2024 NFL Draft

Bears GM Ryan Poles shares thought process behind how team will make No. 9 overall pick decision

The team has already decided to draft Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick, but the No. 9 pick will be a gametime decision

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Bears’ GM Ryan Poles already knows what he’s going to do with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. Even though he won’t say it outright, he’s going to select Caleb Williams to take over as the team’s next quarterback. Shortly after that enormous decision becomes official, however, Poles will be faced with another big choice: what to do with the No. 9 overall pick.

“It’s hard to answer right now,” Poles said in his pre-draft press conference. “As the draft unfolds, there’s going to be some indicators that start to educate us on how we need to move to acquire the top talents in this draft.”

The answer might be a game time decision, because there are several scenarios that could play out which would make a huge impact on what the Bears can do. Will a run on quarterbacks push down one of the “big three” wide receivers so that Poles can pair an elite pass catcher with Williams for the duration of their careers? Or does he move up for his favorite left tackle to protect Williams, if he gets the chance? Maybe all the Bears blue-chippers are gone by the time they’re back on the clock and Poles decides to trade back?

“The nice thing is from the work that we’ve done I feel pretty good about just being flexible,” Poles said.

Watch Ryan Poles' full press conference here.

Part of that flexibility will be determining what position the team wants to address with their pick– or picks if they move back. Earlier this year, Poles’ staff broke into groups to review premium offensive linemen, defensive linemen and wide receivers. They wanted to know how players in each group could impact the team in the long term and short term. They explored how different championship-caliber teams built their rosters around those premium groups. Then they debated.

“It really solidified just those premiums positions are important,” Poles said. “So those three are there, it matches up with this draft pretty well.”

And if it comes down to the opportunity to draft their WR3 compared to their DE1 (a scenario that very much could be in play), the Bears have a way to make their decision ahead of time. Poles and assistant GM Ian Cunningham sit down ahead of time and sequence their entire board from No. 1 to picks in the 200s. So if there comes a time when they need to decide between two players who each play a premium position, they’ll just address their big board.

When it comes to trade backs, the Bears have a similar method, but they rely on how many players they have in various tiers. Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the Bears have a first-round grade on 15 players. Accordingly, the team wouldn’t feel comfortable trading past No. 15 in the draft.

“So it kind of depends on the first couple of picks and how they move,” Poles said. “We’ll count them up and say, ‘You know what, here’s the line. We can’t go past that.’”

The Bears likely have a cluster of players that they’ve honed in on as targets with the No. 9 pick already. They have worked through different outcomes and situations where they’ll want to trade down. But they won’t know which road they’re taking until the picks start coming off the board for real.

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