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We’re just a couple of days away from the 2022 NFL draft, where new Bears general manager Ryan Poles has plenty of work ahead of him. Unfortunately, he only has six draft picks to work with, including none in the first round.
But the Bears do have two picks in the second round (Nos. 39, 48), as well as the 71st overall pick in the third round, where they can add some impact players at positions of need.
Poles met with the Chicago media ahead of the draft, where he discussed a number of topics — from preparation, draft mentality, the topic of rebuilding and a huge hint about his desire to trade back, if possible.
Here’s a look at some quick takeaways from Poles’ pre-draft press conference:
Don't call it a rebuild, but a remodel
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When Poles was asked about the current state of the Bears roster, he made sure not to use one word with significant ramifications.
“The ‘rebuild’ thing is, like, super-sensitive,” he said.
While Poles has spent a good portion of his early tenure retooling the roster — getting rid of bad contracts, getting younger and adding depth — he wouldn’t equate it to a rebuild. In fact, he compared it to a home renovation, where there are parts that need some work but it’s not a teardown of the entire structure.
“You might have to redo some countertops over here, some fresh paint over there,” he said. “Some rooms are good. You don’t need to touch them. So that’s kind of the thought process there. That’s not a rebuild.”
Poles hasn’t made any big splashes during free agency, and he’s not likely to make a splash in terms of trading up. But he’s in the business of remodeling this roster to fit a winning standard.
“We’re constructing a very good football team,” Poles said. “Regardless [of] how you use whatever term that is, we just continue to add talent. And young talent, older talent, whatever it takes to make the best team possible.”
It certainly sounds like Poles will look to trade back - if the price is right
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The Bears certainly aren’t in the business of trading up to acquire a prospect in the NFL draft. They have just six draft selections — one coming thanks to the Khalil Mack trade — and Poles is in the business of building through the draft.
While it’s hard to read too much into these pre-draft press conferences, Poles made it a point to twice note that the Bears are looking to trade back and acquire more draft capital.
“I do think we will be in the business — depending on where it is and what it looks like — in moving back and trying to create more (draft capital),” he said.
But that’s if the price is right.
“Where is that pick located in the draft?” Poles said. “And can I still get a quality player at that level as well? Also, you can accumulate on the back end and package things up and move them again. So really it’s just the volume and where the draft is deep at certain positions.”
Bears will have a best player available mentality
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As Poles retools the current roster, there are some needs more pressing than others — namely wide receiver, offensive line and cornerback. With the focus being on developing quarterback Justin Fields, there’s a greater emphasis — at least on the outside — on Chicago’s need to focus on offense.
And while that might be the case, Poles made it clear the Bears have a best player available mentality. After all, adding the best players to this roster serves to help everyone, including Fields.
“You could say he needs receivers, receivers, receivers,” he said. “But he needs blocking, too, and he also needs balance in terms of running the ball efficiently and getting that done up front and then you can do some play action pass stuff, then you can do different things. Turnovers. Maybe a returner to flip the field to score more points. So it’s all connected.
“That’s really why the mindset is to get the best players on this team as possible. If I get too lopsided and be like, ‘I’ve got to do this specific thing,’ I think that’s where you lead into big mistakes.”
Poles and his scouts tried something new to evaluate players
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Poles shed some light on the pre-draft process, including a look inside the draft room with his scouts. Poles explained that his scouts tried something new when evaluating prospects. They would watch tape on players and then use their phones to take part in polls to evaluate them.
“We had great debate, great conversation,” Poles said. “We did some new things. We took polls. We watched players stacked up in their position, and we’d poll everybody off their cell phone, and that information would come down to a database, and we’d display it on screen, so we’d see how everyone was ranked. Sometimes it was a runaway for the same guy. Sometimes it was a really tight race that just led to more conversation and for us to watch more tape.”
Don't expect the Bears to be involved in trading for a wide receiver
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It’s been a whirlwind of an NFL offseason, which has included the movement of some big-name receivers, including Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill. And there have been talks about other top wideouts being on the trade block. Given the Bears are in need of playmakers for Fields, it’s naturally been a question.
When asked about star receivers potentially available for trade, Poles stressed “staying disciplined” in building the roster.
“I truly believe in homegrown talent,” he said. “I truly believe in drafting the right players and developing them here and that will help us in the long run.”
Basically, don’t get your hopes up about the Bears trading for a wide receiver. Poles is looking to build through the draft.
“It will benefit us to make sure we draft well and develop our own guys,” he said.
Poles sees depth at OL, DB, DL, RB in draft
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Following a COVID-19 year, there are some deeper position groups heading into this NFL draft. Poles was asked about the deepest position groups heading into Day 2 and 3, where he named offensive line, defensive back, defensive line and running back as groups with potential.
“I would say the O-line depth is pretty good,” he said. “There’s some good depth with the DBs. There’s a couple defensive linemen. The running back class may not be top-heavy, but there’s a ton. It’s crazy how many running backs there are.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the COVID year [when all college players were given an additional year of eligibility]. A lot of those guys are kicking back, so the middle-to-bottom, definitely into free agency, there’s a massive amount of players. That’s why it took so much time to get the board set, not only at the top but at the bottom. There are a lot of players on this board.”
Bears have conducted simulations of the draft multiple times
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Poles has been involved in previous drafts during his tenure with the Kansas City Chiefs. But this is the first time when he’s in charge and calling the shots. Still, Poles insisted that he and his team are well-prepared for what’s ahead.
The Bears have conducted different draft simulations of the draft over and over to make sure things run smooth.
“We had guys call in fake trades just to test our communication, test our trade charts, test all of that, just to make sure that everything’s smooth on game day, and we’re just applying that,” Poles said. “I feel really confident at this point and it has a lot to do with the work of really everybody. It’s been all hands on deck, so I’m excited.”
While the Bears don’t have a first-round selection, Poles says the preparation for Day 2 will continue during opening night on Thursday.
“It’s going to be fun because we spend so much time watching this and just seeing how things play out,” Poles said. “The other thing is there is going to be an opportunity for us to continue to simulate us having a pick and acting like maybe we’re at 10, maybe we’re at 20, and just act like we’re in different spots and just repping out communication to make sure when we go the next day that we’re ready.”
Emphasis will be on the tape
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The draft process is a long and arduous one, where players rise and fall throughout the season and the pre-draft process, where all-star games and the NFL Combine have a way of changing the conversation.
But for Poles, he made it clear that his decision making and evaluation will be based mainly on the game tape — not hype and measurables.
“I feel like my foundation is old scouting,” Poles said. “That old foundation was set earlier in my career. A lot of that has to do with just watching tape, watching a lot of tape, and understanding that sometimes you’re taking a good football player. Sometimes, it’s just that basic: Are we taking a good football player?
“Do I think you can use some of these tools and technology and get too cute? Absolutely. But I think my foundation is that, at the end of the day, I want to take away a good football player because I’ve watched the tape and there’s proof on film. If you get kind of funky with, all of a sudden, ‘the proof is on the paper,’ you’re kind of playing with fire a little bit. So, that’s kind of the old-school part. But I do like to use the numbers and the numbers on paper to confirm what I see and what we see.”