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‘I like the numbers.’ Why the Bears are increasingly excited about their draft options at No. 9.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Ryan Poles is nothing if not imaginative, an NFL executive who enjoys exploring opportunity and considering every possibility for all his big decisions. So with four weeks left until this year’s NFL draft, Poles’ imagination is running wild.

He is the only general manager armed with two top-10 picks and has the privilege of kicking everything off with the No. 1 selection when the clock starts a little after 7 p.m. on April 25.

The presumption across the league is Poles will make the obvious decision and scoop up USC quarterback Caleb Williams without hesitation. The Chicago Bears general manager did little to dispel that notion as he talked with colleagues and reporters during this week’s league meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes.

If there are serious concerns to steer the Bears away from Williams, Poles hasn’t yet found them. Thus he spent a chunk of this week gushing about the growing bond between Williams and the Bears.

“He’s very focused and low key and down to earth,” Poles said. “He has very high expectations of himself. I like that.”

Yep. It’s easy to see where this seems to be headed. And naturally, that finally might shift the spotlight to the Bears’ other first-round pick at No. 9, the one with countless options that all could make sense.

A standout receiver to aid Williams’ development? A rock-solid offensive tackle to protect the rookie? What about, possibly, landing both the top quarterback and the first defensive player to be picked?

With four quarterbacks now expected to be selected before No. 9, the board seems to be shaping up favorably for Poles and the organization.

“We have different tiers on our draft board,” Poles said Monday morning. “And I like the numbers in terms of the talented players who can get down to 9.”

On the move

Consider this: Within 90 minutes of drafting Williams next month, Poles might be able to surround his shiny new toy at quarterback with, well, a shiny new toy at receiver? (More on LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze in a minute.)

Or what if the draft board breaks in a way in which one of this year’s best offensive tackles — namely Notre Dame’s Joe Alt or Penn State’s Olu Fashanu — is sitting there at No. 9?

Or what if Poles has his mind set on adding teeth to his pass rush with a prospect such as UCLA’s Laiatu Latu, Florida State’s Jared Verse or Alabama’s Dallas Turner?

Said Bears coach Matt Eberflus: “To me, it’s always about affecting the quarterback or helping the quarterback. It comes down to those two questions.”

And here’s one more: What if the high-quality depth of the first round also offers an opportunity to trade back from No. 9, allowing the Bears to collect more draft capital and still pick in the teens — or even before — at a spot at which the menu could include offensive linemen Taliese Fuaga, JC Latham, Amarius Mims or Jackson Powers-Johnson? Or even tight end Brock Bowers? Defensive tackle Byron Murphy? Receiver Brian Thomas Jr.?

Without question, Poles will consider the idea of moving back.

“For sure,” he said this week. “That will kind of play out. We’ll see what the numbers look like and that will kind of dictate how far we can move back, if we decide to do that.”

Whatever the case, the Bears seem to be in a favorable situation.

Target practice

Nabers was nonchalant this month in tracing the roots of his relationship with Williams to their shared enjoyment of “Call of Duty.” Gamers gonna game, right?

“I talk to Caleb all the time,” Nabers said during his formal Q&A session with reporters at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. “He always talks about how I’m a great receiver.”

What if Nabers and Williams had the chance to unite on a bigger stage next season as a rookie QB-WR duo for the Bears? What if the 2022 Heisman Trophy winner could grow over the next several years with a pass catcher who had 1,569 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns last season?

“I’m happy to go anywhere I’m wanted,” Nabers said, “to be one of those receivers that move around and they can give me the ball.”

Odunze also seemed energized by the possibility of uniting with Williams in Chicago. Odunze’s Huskies faced Williams’ Trojans in November and in that game — a Washington win — Williams threw for 312 yards and three touchdowns while propelling USC to 42 points.

“I got to see Caleb firsthand,” Odunze said. “I got to see his talents and abilities. I know he’s a student of the game and someone who brings a lot of passion and a lot of desire to the game. So, of course, to be paired up with him would be something special.”

Indeed, this is a football dreamer’s time of year with the always long pre-draft runway providing countless intriguing possibilities.

Talking points

In most years, the options for the Bears at No. 9 would be all anyone in Chicago would be talking about, enamored with the variety of choices — most of them attractive — when Poles goes on the clock for that pick around 8:15 p.m. April 25.

Still, because of the everyday coverage the Bears quarterback situation has commanded, the chatter surrounding the No. 9 pick was diminished all winter.

Make no mistake, though, that selection, the one the Bears landed after finishing 7-10 last season, has a chance to be franchise-changing, adding to whatever jackpot Poles uses the No. 1 pick to collect.

Eberflus emphasized Tuesday that the Bears seem certain to get a “blue player” at No. 9, referencing the color code used to identify the highest level of impact players.

“What we’ve done in free agency allows us to be flexible, to really be able to take the best player, the one we feel fits for us in that spot,” he added.

Homework assignment

Poles said when he returns Monday to Halas Hall, he will break his personnel team into groups and give each of them an assignment to help the organization strategize for how to use the No. 9 pick.

“One team is going to (argue) how the tackle position is the best to go after,” Poles said. “(The others will argue) that wide receiver is the best, defensive end is the best. And we’ll use factual information to spit that out. Then we’ll have a debate in terms of what’s more impactful for our football team, short term and long term. I’m looking forward to that.”

For context, the Bears have made multiple selections in the first round only seven times during the Super Bowl era — and not since 2003 when then-general manager Jerry Angelo traded back from the No. 4 slot and eventually selected Michael Haynes at No. 14 and Rex Grossman at No. 22.

The 1979 draft registers as the only one during the Super Bowl era in which the Bears made two picks inside the top 10, grabbing defensive ends Dan Hampton and Al Harris at Nos. 4 and 9, respectively.

Fourteen years before that, of course, the organization hit on the duo of Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers at No. 3 and 4 while also choosing Steve DeLong at No. 6.

So yes, the Bears have a chance to do something historic next month, something franchise-altering.

On the morning of April 26, Poles and Eberflus should wake up with two immediate starters to add to an already-improving team that should be aligning to be a legitimate playoff contender in 2024.

Just imagine the possibilities.