Bears select Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd in first round

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- After a practical approach to last year’s draft, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace completely reversed course, moving up two spots to draft athletic yet unproven Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd with the ninth overall pick.

My take: Maybe Floyd is the next Kyle Long. The Bears famously hit a home run with Long in the first round in 2013, despite the fact that the freakishly athletic offensive lineman played only one year at Oregon. Floyd spent three seasons at Georgia, but he didn't produce any eye-popping stats. In last year’s draft, Pace preferred players who had impressive production in college. Floyd did not. He left school with only 17 career sacks – 4.5 in his final year. This is risky. At 244 pounds (his weight at the NFL combine), Floyd has to get bigger and stronger to be a three-down player. Right now, he appears to be a situational pass-rusher. The Bears better hope that seasoned defensive coordinator Vic Fangio can bring out the best in Floyd. But if Fangio succeeds, Floyd has the natural ability and speed to be a dynamic pass-rusher. He figures to battle Lamarr Houston and Willie Young – if both remain on the roster – for playing time opposite Pernell McPhee.

Aldon Smith Part II? Fangio coached Smith in San Francisco, and he displayed traits similar to Floyd’s when he entered the NFL in 2011. Under Fangio, Smith flourished. He registered 14 and 19.5 sacks in his first two years with the 49ers. Smith’s off-field troubles eventually derailed his career, but for a short time he was among the league’s most dominant pass-rushers.

"Aldon Smith is a rare player," Pace said. "That would be a great thing if this guy becomes that type of talent."

Can Floyd be that good? Time will tell. But having Fangio on Floyd’s side is definitely a positive for Chicago.

Uncharted territory: The Bears surrendered a fourth-round pick to Tampa Bay for the right to jump up two slots to grab Floyd. This is the first time the Bears have traded up in Round 1 since they drafted Mississippi State cornerback Walt Harris in 1996. Harris played in Chicago through 2001, eventually earning a Pro Bowl nod while a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2006.

"We had a pretty strong feeling he could go somewhere right in that area in the top 10," Pace said. "We were concerned he would go a couple of picks ahead of us. This is a guy we identified, a guy we wanted, so we didn’t want to sit on our hands."

Pace has often boasted about the Bears having nine picks in this draft. To forfeit a choice for Floyd seems odd, but Pace obviously feels the Georgia product can make a difference.

What’s next: The Bears begin Friday with one pick (No. 41) in the second round and one pick (No. 72) in the third round. Last year, the Bears added a pair of players on Day 2 who went on to become serious contributors – Florida State nose tackle Eddie Goldman (second round) and Oregon center Hroniss Grasu (third round). Goldman and Grasu combined to start 20 games for the Bears as rookies in 2015. Chicago needs help in the secondary, at both cornerback and safety. The Bears also have depth concerns at tight end, defensive line, offensive tackle, quarterback and running back.