LAKE FOREST, Ill. — While downtown Chicago takes on the look of a festival for three days with the NFL draft in town for the first time in 51 years, new Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace will toil in relative obscurity an hour north at Halas Hall.
“You can feel the excitement, you definitely do,” the former New Orleans Saints personnel executive said. “It’s cool for Chicago, but we’re kind of hunkered down here.”
Pace has set a goal of rebuilding his team through the draft after a 5-11 season. The work is just beginning even though the Bears have brought in free agents like linebacker Pernell McPhee and safety Antrel Rolle.
“We have a lot of needs, so to sit here and say we addressed every single position on the roster in free agency, I wish I could say that,” Pace said Wednesday. “There are still needs on our depth chart, but you’ve got to be disciplined with taking the best player available and we’ll continue to do that.”
With the Bears selecting No. 7 overall and owning six picks overall, Pace has fielded calls from the six teams selecting ahead of Chicago and many others. He said the Bears have 170 players set on their draft board and he’d be comfortable taking one of seven different players with their first-round pick.
“There’s a chance we could move up or back, so all those options are out there,” Pace said.
Moving up, though, is viewed as a luxury the Bears may not have if they want to build through draft picks, since it will cost more selections. Those thinking trade, whether it involves a widely rumored deal of quarterback Jay Cutler or draft picks, probably will be disappointed.
“I don’t think it’ll be much movement on the draft board,” coach John Fox said. “We share the philosophy of the fact you take the best available player.”
Coach John Fox said this week’s minicamp has helped the Bears better understand their talent, but probably wouldn’t affect draft plans since they’re trying to build at numerous positions.
One obvious spot is wide receiver following the trade of Brandon Marshall to the New York Jets. The Bears need someone to pair up with Alshon Jeffery.
“Alshon is a great player, but that’s a position where I feel like you can always add to - more weapons is better,” Pace said. “This is a deep receiver class, though. But, hey, to pair guys up with Alshon, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.”
The Bears also need to find more talent to fill a 3-4 defense since they’ve never played the formation.
They found a pass rusher in McPhee during free agency, and could need more help at that spot.
A big nose tackle to plug the run for defense that ranked 30th in the league the last two years would be a help.
Cornerback, safety and possibly an offensive tackle are among other potential needs.
There are plenty of linebackers on the roster now, but whether they can fit the duties required by a 3-4 alignment is the question.
Notes: Pace said the team has decided against picking up the fifth-year contract option for 2016 on 2012 first-round pick Shea McClellin.
NFL DRAFT TV TIMES
Today, 7 p.m., NFLN/ESPN (Round 1)
Friday, 6 p.m., NFLN/ESPN2 (Rounds 2-3)
Saturday, 11 a.m., NFLN/ESPN (Rounds 4-7)