Bears GM Ryan Pace: Kevin White at No. 7 'was an easy pick'


Bears GM Ryan Pace: Kevin White at No. 7 'was an easy pick'

When the Bears’ turn on the draft clock came at No. 7 on Thursday night, Bears GM Ryan Pace was faced with a decision. He and the Bears had identified seven players they felt good about taking at No. 7, and two of them were still on the board. One was believed to be edge rusher Vic Beasley, a sack threat projected as a fit for the Bears’ evolving 3-4 scheme.

The other was an offensive player, something Pace has only occasionally been part of drafting No. 1 from his years with the New Orleans Saints.

But for Pace, in the end the “decision” in favor of West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White wasn’t much of a decision at all.

[MORE: Kevin White speed fits Bears GM Ryan Pace WR mold]

“This was an easy pick,” Pace said. “Stay true to our board, take the best player available, and let's get a playmaker. Whether it's defense or offense, let's get a playmaker in the top 10 and that's what we did.”

Whether Pace made the right decision is something the NFL will let him know beginning later this year.

The Bears may have been fielding and putting out trade feelers earlier in the draft process but they did not need their full allotted time to send in their card for the selection of White.

“[The first round has] pretty much come off how we thought it would,” Pace said, sounding like a mixture of relief, satisfaction and pure adrenalin. “We’re really choosing between two players at this point. For us it was an easy decision with Kevin White.

“Trust me, there was a lot of fist-bumping and high-fiving going on when we knew this is how it was going to unfold.”

[RELATED: Impact of Bears trade talk on Jay Cutler worth monitoring]

Addressing LB needs early key

Pace and the Bears did a solid job of positioning themselves to take a true best-available at No. 7. The premium going into this offseason was upgrading the pass rush, and Pace has said on more than one occasion that you can never have too many pass rushers.

But the signings of outside rushmen Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho in particular reduced the urgency for help in the pass rush. Jared Allen has been clearly energized rushing the passer from a two-point stance and the Bears also have Lamarr Houston as a rush linebacker when he returns from a torn ACL.

Pace flexes out of his “history”

With the final No. 1 pick while Pace was a member of the New Orleans Saints’ personnel department, the Saints broke with their pattern of choosing defensive players at No. 1 and selected wide receiver Brandin Cooks from Oregon State. Cooks started seven of the Saints’ first 10 games, caught 53 of the 69 passes thrown to him, netting 550 yards and three touchdowns before suffering a season-ending thumb injury.

The lesson was not lost on Pace, who demonstrated with his first pick that he is not a slave to his NFL upbringing.

Pace used his first No. 1 pick as Bears’ general manager on a wide receiver. It marked the highest wide-receiver selection by the Bears win they chose Curtis Conway out of USC with the No. 7 pick of the 1993 draft.

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Coincidentally, Conway was admittedly an unpolished receiver when he came out of USC after just two seasons. White played just the last two years at West Virginia after two seasons at Lackawanna College where he delivered a modest 36 catches for 535 yards and six touchdowns in 2012.

Pace is not concerned about any traces of “raw” with White.

“I did a lot a lot of work on that — you think about a receiver when you hear the word 'raw' and you think maybe route quickness or those things,” Pace said. “At West Virginia his route variety sometimes you question. I saw every route I needed to see from that player.

“One of the most difficult routes for a receiver to run is a comeback route. You see that from him. You see it at his pro day. You see it at his workout. If you watch enough film on him, you see all that.”

Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame


Why coming to the Bears was the right opportunity for Harry Hiestand to leave Notre Dame

There wasn’t a single game Harry Hiestand coached while at Notre Dame — 77 in total — in which he didn’t have a future top-20 pick starting at left tackle. 

Zack Martin (16th overall, 2014) was followed by Ronnie Stanley (6th overall, 2016), who gave way to Mike McGlinchey (9th overall, 2018). Hiestand also developed Quenton Nelson, who went on to be the highest interior offensive lineman drafted (6th overall, 2018) since 1986. Nelson and McGlinchey became the first pair of college offensive line teammates to be drafted in the first 10 picks since 1991, when Tennessee had tackles Charles McRae and Antone Davis go seventh and eighth. 

“It wasn’t surprising because the kind of guys they are, they absolutely did everything the right way, the way they took care of themselves, the way they trained, the teammates that they are and were,” Hiestand said. “They just did it all the way you wanted them to do it. So it was. It was a good moment.”

Hiestand said he had a sense of pride after seeing his two former players be drafted so high, even if he wasn't able to re-unite with either of them. The Bears, of course, didn’t have a chance to draft Nelson, and had conviction on using the eighth overall pick on linebacker Roquan Smith (as well as having tackles Charles Leno and Bobby Massie in place for the 2018 season). 

Anecdotally, one former Notre Dame player said (maybe half-jokingly) that Nelson and McGlinchey were fighting each other to see who could get drafted by the Bears to play with Hiestand again.

“There’s nobody that I’ve been around in this game that’s more passionate about what he does,” McGlinchey, now with the San Francisco 49ers, said of Hiestand at Notre Dame’s pro day in March. “There’s really only two things that are important to him, and that’s his family and then his offensive linemen. There’s a lot to be said for that. 

“In this game, everybody’s always trying to work an angle to up their own career — he doesn’t want to do anything but coach O-line, and that’s what really sticks out to us as players. He cares for us like we’re his own. Obviously he coaches extremely hard and is very demanding of his players, which I loved — he pushed me to be the player that I am.

“I’m standing in front of all you guys because of Harry Hiestand. But the amount of passion and care that he has not only for his job but his teaching abilities and his players is what sets him apart.”

Hiestand could’ve stayed as long as he wanted at Notre Dame, presumably, given how much success he had recruiting and developing players there. But six years at one spot is a long time for a position coach, especially at the college level, where the grind of recruiting is so vital to the success of a program. It’s also not like every one of the blue-chip prospects Hiestand recruited to South Bend panned out, either. 

So Hiestand knew he wanted to get back to the NFL after coaching with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. It’s a new challenge for him now, not only to develop second-round pick James Daniels but to continue the growth of Cody Whitehair and Leno while getting the most out of Kyle Long, Massie and the rest of the group (back during his first stint with the Bears, Hiestand had the luxury of coaching experienced, more ready-made offensive lines). 

As one of the more highly-regarded offensive line coaches in the country, though, Hiestand could’ve jumped back into the NFL whenever, and nearly wherever, he wanted. And for him, coming back to the Bears was the perfect fit. 

“That’s an awesome, awesome place, a great franchise,” Hiestand said. “It was something, I always wanted to go back, I didn’t know where I would get the opportunity. So I’m just very fortunate it just happened to be back at the same place that I was before. There are a lot of things that are different but there’s also a lot that’s the same. 

“But it’s one of the — it is the greatest organization. Historically, this is where it all began, and being part of it — and the other thing, and I told those guys when I got here, when we get it done here, you guys are going to see this city like you’ve never seen it. And I remember that. That’s what we’re after.” 

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

On a scale of 1-10, Tarik Cohen says his dangerous level is 12

Don't be fooled by Tarik Cohen's height. He has towering confidence and he's setting up to have a big role in coach Matt Nagy's offense in 2018.

“On a scale of 1-10, the dangerous level is probably 12,” Cohen said Wednesday at Halas Hall about the impact he can have in the Bears' new system. “Because in backyard football, it’s really anything goes, and it’s really whoever gets tired first, that’s who’s going to lose. I’m running around pretty good out here, so I feel like I’m doing a good job.”

Cohen proved last season he can thrive in space. He made an impact as a runner, receiver and return man and will have a chance at an even bigger workload this fall, assuming he can handle it.

With Jordan Howard established as the starting running back, Cohen knows his touches will come in a variety of ways.

“It might not necessarily be rushes,” he said. “But it’s going to be all over the field, and that’s what I like to do. Any way I can get the ball or make a play for my team, that’s what I’m looking forward to doing.”

Cohen averaged 4.3 yards-per-carry as a rookie and led all NFL running backs in the percentage of carries that went for at least 15 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen.