Bears draft big in defensive tackle Goldman, center Grasu
As Round 2 of the NFL draft began Friday night, there were plenty of nose tackles and edge rushers still on the board, a fortuitous situation for a team needing more talent at both positions.
When their turn came with the seventh pick (39th overall), the Bears went big, taking Florida State's 6-foot-4, 336-pound nose tackle Eddie Goldman.
"When I think about the standout traits with Eddie Goldman, it's strength, stout at the point of attack, he's very instinctive, (and) he gets off blocks," general manager Ryan Pace said.
"He steps up in big moments. In the Clemson game this year, there are three game-changing plays he makes to basically win that game for Florida State. This is a strong nose tackle that anchors the center of your defense. I think he's an ascending player."
Goldman also played 3-technique tackle and end, but he will be a nose in the Bears' new 3-4 scheme.
In the third round (71st overall) the Bears went back to Oregon for another offensive lineman, taking center Hroniss Grasu, who played with guard Kyle Long, the Bears' first-round pick in 2013.
"Kyle's like a brother to me," Grasu said. "Being able to continue playing with him is unbelievable. When he first came in I was like, 'This guy's a freak.' He would sacrifice his body and do anything for his team. I wanted to learn as much as I could from him."
The 6-foot-3, 297-pound Grasu, who is the son of Romanian immigrants, started 52 games for the Ducks, although his senior season was hampered by an ankle/foot injury.
"The standout traits with this guys are his balance, his quickness; he's excellent at the second level, quick on reach-blocks," Pace said. "His makeup is outstanding. When you talk about work ethic -- team captain, leadership, all those traits we stress around here -- he brings those to the table."
Like Grasu, Goldman also was an immediate contributor. He saw action in 10 games as a true freshman and started all 27 games the past two seasons. He ran an impressive 5.12-second 40-yard dash at FSU's pro day, while scoring points with scouts for his quickness and athleticism. His 19 bench-press reps of 225 pounds were not nearly as impressive.
When Hall of Famer and former Bears linebacker Dick Butkus delivered the Goldman pick for TV from the Auditorium Theatre downtown, he prefaced the announcement by saying "and I like this."
Goldman was impressed.
"My dad talked about (Butkus) a lot," Goldman said. "(He) was one of my dad's favorite players because my dad likes the gritty-type guys. He's NFL royalty, (so) it was great to hear that."
Goldman comes at a position of need for the Bears as new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio converts their former 4-3 to a 3-4. The only other players currently on the Bears' roster who are considered nose tackles are Jeremiah Ratliff and last year's second-round pick Ego Ferguson, who also could play snaps at end.
Ratliff was a four-time Pro Bowl player with the Dallas Cowboys from 2008-11 but will be 34 before the season starts. He has missed 26 games in the previous three seasons because of injuries and missed all three practices in the just-completed minicamp while pleading guilty to a two-year-old DUI charge.
Coincidentally, Goldman said he's a big fan of Ratliff.
"I just liked how physical he was," Goldman said. "And his quickness and grit. I look forward to learning a lot from him and playing alongside him."
Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki projected Goldman as a first-round pick in his NFL Draft 2015 Preview and wrote: "(He) made opportunistic plays at critical times and plays big in the clutch. Terrific game-day competitor."
The Bears were impressed by the versatility Goldman showed in Tallahassee. Playing for a different defensive coordinator each season, he stood out in three different schemes. He doesn't profess to have a preference where the Bears line him up.
"Honestly, I think I can play anywhere on the line in the NFL," Goldman said. "I feel comfortable anywhere, so it really doesn't matter."
Goldman said he wasn't bitter about not going in the first round. "I think where I got picked is very good for me," he said. "So I'm just ecstatic right now."
So, too, was Grasu, who is undersized and underpowered for an NFL offensive lineman but gets high marks for agility, physical and mental toughness, football character and leadership.
He could challenge unrestricted free agent pickup Will Montgomery for playing time, and he could also be asked to work at guard. Grasu is up for anything.
"I anticipate playing any position they want me to play," he said. "If they tell me to hop on one leg on the sidelines, I'll do it."
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