2024 NFL Draft

Ryan Poles nearly jumped the gun in trying to trade up for Rome Odunze

Poles was nervous Odunze wouldn't be there at the No. 9 pick

NBC Universal, Inc.

Hearing Ryan Poles speak about his feelings after the first round, it's clear he and the Bears were honed in on drafting Rome Odunze. It didn't matter where in the draft, they simply wanted him in a Bears uniform.

And Poles got close to doing something he would've regretted after the fact to make sure he got him.

"Ian [Cunningham] and I sequenced a board all the way across and Rome was extremely high on that list," Poles said after the first round. "That's why I was nervous that he wasn't gonna be there at No. 9. Our simulations, it was about a 50-50 shot if he was going to be there. But as it started to unfold, Ian had to hold me back from not trying to trade up and do something crazy to get him. But it ended up working out really well."

Luckily, he didn't have to expend any extra draft capital. It worked to perfection.

The Chargers addressed their issues on the offensive line, drafting Joe Alt with the No. 5 pick. Both Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers were gone after the Giants selected Nabers with the No. 6 pick.

At the No. 7 pick, the Titans went to the offensive line bucket, taking Alabama's JC Latham. That's when Odunze's fate rested in the hands of the Falcons, who shocked the NFL world by drafting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. --- not long after signing Kirk Cousins to nearly a $200 million contract.

When asked if he expected the Falcons to pull that card, Poles smiled.

"No," Poles said if he expected that move. "I'm just happy it worked out that way," he said with a smile.

Poles covets Odunze as a person and a wide receiver. He admires his "work ethic" and "blue-collar way" of going about his business on the football field. Odunze fits well as a big-bodied, deep threat alongside DJ Moore and Keenan Allen, known more for their all-around abilities and route running.

"Man, I don't know where to start with that guy," Poles said of Odunze. "First of all, the human being, what a great guy, work ethic, just blue collar in the way he goes about things. But as a receiver, he can line up anywhere, inside (or) outside. You love his ability to finish in contested situations. He plays strong. He plays big. He can run after catches very good; he was a punt returner, as well. I mean, the kid's put time in and he's gotten better and better every single year. He's a winner. He can impact the game at any moment."

From Odunze's perspective, he had an open mind going into the draft. But after his top-30 visit in Chicago and a throwing session with Caleb Williams, DJ Moore and Keenan Allen in Los Angeles, he had his sights set on Chicago, just like Poles.

"I definitely had the mindset to be happy wherever I went," Odunze said Friday. "But in the back of my mind, the Bears visit went tremendously well. And I came into this facility and the attitude and the effort they put into my visit and the conversations we had were incredible. I knew when that phone call came in from Illinois that it was gonna be the Bears and I was super excited."

He also appreciated Poles' nerves about making sure he secured him in the draft.

"I'm happy he had that, you know, sweat to come get me," Odunze said of Poles. "You always want to be somewhere where you're wanted, right? I want to be here, they want me to be here. I think that's a good connection to have."

Click here to follow the Under Center Podcast.

Contact Us