Ryan Pace wrapped up his first draft as the general manager of the Bears and John Fox as the head coach of the Bears. Of course, they had some interesting comments afterwards.
The first statements by Pace were about the Bears' three draft picks on the day - running back Jeremy Langford, safety Adrian Amos, and offensive tackle Tayo Fabuluje:
Pace (on Langford): "Very productive, athletic. Standout trait with him is his really his speed. This guy has home run ability. We feel like he's got a lot of upside. He's played multiple positions, so he's still getting better as a running back. But again, this guy's speed stands out and we're excited to have him here."
Pace (on Amos): "A versatile player. He's played corner, he's played nickel, he's played safety, so we like the coverage versatility that he brings. This is a high-character guy that's extremely intelligent, three-year starter and, again, I like the versatility that he's played multiple positions, so that's exciting."
Pace (on Fabuluje): "This is a massive player, very strong, very strong, athletic for a big man. He can play tackle, he can play guard. His weight has been well documented. We're going to stay on that. We have a great strength and conditioning program here, sports science, that will be an emphasis, he understand that. When this guy is at the right weight we feel really good about him and there's a lot of upside potential there as well."
The next question was about Amos' future and his handling of different positions, but especially about the safety position, which has been a problem for the Bears:
Pace: "You're evaluating it all over the years. Our area scouts do a great job of that. That's what good about it, is, some safeties you don't get to see in isolated and man coverage a lot, but you do with him. So we're going to start him out at safety and have him there but in different packages he could have different roles, but he's a safety first for us."
Next the topic turned to the running back position. Was it considered a need?
Pace: "We did have it as a need. We did. But again, honestly, it was still player (available) and he was the best player on the board so that's one of those situations where it kind of worked out hand-in-hand."
And how about the players currently lined up behind Matt Forte and the competition there?
Pace: "It's strong. It's strong with (Ka'Deem) Carey and (Senorise) Perry and Jacquizz Rodgers and we like the competition there. The more competition the better at every position, including running back. We're excited about it. Langford's a guy our running backs coach Stan Drayton liked a lot, obviously with (Drayton) at Ohio State (Langford) had played against him so he was very familiar with him so that helped with the evaluation process as well."
He spoke about Fabuluje's personal hardship and his football career to this point.
Pace: "One thing we talk about, a lot of times players that have fought through adversity in their life, I think that means something. We just hired Jen Gipson as our sports science coordinator and she came over from the Olympics in Colorado Springs. I was just having a conversation with her the other day and she was talking about a lot of the Olympic athletes that she's dealt with, if you go back in their life somewhere there's been a lot of adversity they've overcome and they're a better person for that and a better athlete for that. I think he's overcome a lot and I think he's better because of that. We see him as an ascending player with upside."
Then about his weight, and ability to stay on the field.
Pace: "He's nimble for a big man. He's got good feet for a big man. We have to have him at the right weight but he's got length, he's good at the second level and he's powerful. We were just watching a play together a couple days ago where on one play he pancakes two guys and keeps on running down field. He has that kind of ability and he knows what weight he needs to be at and we've had conversations with him, so he understands that."
One of the topics of the draft was Pace's entire draft being spent on "big" programs - BCS schools, including two Big Ten picks. Did they focus only on those programs?
Pace: "It's a good question. It's just the way it fell. We both come from places where we've taken small-school guys. In New Orleans, from (Marques) Colston to Jhari Evans, those are all small-school guys but it's just, honestly, the way it fell this year. It's one of those things where you look up and go ‘oh wow, okay, they were all big schools.' But that wasn't on purpose."
Then there was discussion on spending fourth and fifth round picks on players that were just drafted with those picks last year (fourth-rounders Ka'Deem Carey and Brock Vereen). Did you have replacing those players in mind?
Pace: "No. I honestly didn't even think about that until we were walking down here and Scott (Hagel) mentioned something to me, but it was really best player available the whole way through. And that's how it fell. We knew we had a lot of needs and what I'm excited about, there's a lot of opportunity still going forward. We're not done. College free agency is huge right now, that's going on and I'm anxious to get up there and help with the process. Again, we'll look for players at minicamp tryout guys we have in next week on a tryout basis; I'm sure we'll find some guys through that avenue. There's the preseason scouting and claiming players. I'm excited going forward with more player acquisitions."
John Fox answered his first question of the day about Jeremy Langford's fit on the Bears.
John Fox: "I think the breakaway speed, that obviously Ryan (Pace) talked about. There's flexibility there. Positionly he has played on defense before, sometimes that comes into the factor as far as fourth down or special teams. The guy has tackled somebody before; he's been in that kind of environment. I thought his versatility, catching the ball. Obviously he's got the breakaway speed and he's been a productive guy."
Of course, the topic of acquiring a quarterback came up, and Pace had a couple answers:
Pace: "We are looking for one in free agency and I feel good about where that's heading right now. Tomorrow we'll be able to have a list for you guys when those things are kind of locked down. A lot of those things are still in a fragile state right now as it's going on. We'll sign a quarterback in free agency.
Shane Carden by this point had tweeted he was going to the Bears. True, Ryan?
Pace: "It's funny, if I can tell you guys over the years the guys we've had in... you don't know until it's done. But we're excited about that potential."
Then why didn't the Bears draft a quarterback?
Pace: "It never locked in to where we were on the board. Every time our pick came up we had guys clearly graded better than the quarterbacks that were there. There was just never an opportunity where we were aligned. We're excited about college free agency and being able to do it that way."
Why didn't you draft a 3-4 outside linebacker?
Fox: "I personally think it's the way the board fell. If there had been certain guys that would have fit our Bears box, as far as all of the ramifications of that, it would have gone just like we did the whole draft - next best player."
John Fox got to speak about Eddie Goldman. He sounds excited to get to work.
Fox: "I'm very impressed. He's a big, wide body, very strong, has great leverage. He plays very low for a big man. He's tough to knock out of there. Some people have criticized - and he even made mention to it - his pass rush, but he does push the pocket well. So we're anxious to get started and get a look at him this weekend. "
Then the topic turned to the rest of the front seven.
Fox: "I think we pass the eye test. We only saw them a few practices in underwear. In the front, whether it's the o-line or the d-line, it's really hard to get a great idea until you get in pads and we get to camp and a chance to see the physicality of the group. I think getting Eddie will give us some flexibility up front and we'll see how that works out."
The next question dealt with the transition between Pace's views on the draft class and the existing scouts' opinions.
Pace: "I thought it was good to have a blend because we had opinions that came separate in and they had their opinions so over the months we've been able to talk and debate and come to a common ground on all these guys. It was good. I really appreciate the scouts that were here. They had to adapt to our grading scale and the way we communicate about players some. But I thought it was a bonus that we had our opinions that we brought with us from New Orleans on players we scouted throughout the years and they had their opinions and I think that molded together for a good draft board."
Drafting someone with the backstory Fabuluje has isn't easy. How did Pace and company navigate it en route to drafting Tayo?
Pace: "Our area scouts are excellent with that. Josh (Lucas) lives in Dallas, or he did, so he has a lot of relationships at TCU. And then our offensive line coach Dave Magazu has relationships with that school too. It was a combination of a couple of things where we had some in's to help us through that process."
So how comfortable was he with some of the people he was working with? Is Pace going to make any changes?
Pace: "All of those things we'll go over, like you said, the next two weeks and kind of go through that process. My entire focus has been on the Draft and making sure we have a successful Draft. And then I'll review all that within the next month."
The Bears drafted a lot of high-character players this year. Was that a coincidence or was it planned?
Pace: "It was something that was stressed. Me and John (Fox) always talk about smart, intelligent, tough players and that was stressed. That wasn't just happenstance that was done purposefully."
Were there any trades worth considering?
Pace: "There was nothing that came up, honestly, that we felt - where we were willing to back-up. It would have been great if it did but nothing really felt right and we felt good about where we were picking and we didn't want to risk losing that player."
What do you think was the biggest surprise in the draft?
Pace: "You know what's funny about that? Is after the Draft the scouts or coaches will sit back and we'll look at the board and we'll say over the years - and I'm sure it's going on in every draft room - look at these guys' draft, look at this. You don't know. In two to three years from now, somebody you could be saying that about ends up being a great draft. So it's hard to say that. You respect everybody's process. And really, honestly guys, you don't know on draft class until two, three years down the road."
The topic again turned to the safety position, and a rookie's ability to make an instant impact.
Fox: "Not really, we've got an outstanding staff. So much of it is coaching - just like in the classroom - how you're taught. Everybody has different styles to how you approach it. I think our guys are pretty good. If the guy will work at it and put all the necessary preparation in reading the materials and study, I don't see it being any harder than other positions."
Fox was asked about Amos' supposed lack of physicality.
Fox: "A little bit of that sometimes you get labeled to being a corner. And he was a corner that moved inside. I can't really say that [he lacks physicality]. He definitely has the size, qualifications to get it done. Like everybody, the key is being consistent. None of them are perfect. They're not going to be perfect moving forward. He's very smart, he's got good height, he's got good speed, he's got a lot of the measurables and he's got the ability to cover, which in the league now is a big part of the job description."
Then Fox was asked about competition at the safety spot next to Antrel Rolle.
Fox: "I hope there's competition everywhere and in that place, as well."
La'el Collins came up a ton in the open threads in the later rounds, and Pace and Fox were asked about that situation. Was Collins under consideration at all?
Pace: "That's kind of unprecedented what's happening with that. I really don't want to comment on that. It's a sensitive subject. I've never seen something like that entering the draft. Your heart goes out to everyone involved with that. We'll see how that unfolds going forward."
Can Langford contribute anywhere except running back? Special teams?
Pace: "Yeah. That's what's good about him is the defensive background with him. You're looking for that and we talk about it in special teams. If you get a special teams player out of your backup running backs, that's critical. He can do that and having a defensive background helps him with that. So that was a part of the evaluation process.
Did drafting a player for need ever cross Pace's mind?
Pace: "Only when it's like right here [really, really close gap between two players]."
Did that situation ever come up during the draft?
Pace: "No. You have to be discipline with that. When I've seen mistakes in the draft it's because you do that. And so we promise ourselves and we pride ourselves that we won't do that."
Again, there's a lot to discuss on a very busy day three and very busy last three days of the NFL Draft. Take it all in. What are your thoughts on Pace and Fox's comments?