Here’s what Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles had to say about No. 9 pick

Poles isn’t worried if Bears come away with only 4 draft picks this week

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles speaks during a news conference, Thursday, March 16, 2023, at Halas Hall in Lake Forest.

LAKE FOREST – The Bears are almost certain to take USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall draft pick Thursday. While general manager Ryan Poles wouldn’t flat out say so Thursday at Halas Hall, the team’s actions over the past three months make it clear.

But what’s less certain is what the Bears will do with the rest of their draft picks, most notably the No. 9 overall pick. The Bears hold four picks total, including two in the first round. They enter this week with the first pick, the ninth pick, the 75th pick (third round) and the 122nd pick (fourth round).

Poles spoke to members of the media Tuesday at Halas Hall ahead of the draft. Here’s what he had to say about the No. 9 pick.

Trading back is an option, but not a necessity

Poles isn’t worried about his team having only four picks. During each of his first two drafts in charge, Poles bartered his way into double-digit draft picks. He was going for quantity over quality, especially his first year in 2022 when the team was in full-blown rebuild mode.

That’s not the case anymore.

“It’s going to be really hard to make this team,” Poles said Tuesday.

The Bears aren’t going to have five undrafted rookies on the 53-man roster in August, like they did in 2022. This team is far better than it was even just a year ago. The switch has flipped from quantity to quality for Poles and the front office.

In terms of value of the four picks that the Bears do have, the Bears are looking good. Per, the Bears have the third-most value in draft picks, despite having the fewest picks of any team.

Some football analysts seem to think the Bears need to trade back from No. 9 to acquire more picks. But Poles appears to be looking at this as an opportunity to grab an elite player, not a chance to acquire more picks.

I feel really good where we’re at. If [a trade down] happens, that’s great. If we have less, whatever we need to do to accomplish what we’re setting out to do and improve our football team.”

—  Ryan Poles, Bears general manager

“I feel really good where we’re at,” Poles said. “If [a trade down] happens, that’s great. If we have less, whatever we need to do to accomplish what we’re setting out to do and improve our football team.”

Premium positions

Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze talks while standing on the field during Washington's NFL Pro Day, Thursday, March 28, 2024, in Seattle. Odunze did not participate in the day. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

The Bears remain focused on three premium positions with the No. 9 pick: offensive tackle, defensive line and receiver. There are enticing prospects available at all three of those positions, and there will likely be an opportunity to draft one at No. 9.

Fans certainly are excited about the potential that the Bears could land one of the top three receivers (Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., Washington’s Rome Odunze or LSU’s Malik Nabers). On his way to Detroit for the draft, Williams tweeted that he saw Odunze on his flight, which sent the Bears Twittersphere into a frenzy.

But there’s no guarantee a top receiver will be there. Poles seems to value all three positions pretty highly.

“There’s different championship-caliber teams that have built their teams in different ways,” Poles said. “And it really solidified just those premiums positions are important. So those three are there, it matches up with this draft pretty well.”

If the Bears stick at No. 9, their selection will likely be at one of those three premium positions.

Defensive tackle vs. defensive end

Alabama linebacker Dallas Turner runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The Bears still need help along the defensive line, but it’s debatable what will help more: a defensive end or a defensive tackle.

The team traded for Pro Bowl defensive end Montez Sweat at the trade deadline last year. Sweat could use a running mate on the opposite side and the Baers are in great position to land a top pass rusher.

But they also will be in a great position to take the top defensive tackle, if they so choose. A year ago, the Bears drafted two defensive tackles in the second and third rounds of the draft, those being Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens, respectively. That shouldn’t stop them from taking one this year if Poles feels strongly about either Texas’ Byron Murphy II or Illinois’ Johnny Newton.

“Generally speaking, I would say the inside guy has the shortest path to the quarterback,” Poles said. “[I have] lived with really good elite players that are inside and it changes everything and it opens up a lot for other teams as well. Yeah, having that interior rush is probably a preference when you have an outside guy.”

The Bears already have “an outside guy” in Sweat. Might the Bears look for another interior defensive tackle?

What makes a prospect top-10 worthy?

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus speaks during a press conference at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

At the top of Poles’ draft board at Halas Hall, the front office has bear tags that it will give to the best of the best prospects. Those are reserved for the grizzlies, the top bear, Poles said.

“They’ve got to impact the football team from a skillset standpoint, but we always are going to look at some key things when we talk about passion for the game, coach-ability, dependability, resilience,” Poles said.

The Bears won’t take anyone at No. 9 just because they have the No. 9 pick. If trading back outweighs the value of the player who is available, Poles won’t be afraid to do it.

“As the draft unfolds, there’s going to be some indicators that start to educate us on how we need to move to acquire the top talents in this draft,” Poles said. “As I’ve said in the past, we need to count the players in certain ranges, and we would feel uncomfortable if we got outside of whatever threshold that is. So it kind of depends on the first couple of picks and how they move.”

Poles credited his assistant general manager Ian Cunningham with helping during this process. He noted Tuesday that Cunningham isn’t a “yes man.” They will debate with each other, as will head coach Matt Eberflus. Poles believes that makes the team’s process better.

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.