That Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott's recent comments about the Bears elevated level of pre-draft interest in him didn't surprise Ryan Pace.
“It didn’t surprise me because of [Chicago Bears running backs coach] Stan Drayton,” the Bears general manager told reporters. “Stan recruited him out of high school, so he’s known him for a long time, has a relationship with the family and I know how those two feel about each other, so it didn’t really surprise me at all.”
Elliott told the Dan Patrick Radio Show that he felt Chicago loved him more than the other interested NFL teams.
On one hand, the Bears do prefer the running back-by-committee approach. Just because Jeremy Langford appeared entrenched atop the depth chart, the Bears still aggressively pursed veteran C.J. Anderson, who ultimately signed an offer sheet to stay in Denver during free agency. So the Bears will not hesitate to further upgrade the backfield if the right scenario presents itself.
But does Pace value the tailback position enough to take one at No. 11?
“It’s a good question,” Pace said. “I think if you’re taking a running back that high, he better have special traits. You better feel that he’s going to be a special player. And if he does, then it’s worth making that pick.”
Most draft analysts believe Elliott is a top-10 pick, but if not, he could be the Bears' best available player left on the board at No. 11. In that scenario, the Bears could always attempt to trade down if a team is steadfast in moving up to select Elliott.
The 2015 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Elliott amassed more than 2,000 all-purpose yards and 23 rushing touchdowns for the Buckeyes last year.