Caleb Williams

Did the Bears tell Caleb Williams he would be drafted with the No. 1 pick? Ryan Poles shares a surprising answer

The Bears kept it a "mystery" all the way up until they were on the clock

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Don't get it twisted. The Bears knew for a long time leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft that they planned to draft USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick.

When did the Bears know for certain they would take Williams?

"After he came in for his (top) 30 visit," general manager Ryan Poles said on "The Pat McAfee Show" on Wednesday. "It had been a good couple of weeks, which made it tough to wait until the draft day. But I was pumped up to get it done finally."

It's well-documented that Williams' top-30 visit was a huge success. The Bears' top brass took him out to dinner and he met with key veteran players on the team. He impressed them with his maturity and passion for football.

Even before then, things had seemingly been going well. The Bears met with Williams at the NFL Scouting Combine for a brief meeting in March. Then, they met for dinner in Los Angeles leading up to his pro day at USC.

But Williams' top-30 visit notched it. The Bears didn't host another top quarterback prospect at Halas Hall. And Williams didn't take another top-30 visit himself to another team.

Did the Bears tell him explicitly that they would draft him with the first pick?

"No, no. No, I think he knew though," Poles said.

That may explain the Bears' video of Poles calling Williams at the draft. Poles kicked off the call by asking "Who's this?" And Williams promptly responded, "Who's this?"

But even on that call, Poles didn't say his usual "Are you ready to be a Chicago Bear?" He said "They told me to hold it for five minutes. I told everyone I've been holding it for a month."

Williams came back with a funny response.

"Five months! Five months!"

Everyone knew, even if the Bears didn't explicitly say it before the draft, or to Williams himself. And they didn't cheat, either. Poles said his staff went through the full process of evaluating all the top signal callers in the draft.

"Yeah, we went through the full process," Poles said. "But the film was the film. That stood out and kind of had my heart from the beginning. But as we spent more time with Caleb and their homework and got to know each other, it became clearer and clearer."

They might've gone through the full process. But Poles stopped taking calls for the first pick leading up to the draft, also, showing his intent to draft Williams first.

"No, nothing crazy," Poles said when asked if the Bears received "crazy" trade offers for the No. 1 pick. "I don't think I ever allowed it to get crazy. We were gathering information on Caleb. And I knew, again, from the tape (he) was a rare prospect that had a lot of talent to help us turn this thing around.

"So, it was gonna take a lot. By the time we got to the point where we felt comfortable, I wasn't even gonna take those calls anymore or even listen to whatever it was gonna be because I knew this was the right move for us."

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