As Ryan Poles heads into his first draft as Bears general manager on Thursday, he’s thinking big — not big as in making a splash this week, but big picture. There’s no urgency to fill holes on a team that’s almost certainly a year or more away from competing.
He is urging discipline when it comes to prioritizing his long-term plan for the Bears, and that was evident as he restrained himself in free agency as well as his apparent disinterest in trading for a wide receiver like the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel. If Poles gets this draft right, he can find his own version of Samuel at a fraction of the cost and his grand ideas in play for 2023 and beyond.
“I truly believe in homegrown talent,” Poles said. “I truly believe in drafting the right players and developing them here, and that will help us in the long run.
“It’s being disciplined in both keeping draft capital to draft the right players and develop them, as well as the financial commitment. There’s consequences for all of those actions.”
When Poles took the job, he held a second- and third-round pick, then two fifths and a sixth. That’s not much help to fix a team rife with deficiencies. He traded Khalil Mack to add another second-rounder, so the Bears are scheduled to pick at Nos. 39, 48 and 71 on Friday.
There are significant needs at cornerback, wide receiver and on the offensive line.
It’s highly unlikely Poles will trade up into the first round Thursday, instead saying he’d “be in the business [of] moving back and trying to create more [picks],” if the right offers present themselves.
As he worked to ensure that he gets this right, Poles had to blend his philosophy with the scouting staff he inherited. If he wants to make changes in that department, he’ll do it after the draft.
One new approach he tried was anonymity. In the process of finalizing the team’s draft rankings, Poles put scenarios up on the video screen and had his scouts vote for a selection with their cell phones in order to take self-consciousness out of the equation.
“You just want to remove groupthink,” he said. “If I polled everyone and you had to raise your hand, sometimes you look around. It just removes that… I put [the results] on the screen and you could hear the oohs and ahhs. It was a really cool exercise.”
He also tested his staff by running simulations of the draft to see who they’d pick based on who was available at those spots and had someone call in with various trade proposals.
Once he’d gone through all that, Poles was essentially done. He had a meeting scheduled Tuesday and then planned to step away ranking and analyzing until it was time to make some actual picks.
“You can talk yourself into anything at this point, he said. “That’s why I’m notovercookingthis board. I’m taking a step back. Sometimes you keep staring at it and you keep sliding guys around and doing crazy stuff.”
There’s no margin for crazy stuff. The Bears have too many problems and too few picks for that.