Bears News

How Ryan Poles, Bears can approach 2024 NFL Draft

2 months agoChris Emma

Ryan Poles was working his first major scouting role in 2013 as the Chiefs’ college scouting coordinator, a step along his track towards becoming the Bears’ general manager, when a new boss arrived in Kansas City.

The Chiefs had fired Scott Pioli, the general manager who took a chance on Poles in 2009, and replaced him with John Dorsey. Though a very respected scout in his own right, Dorsey would challenge those around him – including a young scout like Poles.

“It was the evaluation process, it was collaboration,” Poles said of Dorsey’s methods. “Everyone in the room, don’t read your report word for word – just talk football and then watch the tape. And we watched and watched and watched and watched. So, you can say he’s got great hands. But when we watch him and he’s dropping every ball, you’re going to get called out for that in a respectful way. But we’re not going to put that guy in a place where we thought he was because he can’t catch.

“You can find truth that way by watching a lot of tape, a lot of input. You have to structure the meetings the right way, set the rules. But all that tape watching also allows all your evaluators to grow because they watch hundreds of players more than what they would’ve if they just worried about their area or their concern or their needs.”

In leading the Bears’ football operations, Poles has built his own style that’s the reflection of the three mentors under whom he served – Pioli, Dorsey and current Chiefs general manager Brett Veach. But it’s the methods of Dorsey on which Poles and the Bears will lean for this month’s NFL Draft.

Like Dorsey, Poles has put plenty of faith in his own brass – executives like Ian Cunningham, Trey Koziol and Jeff King, plus Matt Eberflus and his coaching staff and every member of the scouting team. While many in his position work in an insular environment for the draft – simply absorbing reports from their scouts and making their own decisions – Poles holds an open mind in counting on his team.

During his first draft as Bears general manager, Poles had each scout write the name of a Day 3 prospect on whom they felt a strong conviction and put a star next to that player. A majority of those prospects were selected.

When the Bears prepare for the No. 9 overall pick in this year’s draft, Poles plans to have his personnel staff divide into teams and debate what’s the best direction for that selection.

The Bears have just four slots at their disposal in this year’s draft, including the first and ninth overall picks. While it has become clear whom Chicago will covet at the top of the draft, there are some great avenues available for the following three picks.

Poles will lean on the expertise of his scouting brass once again to see through this pivotal draft for the Bears’ future.

First Round, No. 1 overall pick: QB1

Emma’s Pick: Quarterback Caleb Williams, USC

Throughout this entire process, Poles and the Bears have operated with an open mind on this franchise-altering decision ahead at quarterback. They have explored the case for each prospect, conducting thorough evaluations with a genuine interest, all while knowing well what’s the most likely pick.

With the first overall pick in this draft, the Bears are selecting Caleb Williams with hopes he can become the type of franchise quarterback Chicago has never seen before. It is a decision that will ultimately have been reached through great due diligence and without biases – but the right call for this team’s future.

Poles and the Bears have turned over every stone with the first overall pick in hand, seeking out their best path forward for this decision. That is Williams, a generational quarterback prospect who dramatically enhances Poles’ plan for sustained success.

The Bears welcomed Williams to Halas Hall this week for their formal ‘30 visit’ with the team, in what is expected to be his only one in this pre-draft process. It allows Poles, Eberflus and their brass to check any remaining boxes necessary in solidifying Williams as their selection.

Poles and Eberflus led a team out to Los Angeles late last month to attend Williams’ pro day workout at USC, bringing him out to dinner and further sealing his place in the Bears’ future.

The arrival of Williams will increase expectations for the Bears to emerge as a championship contender in 2024 and well beyond, but that’s the burden falling on the shoulders of a promising young quarterback.

The Bears believe Williams is ready for the challenge and can become great for this franchise.

First Round, No. 9 overall pick: Great options available

Emma’s Pick: Edge Jared Verse, Florida State

The Bears control the start of this year’s draft, as those teams in need of a quarterback have crossed Williams off their boards. But Poles must wait and see what’s available to him with the ninth pick.

Poles and the Bears will be hoping for a run of quarterbacks between the second and eighth picks, pushing the best player available to them with the No. 9 slot. That is where they can land a dynamic talent for this roster.

What’s fortunate for the Bears is how the top of this draft is loaded with promising prospects who happen to fit their top needs on the depth chart – edge rusher, wide receiver and tackle.

The most glaring need for the Bears is to add a complement alongside Pro Bowl pass rusher Montez Sweat. The options in the draft include standouts like Jared Verse (Florida State), Dallas Turner (Alabama) and Laiatu Latu (UCLA).

“We got to make sure that we have somebody opposite of Sweat,” Eberflus said. “We can never have enough of those guys, because they affect the game the most.”

Wide receiver remains a key need for the Bears, even despite adding six-time Pro Bowl target Keenan Allen to line up with DJ Moore. The depth chart is thin beyond those two stars and this draft could allow Chicago to fortify one of the best wide receiver groups in the league.

While Marvin Harrison Jr. (Ohio State) is expected to be a top five pick, the Bears will be drawn to wide receivers like Rome Odunze (Washington) and Malik Nabers (LSU). If one or both of those prospects is available with the ninth pick, they could very well be the best player available on the board and the obvious choice.

The Bears could also be drawn to tight end Brock Bowers (Georgia), defensive tackle Jer’Zahn Newton (Illinois) or tackle Joe Alt (Notre Dame), adding to their core on offense.

Bears offensive line coach Chris Morgan met with Alt during his pro day workout at Notre Dame last month. He would bookend the offensive line along with right tackle Darnell Wright, the No. 10 overall pick in last year’s draft.

Poles will also consider the options for a trade down a few slots to a team in need of a quarterback. The Vikings, Broncos and Raiders represent pick Nos. 11, 12 and 13, respectively, each seeking a quarterback in this first round. They could very well be looking to leap ahead of each other, and the No. 9 pick represents a slot to land an arm.

The Bears could receive a haul for that pick that includes a first- and third-round pick and Day 3 capital. Given that Chicago has only a third- and fourth-round pick remaining in this draft, that will be an attractive option.

Round 3, No. 75 overall pick: Matching needs with potential

Emma’s Pick: Defensive Tackle T’Vondre Sweat, Texas

In theory, the Bears would like to address one of their primary needs with the 75th overall pick. But Poles has seen before how a run on certain positions can leave the cupboards empty.

If the Bears select an edge rusher with the ninth overall pick, they can perhaps land a wide receiver in the third round. There will be intriguing options like Johnny Wilson (Florida State), Malachi Corley (Western Kentucky), Javon Baker (UCF) or Jamari Thrash (Louisville).

The Bears could also secure their interior defensive line with All-American T’Vondre Sweat, a standout at Texas, or bringing in a tackle like Blake Fisher (Notre Dame) to compete with Braxton Jones.

NFL general managers love to preach ‘best player available’ in the later rounds. The Bears are in a position to match that goal with some important needs on their roster.

Fourth Round, No. 122 pick overall (from Eagles): What comes next?

Emma’s Pick: Wide Receiver Malik Washington, Virginia

Will the Bears end their draft as it’s nearing the halfway point? It doesn’t seem likely.

The Bears will almost certainly seek to trade for more draft capital at some point. In 2022, Chicago selected 11 players and last year it brought in 10. Four would be an alarmingly low number, though this is also considered a draft that’s not entirely deep in Day 3 talent.

Only 54 underclassmen declared for this draft, compared to 106 in 2018. The benefits of NIL contracts in the college game have drawn players to stay put rather than entering the NFL early. The Bears dealt a fourth-round pick to the Chargers for Allen and a fifth-round slot to the Bills for interior offensive lineman Ryan Bates – comfortably moving draft capital knowing its value is diminished in this draft.

But Poles could find a seamless trade to take a few more swings with Day 3 draft picks, and he’ll be ready to empower his scouting team with more convictions they found over the last year on the road.

Poles believes in those inside the Bears’ draft room at Halas Hall and is prepared for a draft that could change the fortunes of this franchise.

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