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What we heard & what we think: Bears GM Ryan Pace ready for draft

Bears general manager Ryan Pace has some advice for dealing with all the reports and rumors that surface before the NFL draft.

“A lot of it is just so weak,” Pace said. “You have to be disciplined with what we believe in and what we think within these walls and not get caught up in it. You can drive yourself crazy reading all those things.”

Well, Pace held his own annual pre-draft news conference Wednesday. Here’s our best attempt to read between the lines:

The consensus pick

Bears GM Ryan Pace. (AP)

What we heard: The Bears have identified three players worthy of the No. 3 selection, and Pace had an interesting response to whether that high of a pick is affected by the need for a franchise quarterback.

“You get yourself into trouble if you’re not sticking with our philosophy of best player available,” he said. ”When you start trying to manufacture things or create things, that’s when teams get into dangerous water.

“I think, if we just stay with the guys we have a consensus on and best player available, we’ll be in good shape.”

What we think: The key word is “consensus.” The question is whether it exists between Pace’s scouting staff and John Fox’s coaches on a quarterback for the third overall pick.

That consensus might exist later in the first round for Deshaun Watson or Mitchell Trubisky. Neither player visited Halas Hall or was put through a private workout by the Bears.

Focusing on Watson, there’s plenty to like. He’s intelligent, charismatic and produces in key moments. He fits the Pace profile for intangibles.

But Watson still is coming from a shotgun-based, no-huddle offense in which he looked to the sideline for his calls. His accuracy, decision-making and ability to read defenses are question marks.

In general, it has became increasingly difficult to project quarterbacks because of the prevalence of spread offenses in college football. All of the quarterbacks this year require time to learn and develop.

The red flags

What we heard: The Bears have flagged players because of medical and character issues. As always, some were removed from their board.

On that board, players with pink cards have medical issues but still are draft-worthy. Players with red cards would not be drafted.

“We always talk about one of the greatest traits being availability,” Pace said. “And you worry sometimes if a player’s been unavailable in college, if that trend could continue.”

What we think: Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, safety Malik Hooker and cornerback Marshon Lattimore likely were flagged to some extent.

Allen (arthritic shoulders) and Hooker (hip, sports-hernia surgeries) might be OK, but Lattimore is an interesting case.

He is a special talent but has had hamstring issues for years. It’s why he has only one season of starting experience at Ohio State. He missed his freshman year because he required surgery.

Lattimore is clearly concerned, too. He quickly defended himself at the combine when it was first reported that he hurt his hamstring when he pulled up in the 40-yard dash. He said on Twitter that it was a hip-flexor issue.

Trading No. 3

What we heard: The Bears are open to trading the third overall pick and any of their picks. As Pace said, everything is on the table.

“It’s no different than any year,” Pace said. “Teams are calling us; we’re calling teams. It feels normal right now. It hasn’t been abnormal at all.”

What we think: The Bears have three players in mind for No. 3, as they should, but beyond that, they have “a cloud of names,” as Pace put it, in the middle for the first round and another for later on.

The best guess here is that there’s not much separation between the top three players and that first “cloud,” especially because of the lack of elite quarterbacks.

It’s considered a deep, talented draft at several positions. Some evaluators have suggested that starting cornerbacks could be found in the third and fourth rounds. It’s one reason why so many teams are believed to be interested in trading down.

QB Mike Glennon

What we heard: The Bears didn’t discuss drafting a quarterback in the first round with Glennon during his recruitment in free agency.

“We talked to Glennon about the opportunity here and the excitement about joining the Bears, the historic franchise,” Pace said. “But we didn’t really get into a lot of details in that regard.”

What we think: Ruling anything out for the Bears at No.  3 — including quarterback — is unwise, but Glennon’s signing remains significant.

Teams will approach free agency with the draft in mind, having knowledge of which positions are strong and weak for that class.

In that regard, the Bears’ aggressive pursuit of Glennon might speak to the concerns that Pace, Fox and others have with the quarterbacks.

Glennon’s three-year contract might only be a one-year financial commitment, but many of the Bears’ free-agent deals under Pace are constructed similarly.

The Bears are paying Glennon $16 million this season. That’s not “bridge” quarterback money.

Defensive gems

What we heard: Pace will never reveal his true intentions at this time of year, but even he wouldn’t dispute the strength of this year’s draft.

“I knew back in September, October where this draft could potentially be strong or weak,” Pace said. “It would be accurate to say that this is a strong defensive draft.”

What we think: Finding the right quarterback is a priority for Pace. In all likelihood, he will draft one at some point.

But the Bears also have established an identity through their defense and have three respected defensive minds — Fox, defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and secondary coach Ed Donatell — with considerable influence.

The Bears believe they’re “close,” as Fox would say, on defense. Adding one player or two from this draft early on could make the unit special overnight.

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