2024 NFL Draft

Bears mock draft: Ryan Poles re-racks strategies from 2023

The Bears made some great moves in last year's draft. Why not do the same thing again?

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We’re two and a half weeks away from the NFL draft and teams across the league are finalizing their big boards. The Bears have almost certainly already made their biggest decision. Quarterback prospect phenom Caleb Williams visited the team at Halas Hall last week to close out all the pre-draft meetings between Williams and the team. It’s been reported that Williams will not go on a top-30 visit with any other teams, which essentially confirms he’s coming to Chicago.

The Bears have several paths they can travel with the No. 9 overall pick, however. Do they take one of the highly-touted wide receivers to give Williams one of the best pass catching corps in the NFL if they have the chance? Or do they bolster his protection with a new tackle? If the widely-expected run on offensive players precedes their pick, the Bears could have the opportunity to take the first defensive player of the class. Can they pass up that opportunity? Or will they trade back to add more draft capital since they only have four selections as things stand.

Many options remain on the table.

As always, this mock draft is not an attempt to predict what the Bears will actually do when they’re back in the War Room next offseason. That’s impossible. Nor is it meant as a recommendation of what the Bears should do. This mock draft is meant to be a fun way to discuss wild ideas, dig into some of the intriguing college prospects this season, and project how those players may fit in Chicago.


Turning in the card is a formality at this point. Williams’ college tape is as good as it gets. The Bears have raved about Williams’ character and personality after their meetings. A new era of Bears football will begin Apr. 25.

For all our coverage on the QB phenom, click here.


Last year the Bears held the No. 9 pick in the draft, identified Darnell Wright as the player they wanted, knew the Eagles– who were waiting one spot behind the Bears– weren’t going to pick him, so they moved back one spot so the Eagles could draft Jalen Carter and picked up a future fourth-round pick in the process.

The plan worked out great.

Wright showed the makings of a foundational right tackle in his rookie season, and the extra fourth-rounder allowed them to trade their own fourth-round pick to the Chargers to bring in Keenan Allen.

So with the big three wide receivers and Joe Alt all off the board, Ryan Poles uses the same move this year, knowing the Jets want to move up one spot to take an offensive tackle while he has his eyes on a pass rusher.


Many mock draft simulators and public big boards have Verse going somewhere in the teens, but NFL big boards always look different and it just takes one team to have a higher grade on a guy than everyone else for a “surprising” pick.

The Bears could be that team for Verse. The defensive end fits the profile of what the Bears are looking for well, so it wouldn’t be “surprising” necessarily if they pick him over another pass rusher who may not be as good of a fit. Verse is both strong and extremely athletic. His 4.58 second 40-yard dash ranked fourth among all defensive ends at the Combine. His 7.31 second three-cone drill ranked third. Verse topped all defensive ends with 31 bench press reps.

He’s not just a strong Combine performer, though. Over two seasons at Florida State, Verse racked up 18 sacks, 29.5 TFL, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Pair that with his 21.2% pass rush win rate in 2023 and 22.2% win rate in 2022 per PFF and you’ve got a guy who should pair nicely with Montez Sweat coming off the edge.


What’s better than one athletic defensive end? Two! Just like Poles double-dipped at defensive tackle in 2023, he picks two DEs here. Some consider Trice a little undersized at just 245 lbs., but Trice makes up for his smaller size with great speed, agility and an excellent motor. Trice never quits on a play and made many stops with his second and third effort. That’s the type of play that could separate Trice from other Day Two pass rushers for the Bears.

Like Verse, Trice translated all of those great traits into great production for the Huskies. Over his last two seasons at Washington Trice had 16 sacks, 23.5 TFL, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Per PFF, Trice finished tied for 25th in the nation with a 19% pass rush win rate in 2023 (min. 100 pass rush snaps). No one topped his 27.5% win rate in 2022.


We know Poles isn’t afraid to reach for playmakers, so there’s a chance he takes a guy in the fourth round that many draft experts expect to be picked later on day three. With no picks slated after No. 122, Poles will have to pick whichever player he wants the most– regardless of whether it’s considered a “reach” or not– if the team doesn’t make moves to add more picks on day three.

With Washington, the Bears not only add a dynamite vertical threat to complement DJ Moore and Allen, they also add a familiar target for Williams from Southern Cal. Washington’s 86.7% catch rate on balls thrown 20 yards or farther was the best mark in all of college football among players with at least 10 targets last year per PFF. So was his 39.7 yards per route run, and his perfect 158.3 QB rating when targeted on deep balls.

Washington was able to win even if he didn’t burn his defender deep, too. He caught an impressive 75% of his contested targets. In three seasons at USC and one at Memphis in 2020, Washington caught 206 passes for 3,192 yards and 21 touchdowns.

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