NFL combine: What Bears GM Ryan Poles is thinking about Justin Fields, No. 1 overall pick

Poles speaks at NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles walks on the field prior to the Bears playing the Green Bay Packers, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Chicago.

INDIANAPOLIS – Bears general manager Ryan Poles wants his mind to be made up as soon as possible.

“Tomorrow,” he said Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine.

But he’s just not there yet.

This will be a big week for Poles and the Bears, who hold the No. 1 overall draft pick. The Bears have a huge decision to make at the quarterback position. They could draft USC’s Caleb Williams, or they could carry on with Justin Fields at quarterback. If they do draft Williams, or any other top prospect, they could be looking to trade Fields.

“I would love to know as soon as possible,” Poles said. “I would love to know, but I know that’s not how the process works. Sure, before free agency would be good.”

There are a million different scenarios the Bears have to work through. Poles said his phone keeps ringing with teams trying to figure out what he’s going to do, probing about the No. 1 pick and Fields. He might be the busiest man at the combine this week, where 321 prospects are working out in front of NFL scouts.

If the Bears do draft a quarterback, they almost certainly will trade Fields. It’s highly unlikely the Bears would draft a quarterback and keep Fields on the roster because it would create instant conflict in the locker room.

“I want to do right by Justin, as well,” Poles said. “No one wants to live in gray, I know that’s uncomfortable. I wouldn’t want to be in that situation, either. So we will gather the information, we will move as quickly as possible, we are not going to be in a rush and see what presents itself and what’s best for the organization.”

The Bears still have plenty of work to do on their evaluations of Williams, North Carolina’s Drake Maye and LSU’s Jayden Daniels, among other top QB prospects. For Poles, the person matters as much as the football player. The No. 1 thing he said he needs is to spend time with them.

I want to do right by Justin as well,” Poles said. “No one wants to live in grey, I know that’s uncomfortable.”

—  Ryan Poles, Bears general manager

That’s going to affect the timing of how all this goes down. If there’s a team out there willing to trade for Fields, that team might want a deal done before free agency. But there’s no guarantee that Poles and the Bears will be ready to make a decision in the next two weeks.

“There’s a lot of different timelines going,” Poles said. “So being creative with finding the different times to spend with the prospects and if we can get a private workout, that does help come to that conclusion and kind of fill in all the boxes that need to be filled in.”

Asked about the rumors that Williams might not want to play for the Bears, Poles said he has no concerns “at all.”

On the flip side, if the Bears do look to trade the No. 1 overall pick, Poles is looking for a similar return to what he netted last year when he traded the top draft pick to Carolina. He received two first-round picks, two second-round picks and receiver DJ Moore from the Panthers.

“It worked out really well,” Poles said. “Just adding two good players like Darnell [Wright] and D.J. Had no idea this would work out where it would be the first overall pick, but I would say that’s successful and a future [second-round pick] as well. It worked out well for us, and we’ll keep growing off it.”

There are any number of teams that could be looking to trade up for the top pick. Williams grew up in Washington, D.C., and could be a natural fit for the Commanders, who hold the No. 2 pick. The Patriots at No. 3 could be in the market, so could the Giants at No. 6 or the Falcons at No. 8.

That’s why Poles’ phone has been so busy lately.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.