When it comes to the draft, Bears GM Ryan Pace is NFL’s man of mystery

SHARE When it comes to the draft, Bears GM Ryan Pace is NFL’s man of mystery
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Bears general manager Ryan Pace. (Tim Boyle/For the Sun-Times)

If general manager Ryan Pace sounded eerily familiar when he talked about liking eight players with the Bears’ eighth overall selection, it’s because he was.

Let’s flash back to 2015.

‘‘If we stay at No. 7, there’s seven players we’ve identified that we feel really, really good about,’’ Pace said before drafting receiver Kevin White.

Or let’s go back to last year.

‘‘The fact we have three names we like, we’re good,’’ Pace said when holding the third overall selection.

The truth is, that’s untrue. Last year, it was quarterback Mitch Trubisky or bust for Pace. In 2016, it was trade up for outside linebacker Leonard Floyd or else.

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Pace’s actions always speak louder than his words. When he says he’s not into disseminating misinformation, which he did this week, that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s throwing up a smokescreen.

When it comes to the draft, Pace is the NFL’s man of mystery, and he likes it that way. Again, look no further than last year, when he traded up for Trubisky and shocked the NFL.

‘‘You’re conscious of what you’re saying,’’ Pace said. ‘‘I think everything can be interpreted different ways.’’

When the Bears traded up last year, ESPN speculated at the time that it might be a move to draft Stanford defensive end Solomon Thomas. It was widely known in league circles that defensive coordinator Vic Fangio liked Thomas.

Instead, it was a bold trade meant to secure a franchise quarterback, not a promising pass rusher.

‘‘There’s more and more noise out there,’’ Pace said this week. ‘‘The draft’s become bigger and bigger and bigger. So, us as decision-makers, we have to block a lot of that out and focus internally on what we believe in and what we want to do . . . how [our scouts] view things as opposed to the information that’s out there. There is a lot of misinformation. There’s a lot of smokescreens.’’

Some of that is done in public. At the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine last year, Pace talked about the importance of having a quarterback with a winning pedigree.

‘‘You want to see a guy who has elevated his program,’’ he said at the 2017 combine.

Pace’s words sparked connections to Deshaun Watson, who fit Pace’s descriptions the best after having won a national championship at Clemson.

Some smokescreens are made in the papers and in private, when on the phone with rivals around the league.

Before the draft last year, it was widely thought — and reported — that the Bears wanted to trade back from No. 3. Instead, the calls Pace received helped him gauge which teams were his strongest competition for Trubisky and how desperate they were to move up to get him.

Sure enough, there are rumblings in league circles again that the Bears are open to trading back in the draft, though the No. 8 pick keeps them in prime position to select one of the best defensive players available.

Part of scouting for the draft involves analyzing the needs of other teams and considering what they might do.

Believing that Floyd was on the Giants’ radar in 2016, the Bears leapfrogged them, going from the No. 11 pick to the No. 9 choice. After the Bears took Floyd, the Giants selected cornerback Eli Apple, who quickly became a lightning rod for criticism and controversy.

What do other teams see when they look at the Bears for the draft?

It starts with unpredictability. The Bears have moved up in the first round in consecutive years but back in the second round in the same drafts.

The only position off the table for the Bears at No. 8 is quarterback. Pace said that this week. Everyone safely can assume that’s not a smokescreen.

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