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Ryan Pace: Cole Kmet, Jaylon Johnson too good to pass up

With five holes to fill and what is considered a deep second round, Pace saw an opportunity to get what he wanted and didn’t play any games — resisting offers to trade down.

Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson returns an interception for a 100-yard touchdown against Stanford in 2018.
Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson (1, returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown against Stanford in 2018) “is that physical, press corner that uses his size really well,” Bears general manager Ryan Pace said.
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Bears general manager Ryan Pace has traded up or down with his first or second draft pick every year since playing it straight in his first year as GM in 2015. But he didn’t pussy-foot around this time.

With five holes to fill and what is considered a deep second round, Pace saw an opportunity to get what he wanted and didn’t play any games. He resisted offers to trade down at both No. 43 and No. 50 overall in the second round and there was apparent quick consensus in drafting Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet at No. 43 and Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson at No. 50.

Time will tell if they were right. For now, all we know is they were resolute.

“We had scenarios where we could trade down from both of them. And we talked those out,” Pace said. “But once we knew those players were going to be there, we were excited to select them at those points.

“When Cole was there [at No. 43], we were excited to get him there and just crossed our fingers that there would be a handful of players that we still liked [at No. 50]. We could have traded out of that pick, but when Jaylon was there we turned the card in quickly because he’s a guy we obviously had graded high.”

Everybody gets their guy on draft night. For what it’s worth, here’s what Pace had to say about it:

On Cole Kmet, who was rated the 29th best prospect in the draft by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr.:

“This is really your classic ‘Y’ [in-line] tight end, with prototypical size [6-6, 262] and the athleticism we look for in the position. He’s a big target, with natural hands. He’s really tough after the catch. And he really has the strength and temperament we want in the run game. We feel his blocking is still improving, so there’s a lot of upside in that area.”

On Jaylon Johnson, who was rated the fifth best cornerback in the draft by Kiper, ahead of Ohio State’s Damon Arnette, who went to the Raiders at No. 19:

Jaylon has a really good combination of size, athleticism and awareness. He’s that physical, press corner that uses his size really well. He uses his strength to his advantage — to re-route receivers. Jaylon is a really intelligent player … plays the game with excellent instincts and awareness.”

Cole Kmet will be a complement to Jimmy Graham and Demetrius Harris:

“You really have two different styles to tight ends in this offense. You have the ‘U’ tight end [Graham] and you have the ‘Y’ tight end, which is a little bit more of an in-line guy — good in the run game and he needs to gave the size to be able to do that and that’s what we see with Cole. We think he pairs really well with Jimmy.”

Kmet is expected to develop into the all-around ‘Y’ tight end Nagy’s offense depends on:

“He’s the complete package. It’s hard to find these ‘Y’ tight ends that are really well-rounded in that he’s an asset in the pas game because of his size and hands. He knows how to post up and body, collision and push off. He runs well for his size.

“But his blocking — he’s just got the frame and size and temperament, the demeanor where we all think he’s going to get better as a blocker. To find that well-rounded ‘Y’ tight end, there’s not a lot of them. So for to get him where we did, it was really advantageous for us.”

Johnson, like Kmet, fits the “culture” the Bears are building at Halas Hall:

“You get excited about the player and then our scouts come in [for] the fall meetings and they starting talking about the make-up. [Area scout] Dave Williams is going into who this person is — his leadership, passion for the game; there’s story after story — film preparation, football intelligence; strength coach loves him.. You combine [what’s on tape] with the make-up — and then we get into the interviews and the combine and we get really comfortable with the player and the complete package.”