The Chicago Bears traded up two spots to draft Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd on Thursday in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Many pundits predicted the Bears to select Floyd at No. 11, but general manager Ryan Pace chose to swap picks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — and added a fourth-round pick — to ensure they got their man.
“We were concerned he would go a couple of picks ahead of us,” Pace told the media after the pick. “This is a guy we wanted, so we didn’t want to sit on our hands.”
The Bears had nine picks entering the draft, so Pace — who previously spoke of the luxuries of having that “extra ammunition” to trade up if need be — said he didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on the trade.
“There was a consensus on this player — all the scouts, coaches had this guy graded very similar. That kind of makes it an easier decision. We were excited about it and wanted to be aggressive and ensure we get the guy we wanted.”
The Bears recognized the need to improve their pass rush and targeted Floyd for his quickness and explosion off the edge.
“I don’t think you can have enough pass rushers in today’s game,” Pace said. “If you look at the playoffs this past year it really showed that. You need to load up on pass rushers and that’s what we’re doing.”
Floyd was a 2015 Butkus Award finalist — an award that honors the nation’s best linebacker. At 6-6 and 244 pounds, Floyd has a slender frame that could be used against him in the run game, but Pace doesn’t feel like it’s a detriment to Floyd.
“He’s got such great length that guys don’t get into his body,” Pace noted. “When you see him playing the run on the edge of the defense, he uses his hands really well and he plays with such great separation that it’s hard for guys to get into him. I think that helps him a lot even though he’s a little thinner framed.”
Still, Pace said he wants to add a little bit of bulk to Floyd, but not too much that it takes away from his ability to rush the passer.
“The last thing you want to do is bulk this guy up and then you’re taking away what he does best,” Pace said. “You see some guys put on too much weight too fast and they look stiff and they lose some of that twitch that makes them a special player.”
With the changes the Bears have made in the offseason via free agency, the team has taken a position of weakness and suddenly turned them into a strength. They could potentially start Pernell McPhee, Danny Trevathan, Jerrell Freeman, and Floyd at linebacker, but they also have Willie Young and Lamarr Houston rotating in to create havoc.
Pace was right. You can never have enough pass rushers.