INDIANAPOLIS – It’s no secret that Bears general manager Ryan Poles holds the keys to the 2023 NFL Draft. The question is, how fast does he want to rev the engine into gear?
Poles has not flat out confirmed that he will trade the first overall pick in April’s draft, but he made it clear Tuesday in Indianapolis that he’s open to all potential options. That includes possibly trading the pick prior to the beginning of free agency in mid-March.
“There are some scenarios that might benefit us to move before free agency opens, potentially, but again when we get back with all the information that we’ve gathered from here I think we’ll have a better direction,” Poles said Tuesday at the NFL Combine. “[It would give] a clearer view of what we need and there’s scenarios where you could add players [in a trade] as well, potentially, which again, gives you some clarity on what you want to do in the draft and free agency.”
Bears GM Ryan Poles said there are “some scenarios” where it might make sense to trade the No. 1 pick prior to free agency, if the Bears decide to deal the top pick. pic.twitter.com/ZCCrIVRjij— Sean Hammond (@sean_hammond) February 28, 2023
The No. 1 overall pick has been traded a dozen times since the AFL/NFL merger in 1967, but only twice in the new millennium. The Atlanta Falcons traded up to No. 1 in grab Michael Vick in 2001 and the Los Angeles Rams moved up to No. 1 to grab Jared Goff in 2016.
With Justin Fields leading the offense, the Bears have little need for a top quarterback prospect. They could potentially acquire a haul of draft picks in exchange for the No. 1 overall pick if another team is dead set on finding a quarterback. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis could all be in discussion for the top choice.
For what it’s worth, Poles said he has not been asked by an opposing general manager if Fields is available via trade. Poles previously said he would have to be “blown away” to consider taking a quarterback with the first pick. He reiterated Tuesday that nothing has changed in that regard.
“We’ve always leaned [toward trading the pick] because Justin did some really good things, and I’m excited about where his game’s going to go,” Poles said. “But, at the same time, when you sit in our situation at one overall, you have to do your due diligence. You have to investigate everything. You’ve got to spend time with those [quarterbacks] just to make sure we’re making the right decision.”
With the Bears, trading the No. 1 pick seems like more a question of when, rather than if.
Poles and his staff color code their draft boards. Blue, red, gold, orange and gray, in that order. Blue prospects are the can’t-miss talents, and so on down the line. Could Poles still grab one of his blue-rated prospects if he trades down with the Colts to No. 4 overall? What about if he trades down to No. 10 or even beyond?
The top of the draft is loaded with not only quarterbacks, but talented defensive difference makers. The Bears need exactly that. Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter appear to be the best of the bunch. Neither is likely to fall beyond the top handful of spots in the draft.
“It’s a year to year thing,” Poles said of the depth of the draft. “It just depends on what the draft class brings.”
Poles is a busy man this week. There will be plenty of suitors potentially looking to buy that top pick. He doesn’t necessarily have to do any marketing. Interested teams will come to him.
A lot of it could ride on how the top quarterbacks look at the combine, notably just how small Young is. The Alabama quarterback was listed at 6-foot, 194 pounds on the Crimson Tide roster, but there has been much speculation that Alabama added an extra inch or two, plus a few pounds. In the NFL, size matters.
Young is choosing not to throw the football in Indianapolis, while Stroud, Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson do plan on going through throwing drills. A potential trade could come together quickly once teams have their opportunity to see the quarterbacks and ask them questions in interviews this week.
Poles is hoping somebody falls in love with a QB. If a team does, it could make Poles and the Bears quite rich.
“We have flexibility” Poles said. “We have opportunity. We can gather all of that information, and I know our entire front office, our entire organization, is pumped with the opportunity that we have to do something special.”