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Bears take big step by going with speed rusher Leonard Floyd

The Bears traded up to take Georgia linebacker Leonard Floyd with the ninth pick overall in the NFL draft Thursday. (AP Photo/Brett Davis)

The Bears piled on Thursday. And it was good.

After spending the offseason improving on defense through free agency, they got even better by trading up to take Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd in the first round of the draft.

Floyd has been criticized as being one-dimensional, a speed rusher without much more to his game. Guess what? The Bears desperately need the dimension he offers. Their inability to get to the quarterback was a big reason for their combined 11 victories the past two seasons.

The Bears sent a fourth-round choice to Tampa Bay for the right to move up two spots, from 11th to ninth, to grab Floyd.

“I’m so freaking excited about being a Chicago Bear,” Floyd said.

This is a big risk-reward pick, and it’s fair to say that general manager Ryan Pace has staked his name on it. If Floyd becomes a force on the edge, Pace will look like a genius. If Floyd lacks the strength to go with that speed, Pace might look back at this as where it all started to go wrong for him.

“We needed to load up on pass rushers, and we did,’’ Pace said.

Floyd is 6-foot-6, 244 pounds and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash. The height is impressive, the weight isn’t. His ability to get off the line of scrimmage is exactly what the Bears need, but what happens after that will decide whether Floyd was worthy of a draft-day trade to move up two spots. Can he handle massive blockers?

Floyd had only 4 ½ sacks last season but played several roles.

“With him playing more of a pass-rush position, he’ll have more production,’’ Pace said.

Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will play a big role in Floyd’s development. Floyd’s passing rushing ability has been compared to Aldon Smith’s. Fangio was the coordinator in San Francisco when the 49ers drafted Smith in 2011.

“Huge,’’ Pace said of the influence Fangio could have on Floyd.

We’ll see. But it’s a good first step. A very quick one.