Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace was plenty excited after drafting Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith with the eighth pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
“Such a great night to come away with one of the best defensive players in the draft,” Pace said during his Thursday night press conference, which you can watch in its entirety below. “We’re fired up. We’re fired up about this. The whole draft room is excited. The whole building is excited.”
Let’s dive into some of the most notable words that came from the GM’s mouth.
- Pace is obviously going to have high praise for a player he liked enough to take at No. 8, but it’s what he likes about Smith that stands out. “He’s got such a great burst. He’s such a sudden, twitchy player. He times his blitz well. He can uncoil when he hits, so when he strikes a guy, he’s very impactful.”
- Smith’s size came into question in the pre-draft process and is coming into focus now that he is a member of the Bears. But clearly, size didn’t matter enough to Pace. Sure, Smith isn’t going to grow overnight, but Pace sounds pleased with Smith’s frame. “He’s thick. Muscular, sturdy build. He plays strong, so I think his size is fine for us. We don’t want to sacrifice any of that speed he has.”
- I keep circling back to Smith’s speed, and not just because he was timed at 4.51 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine. If you watched Georgia play on Saturdays, Smith stood out because he was making play after play. What allowed him to make big plays for the Bulldogs was his speed. High-end sprint speed allowed him to cover sideline-to-sideline, while Smith’s closing speed helped him track down ball-carriers. As football continues to evolve, I think the Bears are better off with the faster, more skilled player like Smith.
- We spent a lot of time talking about Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, and for all the obvious reasons. Fit, need, college excellence, connection to the coaching staff. But there seemed to be a late push at linebacker, particularly with Smith. So while Pace entertained the idea of moving up, he ultimately didn’t have to in order to get his guy. “We felt pretty strong that if we stayed pat at eight, we were going to get a good player. It kind of went off how we expected, and we were thrilled when Roquan was there. We were thrilled.”
- Remember last year when the word was that Pace was keeping head coach John Fox out in the dark when it came to the Mitch Trubisky pick? Fun times. That doesn’t sound like it was the case here with Smith, as head coach Matt Nagy and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio co-signed on the move. “This is obviously one of Vic’s top players, Matt’s top players, my top players. It makes the pick easy when we’re all unified like that.”
- More on Fangio from Pace: “He was so fired up to give you guys that information. He’s been walking around with his chest out all day and couldn’t be happier. I know Vic and his staff will maximize this player, and that’s what’s exciting.”
- Late in the evening, rumors popped up regarding the possibility of the Bears trying to trade back into the first round before it ended. Pace confirmed the rumors in his post-draft presser. “We were exploring some different options to come back in,” Pace said. “We’re always going to be aggressive if there are players we like.” Pace is really putting out some vibes like he is operating with a new lease on life. And I’m totally digging it.
- So what’s next after being unable to swing a last-minute deal to get a second first-round pick? “You’ve seen the last couple of yours our ability to maybe move around in the second round. If need be, we could do that. Or if there’s a player that we love, we could go up tomorrow. We’ll see.”
- Oh, we will. Pace said he was “comfortable” with the depth in this draft, but also noted having two fourth-round picks could be beneficial. Perhaps those can be used to move up and add a second selection in Round 2. While having picks is nice, adding impact talent is more valuable than adding bodies for depth’s sake. The Bears could attack depth with late-round picks (they have one selection in each of the fifth, sixth, and seventh rounds) and priority undrafted free agents. You’re not as likely to find impact talents at that point, especially when compared to the early rounds of a draft.
- When you consider the Bears’ needs, trading to the back end of the first round to ensure a shot at a preferred prospect (and the extra year of team control via the fifth-year option) seems like a risk worth taking. The Bears could have gone in any number of directions like offensive line (UTEP’s Will Hernandez, Iowa’s James Daniels, Ohio State’s Billy Price), wide receiver (SMU’s Courtland Sutton, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk, Memphis’ Anthony Miller), or on defense (Boston College EDGE Harold Landry, Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson, Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver). One of those players will be available when the Bears are on the clock with the seventh pick in the second round.
- As promised, Pace’s press conference in its full-blown glory: