s NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “The big one was Jeremy Langford, and then Adrian Amos. Those are steals in the fourth and fifth round.

“Amos had a really good year, was one of the top 25 rookies in the NFL all season. And Langford showed his versatility, catching the ball as well as being a decent runner.”

Kiper has projected the Bears to draft Smith — who tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in the Fiesta Bowl — with the No. 11 pick.

“I think when you look at the Bears and Jaylon Smith, you’re not going to get anything tremendously favorable to say he’s going to ready by ‘X’ Game,” he said. “I think you’re going to have to go in thinking, ‘Redshirt, and if we get anything late in the year, it’s a bonus. But we have to try to get him ready for 2017.’ ….

“You’re drafting a guy who you can say is the No. 1 player in this draft at 11, or wherever you draft him, you’re getting arguably the best player in the draft that you just have to wait a year on.”

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Email: pfinley@suntimes.com