Did Poles Tip His Hand After Last Second Pivot?

The 2024 NFL draft has come and gone, and teams are beginning to bring rookies into camp. The Bears first selected Caleb Williams, as everyone expected they would, and then they selected Rome Odunze at nine. The Bears focused on offense and selected Kiren Amegadjie in the third round. After Williams, no one was sure who Ryan Poles would draft, and maybe Poles himself was unsure. However, Poles may have tipped his hand and shared more than intended. Could he have pivoted at the last moment and drafted his second choice?

Poles told Waddle and Silvy of ESPN Chicago that he knew he’d pick Williams after his 30-visit, but he had to wait for nine. He said they knew they wanted Odunze and considered trading up for him. The Giants needed a receiver but chose Nabers. A team could have traded ahead of the Bears, but they didn’t. Poles watched the Falcons select Michael Penix, and he knew he had his guy. I’ve heard comparisons to Keenan Allen, but Poles said Odunze reminded him of a bigger, taller DJ Moore. The Bears’ offensive weapons are great, and there’s more each day. Odunze and Williams should benefit significantly from such a talented offense, and the Bears should improve in all facets. 

What about defense, though? Poles used his first three picks on offense and didn’t draft a defensive player until their final pick. The Bears traded back into the 2024 draft and selected Austin Booker in the fifth round. Why didn’t he consider a defensive player sooner? The Bears drafted a punter before adding a defensive player, and that raised eyebrows, too.

I like Booker, and there’s potential there. He’s young and should develop as his career goes on. I didn’t have Booker ranked in my top 15, and I wanted the Bears to select an immediate impact player. There were better options, but their ceilings were lower than Booker’s. Poles and Matt Eberflus talk a lot about the character of their players, and maybe Booker excels there, too. Time will tell if he was the right choice, but he’s certainly intriguing. 

What if I told you Poles was going to take a defensive player, and he missed the guy he wanted? I think that’s precisely what happened in the third round, and I’m very disappointed. In his day-two post-draft press conference, Poles said, “a d-linemen went right before” when discussing his selection of Amegadjie. That player was Bralen Trice, and he was my fifth-ranked edge rusher in this draft. Poles could have been eyeing Trice for his third-round pick, but he defaulted to his best available after missing out. Trice had seven sacks and 11.5 TFLs last year and could have impacted the Bears immediately. I wanted someone to come in and help Montez Sweat and Gervon Dexter, and it looks like Poles did, too. Trice could have competed for a starting role, but we’ll never know now. 

Amegadjie is still a great player and was my fifth-ranked offensive tackle. The Bears pick in the third round is my pick, but it’s tough knowing they were one selection away from a more significant impact. Perhaps the Bears save their 2025 fourth-round selection and no longer trade into the fifth round. We’ll never know for sure what Poles was thinking, but I don’t remember him ever making mention of the pick before his in previous drafts. Calais Campbell and Emmanuel Ogbah are among the top remaining free agents, and the Bears may bring one of them in. Regardless, the Bears still ended the season strong without a top edge opposite Sweat, and they’ll hold their own again if they must. 

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