When Ryan Pace stepped to the podium on Wednesday morning at Halas Hall, he did so with his draft board complete.
“Now, it’s just going over different scenarios,” the general manager said.
The team’s board is stacked by position and includes clusters in each round, and it won’t change until the draft begins Thursday night.
Pace delivered on his promise to be mindful of his comments because of the draft’s “sensitive nature,” but here is what we learned in his final meeting with the media:
What we heard: It’s widely considered a deep class for defensive linemen, and Pace can’t deny his need for help up front. But the class’ depth won’t prevent him from selecting one early.
“If he’s special enough and he’s an impact player, we’ll go ahead and pull the trigger on him, even if it’s a deep position,” Pace said.
The Bears run a base 3-4 defense, but Pace acknowledged the heavy use of sub packages and a four-man front. As a result, he won’t limit his options.
“Some of these guys you might want to write off as, ‘Hey, these are 4-3 three-techniques [at tackle],’ ” Pace said. “Well, they can fit in sub packages in certain situations if they’re good pass rushers.”
What we think: Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who is considered the best three-technique in the draft, is an option.
In fact, Rankins probably is rated higher than Alabama brutes Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson because of his pass-rushing prowess.
At 6-1, Rankins doesn’t have ideal size. But Pace was high on Rams star Aaron Donald, who also is 6-1, because of his special traits.
What we heard: Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott has said in a few interviews that the Bears love him, and Pace is OK with that.
Pace acknowledged that Elliott is very close with running backs coach Stan Drayton, who recruited and coached him at Ohio State.
Even more compelling is that Pace believes some backs are worth first-round picks.
“If you’re taking a running back that high, he better have special traits,” Pace said. “You better feel that he’s going to be a special player. And if he does, then it’s worth making that pick.”
What we think: The Bears like Elliott, who is widely thought to have the special traits that Pace highlighted. Elliott is the No. 1 player to watch when it comes to their draft.
What we heard: Pace reiterated what he said at the NFL combine: This year’s quarterabck class is a good one, especially when it comes to value in the middle rounds.
“It breaks after a certain point and then there are some middle-round guys that are intriguing for different reasons,” Pace said. “It’s just up to us to analyze that and rank that correctly, and we have.”
What we think: The Bears would like to draft a quarterback on Day 3 when they have six picks at their disposal. Keep an eye on Arkansas’ Brandon Allen and Stanford’s Kevin Hogan.
The Bears hosted Memphis’ Paxton Lynch for a predraft visit, and he could be a valuable trade chip if he’s available at No. 11.
What we heard: Pace said he has more than 11 players he’s comfortable with drafting at No. 11.
What we think: The Bears are open for business for trading back. Pace stressed again that having nine picks allows for more flexibility.
Pace also didn’t rule out trading up, “if you have a conviction on a player,” he said. But a trade back from No. 11 still is more likely.
“We have enough names where we feel comfortable if we had to go back, we could still go back and get a good player,” Pace said.