Ryan Poles

Ryan Poles reveals what Bears have learned about Caleb Williams, what's next in draft process

The Bears met with the presumptive No. 1 overall pick in Los Angeles last week

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ORLANDO — Ryan Poles and the Bears are deep into the quarterback evaluation process as they prepare to draft the future face of the franchise with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

All signs point to USC star Caleb Williams being the selection. Poles and the Bears’ decision-makers have spent the last month trying to make sure the person matches the tape.

The Bears know Williams, the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner, is a rare talent, but they need to make sure he is equipped to handle everything that comes with being a franchise quarterback in Chicago. In meetings with Williams, his teammates, and coaches, the Bears got a picture of a quarterback who checks all their boxes — or so it seems as of March 25.

“When you talk to his teammates, they don't like him, they love him, Poles said of Williams. “His leadership, how he brings people together. He's intentional with his leadership. Same goes with the staff. I'm having a hard time finding a person that doesn't like him or even love him and thinks that he can reach the highest limits. The feedback's been good.”

The Bears sent a large contingent to Williams’ Pro Day at USC on March 20. The Bears’ three-day fact-finding mission included a dinner with Williams and his teammates, where the USC star continued to impress his likely future bosses.

“Really mature,” Poles said of Williams. “One of my guys kind of bumped me on it, which I think is rare these days for a 22-year-old, he never touched his phone. Really intentional with his conversations and talking about his interests and things that he likes to do. Really good touchpoint.”

The Bears will host Williams for a top-30 visit during the first week of April. It’s during that visit that they will get access to Williams’ medical information. The Bears have scouts log every injury prospects deal with during their career, and they are comfortable that Williams, who has only dealt with a hamstring strain in three college seasons, will return with no red flags medically.

Williams’ visit to Halas Hall will see the Bears continue to test him on his football knowledge. The Bears want to see how he digests, recalls, and relays play calls given through a helmet. It also serves as another touchpoint for the Bears to build a relationship with their future quarterback.

The Bears will continue to do their due diligence with the quarterback class. They had a contingent present for JJ McCarthy’s pro day at Michigan and Poles will fly from Orlando to LSU to see Jayden Daniels. The Bears will also send a group to North Carolina to watch Drake Maye.

But even going to Baton Rouge or Chapel Hill feels more like a box-checking exercise than trying to determine if Daniel, Maye, or McCarthy are more worthy of the No. 1 pick than Williams.

"We're going to continue the process," Poles said. "Like I said, we're gonna go to LSU right from here. We'll continue to evaluate everybody. As I said before, we gain clarity as we move forward, which is a good thing, but we also want to make sure that we continue and finish the process with the rest of the class, too."

That’s the correct approach. The Bears must be 100 percent certain about the decision they are about to make.

But all signs point to Williams being the selection on April 25.

When asked when he thought he might have final clarity on the pick, Poles did his best to give the appearance that the Bears aren’t preparing to stock the stores at Soldier Field with Williams jerseys.

But he couldn’t stop a big smile from stretching across his face as he attempted to play coy.

“I don’t. I don’t right now,” Poles said when asked if he knew when he’d have the pick solidified. “Hopefully it just hits me.”

If we’re reading the tea leaves correctly, it already has. All that’s left is to turn in the card.

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