Bears GM Ryan Poles feigns suspense around No. 1 pick: ‘Tune in Thursday’

Bears general manager Ryan Poles knows the identity of the No. 1 overall pick, but two days before the 2024 NFL Draft, he’s not quite ready to share.

“We know what we’re going to do,” Poles said Tuesday at a pre-draft press conference. “Everyone’s gotta tune in on Thursday to watch.”

The Bears hold the No. 1 pick via a trade with the Carolina Panthers and draft night in Detroit will bring Poles’ two-year plan to fruition when quarterback Caleb Williams, the Heisman Trophy winner in 2022, likely becomes the third player drafted first overall in Chicago’s storied history.

Beyond the ever-present smoke around the Bears and Williams, there are other reasons the majority opinion holds merit. Chicago has only two quarterbacks on the current depth chart — undrafted Tyson Bagent and journeyman backup Brett Rypien — making the position a massive need.

“We’re proud of where we’ve come from,” Poles said. “It’s going to be hard to make this team now.”

When Poles traded the No. 1 pick to the Panthers weeks before the 2023 draft and received a 2024 first-rounder as part of the return package, he said the prevailing thought was to be in position to draft a quarterback should 2021 first-rounder Justin Fields not prove he’s worthy of the QB1 role.

Leadership changes in personnel and top coaching spots often drive decisions to move on from quarterbacks drafted by previous regimes.

Fields, drafted 11th overall when then-GM Ryan Pace and the Bears moved up from No. 20 in a deal with the New York Giants, was traded to the Steelers last month to be the backup to Russell Wilson in Pittsburgh.

The new brass has tracked Williams incessantly.

Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and other members of the organization have spent countless hours to reach this point. The Bears met with Williams at the NFL Scouting Combine — where Eberflus offers prospects the option of playing darts or putt-putt before the more intensive interview begins — before his pro day workout (where new Bears wide receiver Keenan Allen made an appearance) and were the only team to host Williams at team headquarters for a “top 30” visit.

“The journey to collect all the information is different for everyone,” Poles said. “There’s guys on our board that are high that didn’t come in for a 30-visit that we’ve had other touchpoints. Our networks in the building know the player inside and out that we really, really trust.”

Poles called reports the Bears are shopping the No. 9 overall pick speculation and said he doesn’t feel the need to make a trade to add picks despite holding an NFL-low four selections over seven rounds.

“I feel really good with where we’re at,” Poles said.


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