On April 27th, at 7:00 pm Chicago time, the 2023 NFL draft kicked off. Fans everywhere had mock drafts in their hands and hope in their hearts. For Bears fans, a long wait filled with rumors and changes would culminate in only their second first-round draft selection through five straight drafts. Here is my grade for Ryan Poles’ first chance at making a first-round pick for the Bears.
The Bears kicked off the draft well. Poles and the Bears did everything they were supposed to do after earning the first-overall selection in the 2023 draft. They got additional capital allowing for more options throughout the draft, and they got a player that can immediately step in, fill a hole, and help in Justin Fields‘ development. Until then, congratulations are due Poles, Eberflus, and the scouting team. They executed phenomenally. The Bears got my number two tackle prospect and netted four additional picks. That’s a big win.
The First Trade
Poles joined the Bears in 2022 with plans to compete and shared his high expectations. Though the Bears played hard, the lack of wins didn’t meet team projections. A last-place finish in the league and the first overall selection in this year’s draft was the bittersweet conclusion. Poles then took that pick and traded with the Carolina Panthers for solid compensation. The trade included a new weapon for Fields, D.J. Moore.
- The Panthers Received: R1P1
The Bears Received: R1P9, R2P61, a 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second-round pick, and Moore.
Poles found a partner to provide the capital needed to move to number one. Adding a weapon with the statistical history of Moore rearranged the draft board for the Bears. Moore’s acquisition also gives Fields a real weapon for all three levels of route running. The trade was worth another first or second-round selection from a pick-only perspective, but Moore took care of that compensation.
Utilizing Drafttek.com and their trade-value chart while treating future picks as the 20th selection of that draft, I calculated the point value of each trade. The Bears scored 2882 while not including Moore, and Carolina got 3000. I would have liked it if the Bears included one more later selection in their request. I do believe that Moore is worth the 118-point difference and then some. Still, with the premium of getting the best quarterback and the rumors of how many teams wanted the pick, there’s an opportunity to add a future sixth or seventh-round selection. Poles took the less greedy route to ensure he kept the best offer.
Draft week is finally here 🙌 pic.twitter.com/xY7NH8xWgF
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 24, 2023
The Second Trade
Fast forward to the 2023 draft. When the ninth pick arrived, Poles found an opportunity to move back one more time. He moved back to No. 10 and added a 2024 fourth-round selection from the Eagles. Using the previously mentioned point system, this is an even swap; 1350 apiece. I don’t love this trade, but I don’t hate it.
The Bears got the guy they wanted at pick nine and added a future fourth-round selection. You can’t complain about that when it’s isolated. The problem is that the Eagles selected Jalen Carter, who was considered a top-three pick at one point. Despite the misdemeanor issues and garbage pro-day, he was projected to go fifth overall to the Seahawks on many draft boards.
I would have liked to see the Bears net positive on a trade allowing the Eagles to go up for a player of that quality. The Bears should have made the Eagles pay a future sixth, a positive net of 28.2 points. With that said, and with expletives, I was adamant on The Chicago Bears Den Podcast that I did not want Carter. Poles may not have had someone willing to give more than equal value to take the risk. The GM didn’t want to speak about Carter directly when discussing the pick with the media after the first round. Poles mentioned character, so it sounded like he wouldn’t take the risk of drafting Carter due to his previous issues.
The 10th Pick
After Carter came off the board, the Bears were back on the clock and knew who they wanted. Tennessee tackle, Darnell Wright has been a force with the Vols for four years. He was a top selection on many mock drafts and a first-round selection in the Bears Insider O-line Preview. He has started at left tackle and right tackle, where I am projecting him to play in 2023. His PFF pass-blocking grade increased every year since 2020, along with his run-blocking grade. Wright’s gotten the most recognition for his play against the third-overall selection Will Anderson Jr. Wright is a mauler. He’s a solid anchor to protect Fields in 2023. He needs to work on technique a little, but the Bears have a great coaching staff to prepare him for the NFL.
This pick addresses one of the top needs for the Bears, allows us all to properly evaluate Fields when he’s got protection, and more accurately, Wright was close to the top player available on my board. I don’t give this pick a full A-grade because I had Calijah Kancey above Wright on my draft board. Three-technique is just as crucial a need for the Bears as an offensive tackle. Despite that, Wright was the best true tackle I had left on my board. Poles made a great selection here.
The Wright guy for the job.
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 28, 2023
The Bears get great grades from beginning to end for the day one events and the events that led them there. They added a key player for a key position and added picks to help them this year and in the future. I expect Poles to utilize some of these newly acquired picks to find a trade partner in the second round and move up to get the three-technique Matt Eberflus covets so much. I also expect the excellent management and manipulation of the draft board to continue through day two and beyond.