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An “excited” Ryan Pace’s Post Draft Press Conference

Chicago Bears Introduce John Fox Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The general manager and head coach of the Chicago Bears, Ryan Pace and John Fox, met the media yesterday after their 2017 NFL Draft concluded. Since the transcript was so lengthy, I split it up into two parts. Here’s the Pace portion of the presser and for Fox’s portion just click right here.

The five players that they drafted, Mitchell Trubisky (QB, University of North Carolina), Adam Shaheen (TE, Ashland), Eddie Jackson (S, Alabama), Tarik Cohen (RB, North Carolina A&T), and Jordan Morgan (G, Kutztown University) were the primary topics of discussion, although they did hit on a few of their veteran players.

Here’s the opening statement from Ryan Pace.

“Hey guys Excited about today, opportunity to add 3 more players that really upgrade our football team, let’s start with Eddie Jackson from Alabama, a player that we had graded high on our board, obviously willing to move up for, plays free safety also a very good punt returner, a converted corner, very good instinct, very good ball skills, something we need and something we’re excited about, so a good addition for us.

Tarik Cohen North Carolina A&T, a guy we call him joker back so it’s really good third down back out of the backfield, can separate with his routes really a dynamic player that dominated at that level. Were really excited to add him, one of those guys that’s fun to watch. You start watching 1 game, 2 games, 3 games pretty soon you’re watching his whole season because he’s just a very entertaining, electric, exciting player.

Lastly Jordan Morgan played tackle in college, we see him more as a guard, he can do a little bit of both has good arm length, again an advantage of coaching the senior bowl was intimate knowledge with this player and another small school player but I think that senior bowl experience kind of cemented for us what kind of player he is, were excited about adding him to our offensive line.

In a draft that most considered very deep on the defensive side of the ball, Pace had some thoughts on only drafting one defensive player.

“I think the drafts unfold different every year, and I know last year leaned more heavily defense. So, it’s just how it kind of unfolds, and I this year that’s just the way it worked out and you guys know were taking best player available, and that’s the way the draft fell, Were just happy to get good football players.”

Pace picked three lesser known players, (lesser known among some fans and media that is), and he talked about that.

“Yeah, that’s a good question. I give credit to our scouts and our coaches and all of the work that we’ve done. There’s so much that goes into this and there’s so much knowledge gained on these players that makes John and I feel more comfortable when we’re making these decisions. So, whether it’s a one-year starter or a small school player or a guy coming off injury, we’ve thoroughly researched these things to feel good about them. I think in regards to the small school thing, we’ve all had players that we’ve been part of that and have been highly successful.

I look at Jordan Morgan today and I hate to make comparisons to players, but we took a guy in New Orleans, Jahri Evans, who ended up being a great player from Bloomsburg. So, I think you believe what you see on tape. You have conviction on players. I’ve said this before that I feel like when we have a consensus in the building on a player, those decisions are fun to make and exciting to make and I’m really excited to see what some of these guys do on this stage, because we’re confident in their abilities.”

His new running back, Tarik Cohen, has been compared to Darren Sproles, but is that fair?

“That’s a good comparison. I was with Sproles and saw the value of that back. When you have a back like that on third down it can be a mismatched problem for the defense, because it’s hard to cover those guys. There are similar traits, and I don’t want to put these expectations on these players because they haven’t even gotten here yet, but man he’s quick as a running back. He’s instinctive as a running back, he was productive in every season he had there. Then you split him out of the back field, and he’s going to shake and separate from a linebacker and a safety. So, he can create problems with his quickness and his suddenness, and his athleticism. Again, he was one of those guys we were all pretty fired up about and not just from the YouTube videos.”

Pace was asked what he learned about Tarik in his visit with him.

“He has a chip on his shoulder and I like that. He always wants to prove people wrong. He has a confidence to him. When we get these guys in the building, a lot of time is spent with our coaches, really gathering their football intelligence and he has a really high football IQ, which is important for that position because you’re going to be moving him around a lot and doing a lot of different things with him. I think the thing that stood back was the energy that he has and he has a chip on his shoulder and I really like that about him.”

The Bears only added one defensive back, which was confusing to many fans and media alike, but here are {Pace’s thoughts on his secondary.

“We added a lot in free agency and that was a part of the plan. We signed 3 cornerbacks and a safety and now we just drafted a safety, so part of our free agency plan was attack the secondary and we accomplished it there, which allowed us to draft best player available when this moment came.”

The Bears cut veteran Tracy Porter, earlier this year, and here’s Pace’s take on that.

“I think it was a product of us adding a lot to the secondary and free agency kind of unfolded in a way where we added more and more and more corners and once it kind of unfolded that way I was looking at the construction of the roster and how everybody would fit in, and in fairness to Tracy I thought it was good that we go ahead and do it at that moment in time.”

The decision is looming on Kyle Fuller’s fifth-year option, and when asked about declining it, Pace said, “Yes, we are going to.” So 2017 will most likely be Fuller’s last in Chicago. We’ll see if a healthy Fuller plays with a chip on his shoulder to earn himself a contract next year.

Mark Sadowski has been with the Bears for 12 years, but this year is his first as the director of college scouting. Ryan Pace was asked what he learned about Sadowski in his new role.

“That’s a good question. He’s outstanding. He’s highly organized. He’s great with the staff, you know, the morale of the staff. He’s a really good evaluator. Mark, a lot of sleepless nights for him. A lot of time away from home. His work ethic is outstanding. Me and Mark go way back to New Orleans, so really proud of the job that he did. Can’t say enough about him.”

Here’s Pace’s take on picking only five players and focusing on quality over quantity.

“John and I talked about that this morning because we were looking at the draft board and we were looking at Eddie Jackson and we knew if we wanted to get him we were probably going to have to trade away one of our sixth-round picks. So we talked about that. You know, hey let’s just go ahead and get guys that we know we like right now. Let’s be aggressive here because I felt like the later part of the draft was kind of weakening down. So when we were able to go get Eddie Jackson, a guy that we had targeted, a guy that was kind of sticking up on our board, we traded away the sixth to do that.”

He was asked if he wanted to trade back into the draft.

“No, at that time we were good. Our guys right now are kind of hammering away at college free agency and I feel good about that.”

They asked Pace what jumped out about Eddie Jackson.

“It was just the ball skills and the instincts. So we really liked him as a safety and then you combine that with his skills as a punt returner and we knew we wanted to address punt returner. So I was like man we’re going to kill two birds with one stone here and get a good safety and a good punt returner. It’s always good for me when I feel the excitement of our defensive coaches and the excitement of our special teams coaches and the excitement of our head coach. It’s a good pick to make.”

And about Eddie Jackson’s health.

“He’s good. So we talked about it a lot, he’s good. I could see him being limited in the rookie mini-camp and then kind of steady progression in through OTAs.”

With a high profile rookie quarterback on the roster now, Pace was asked how his expected starter, Mike Glennon, will react if fans start chanting for Trubisky during a game.

“I like a lot of things about Mike Glennon, but one of the things I really like is the inner confidence he has. He’s a confident guy. He believes in himself and he should because he’s a good player. I’m glad Mike’s here. Mike’s our starting quarterback as I’ve stated. I think any quarterback has to brush off adversity and fight through. That’s what Mike will do. I think he’ll handle that well.”

I personally don’t like grading drafts after they happen, I get why it’s done, but its silly, Pace was asked his grade for the Bears’ haul and he said, “I’ll tell you in three years.”

The team has started their offseason work out program, so Pace was asked if anyone was missing.

“It’s voluntary. We’re aware of where everybody’s at but to get into who’s here and who’s not, I’d rather not do that.”

That’s a well deserved none of your business to everyone.

They only picked 5 players, so Pace was asked if he was happy with that.

“We got to a certain point today where I could feel where it was going to drop off a little bit, so let’s go ahead and get players we know we’re going to feel good about instead of just getting quantity; guys we’re not excited about.”

The John Fox portion is right here.

With the busy weekend, I just realized that I never shared Pace’s press conference from after day 2 of the draft. So here it is in case you guys want to digest even more info!

Here’s his night 2 opening statement;

“Going into tonight one of the goals was, we had some options to acquire talent but to also get some draft picks back, that was one of our goals. We were able to drop back 9 spots get multiple picks basically when you look at it, It equated given up a little bit more than a third round pick in our trade for Mitch yesterday, so felt good about that. But the ability to trade back and get a player that we really targeted and a guy we want was exciting. Adam Shaheen from Ashland, a Tight End we obviously valued we spent a lot of time evaluating, any small school player we watched you really want to see them dominate that level of competition, and this guy definitely did that.

Great character, high football intelligence, strong work ethic, and you know what stands out is for a guy with his size, his athleticism jumps out. It’s one of those guys when you’re watching tape you have to keep on looking down man this guys you know 6’6” and a half, 270 pounds and he moves like that. Good Route quickness, good ability to separate, natural hands, good body control, big catching radius, you can feel his basketball background, his ability to go up and high point a ball. Just a good combination of size, and strength and speed after the catch. A lot of intriguing traits we’re excited about adding. It’s easy for me when there’s a consensus with our grays, and we were all in line with this, everybody’s pumped up about it, and excited to add him.”

On if he will be watching Adam’s weight

“I think it’s a good weight for him he carries it really well, so again he moves, it’s surprisingly how well he moves for a guy that size. Our tight end coach Frank Smith went to his pro day, private work out. It’s impressive to see him move and get in and out his routes that sudden for a guy that size.”

On when he first became aware of Adam

Jeff (Shiver), our area scout was on him pretty earlier in the process in the fall and he was just kind of pounding the table, and at first it was Ashland University? What do we got here? But when you turn on the tape it doesn’t take long. You really catch your breath, you really start looking at him and watch a lot of tape. Pretty soon you realize this is the real deal, and this was a strong TE class, but he was right in the mix of all the top guys really intriguing player.”

On what type of tight end he will be

“He’s built like a ‘y’ tight end, in-line tight end but has the route quickness to play what we call the F roll; it’s real interesting. A guy that big is a difficult guy to defend in traffic because he’s big, can go attack the ball, has really good concentration, this is really interesting for us.”

On indicators that he can block at the NFL level

“You are projecting at that level and I’ve been a part of some of these guys before where there was Jahri Evans we were evaluating him from Bloomsberg, or Mark Colston from Hofstra so you really have to watch and look at his technique and explosion and work out with him it helps with a lot of that. But again, I think when you’re watching a guy play at that level he needs to dominate every game, and he did that, he really did. So I’m not worried about the transition to our level, I think he has the physical skill set to do that.”

On where the Bears stand at the tight end position

“I like the group as a whole, there’s a good mix of talent, Dion Sims was an interesting guy we added, he was more the Y. Zach’s been here for a while and has a lot of experience, he’s more the F. Then we have a really intriguing room behind them with a lot of younger guys that I think have a lot of upside behind them. So all of a sudden the tight end room has become an area of strength for us. With a lot of variety in that room and a lot of younger guys too with upside.”

On not taking any defensive players so far

“It’s honestly taking best player, you know for example when Adam was there his grades were clearly the highest grades on the board. For us it wasn’t a difficult decision. I think it’d be difficult for us to say man we got a man graded this high, but all man we really need defense, let’s step down here and take this player. I think we’d regret that decision, so I think we’re staying true to our board , and that’s how this is playing out now.”

On if there is still defensive depth left in draft

“Yeah, we’re going to have to kind of sort through it tonight and look at it tonight. We’ll be here late tonight and early in the morning kind of resetting our board and going through it again. Again you guys know this, we’re going to take the best player available and if it ends up being some offensive players then that’s what it is.”

On if anything has jumped out to him so far in the draft

“Nothing seems unusual to me right now... nothing surprised me. Occasionally you’ll see a run at a position, you can feel it when that’s happening but it seems pretty normal to me.”

On if the quarterbacks went where he projected

“Yes. Almost exactly.”

On having two guys so far that may not be ready to play this season

“I would disagree with that, I think Adam’s projected to play early. I like his skill set. We spent a lot of time on that. So, just because he’s a small school player.. yeah, it’s a big jump. But, I think he has the physical skill set to make that jump, and we’re confident in that. That’s part of our thorough evaluation, so I wouldn’t say that with him. We’re excited about what he can add to our team right now.”

On if medical issues came up when considering Sidney Jones

“You always look at those and our medical grades are important and our doctors do a great job to weigh in on: What’s the severity of the injury, when is he going to be able to come back, and then is there any long term lingering effects afterward? So, every one of those is a case by case basis and it was for him too. We had a grade on him that would dictate “Okay, at this point in time we would take him,” it just didn’t line up for us.”

On if John Fox was involved in scouting process of Trubisky

“100%. So John is involved in every decision deeply. The respect I have for John is enormous, especially his experience and all of the players that he’s been with. I think if you look back -- and we talked about this -- I think a lot of it was kept secret I thought we did a good job keeping this thing pretty under wraps, it’s so sensitive. But if you go back to the private workouts that we had, I mean John and I -- it’s pretty hard to hide him -- but we’re traveling to Chapel Hill and having dinners and workouts with Mitch, so he’s been deeply involved from the very beginning.

As you guys know as we approach the draft, we call it a cloud, or a circle of players, and we go over every scenario. So there might be you know 5 or 6 players in this first round cloud. If we go up these are the guys we talk about, if we stay here these are the guys we’re talking about. If we go back, here are some guys we’re talking about. We go over all of those scenarios, so we know who’s in that cloud, but to know exactly who we’re picking... it’s hard to determine that until the first pick goes off. Then okay, that pick goes off, are we able to trade up? All of these different scenarios play out so that’s really what goes on.”

On if he has seen Chris Mortensen’s report

“Yeah, that stuff is so false. There’s consistency in everything we do, so we all work arm-in-arm and that’s the way it is and that’s the way it should be.”

On when you actually made the decision to go with a quarterback

“We knew he was obviously our top quarterback. Hey, at one point in time you don’t know what to believe, but up until the last second there was speculation that Mitch could go No. 1. So then there’s even talks like “Wow, if he goes one, then Miles goes to two... then what are we going to do?” So all of these scenarios are being played out and there’s just so many of them and we talk them all out. The idea of “Hey, if Mitch is there at two, and it’s realistic for us to go get him,” that was something we discussed.”

On if their top 3 players on their board were all worth trading for

“I would say there was probably 2 of the 3 that we were willing to go up for and another that we would be fine with taking at 3.”

On pre-draft conversations with John Lynch

“Me and John Fox both have a ton of respect for John Lynch and I think especially with him being new there, it was about building that relationship and rapport. It’s not just talking to him, it’s talking to Sashi Brown with the Browns and talking to everybody behind us, but I think it was important to establish that relationship with John Lynch just in the event that something could take place. So we go over scenarios like that all the time.”

On if that is the scenario with every team

“Definitely. I talked to probably 15 teams behind us and the two teams in front of us in the week leading into the draft.”

On if he got any feedback from his peers after last night’s pick

“Yeah there were texts coming in until about 2:00 in the morning. I appreciate it, there’s so many guys that I respect around the league and a lot of the texts you know are genuine and sincere and it just makes you feel good about your decisions.”

On if his basketball background remind him any of Jimmy Graham or help shape his opinion of him

“I definitely think it helps. Half of the time it’s like these tight ends are going up for rebounds or they are boxing out. I think he definitely has that. We talk about catch radius and making the catch when the ball isn’t always on target and Adam definitely has the ability to do that. We confirmed it on the tape and Frank (Smith) was able to confirm it at the workout.”

On if Shaheen ability to catch in traffic showed up on tape

“He’s so strong... Guys will drape on him and he still has the concentration to make the catch. The point I want to get across with him is, for a guy that’s as big as he is, he’s got good rout quickness and route savviness to set guys up and I think that’s what really impressed us all. As big as he is, you catch yourself looking ‘is this guy really 6-6 ½ , 278 pounds’ because doesn’t move like that. He moves like a more agile player than you would think for a guy that size.”

On if Sims and Shaheen are three-down tight ends

“Yeah, that’s accurate. Yeah. It opens up a lot of possibilities for our offense.”

On Shaheen maintaining his speed with his weight

“Yeah. You can tell that’s what’s impressive. Just for as big as he is, he’s a good athlete with good speed. He’s kind of a health freak. He takes care of his body and I think that helps him. Again, we talk about adding the right kind of character and on our draft board there’s certain guys – and we’re very selective with this – we call them ‘Bears Box Guys’ and there’s a little Bears head on the magnet if they hit all the key traits we value for our locker room and our team. The two guys we’ve acquired so far both have that stamped on them. We use that very selectively in the draft. I just got done telling our scouts I’m proud of that. We’re not only adding talented players, but we’re adding the right kind of teammates and the right kind of guys to the locker room, which I think is critical right now.”

On how many players on the draft board are ‘Bears Box Guys’

“It can vary but we’re really selective… so maybe 20 guys.”