'We know what we're going to do': How Ryan Poles has the Chicago Bears prepared for the 2024 NFL Draft

Ryan Poles and Ian Cunningham have a flair for the dramatic.

They know what they’re going to do at No. 1 overall. They have an idea of what they’re going to look for at No. 9 overall. They’re confident in the Chicago Bears team they built over the last two years and aren’t shy to admit it.

They won’t tip their hand, however.

"Everybody's got to tune in on Thursday to watch," Poles said with a smile on Tuesday afternoon.

With two days until the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft officially begins and the Bears’ draft timer officially begins ticking, Poles and Cunningham laid their confidences on the table. Those confidences in their draft board and their drafting skills are high, which is good considering the stakes at hand.

Perhaps the worst kept secret in the NFL is who the Bears will take at No. 1 overall.

The pick, which belonged to the Carolina Panthers, gives the Bears a chance to restart at quarterback and re-frame their contending window with a rookie quarterback prospect.

Caleb Williams is the no-brainer, generational quarterback prospect, just as Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning were. Williams only took one top-30 visit. The Bears only hosted one quarterback for a top-30 visit.

Williams visited the Bears. The Bears only hosted Williams.

In meetings during the pre-draft process, Poles said he wanted to gauge if Williams would fit the team, what the team is trying to do and the vision the regime has.

This also included a dinner where Poles asked current players to meet Williams. That’s not a sure thing, considering players go their separate ways in the offseason to train or take time away, among other things.

"If they were available and they wanted to, they could do that," Poles said. "There's a good chunk of the roster that stays here and there's good group that disperses around the country to their kind of offseason locations. We kind of went through it that way. But there's some guys I had in mind that I think it would be important for him to sit down with."

According to ESPN, Cole Kmet, DJ Moore, T.J. Edwards and more got to meet Williams at that dinner. 

Poles and Cunningham wanted to see how Williams’ first impression would linger. Poles said that first impression was that he’s a good teammate, down to earth and an intelligent person.

Poles downplayed some of the significance of bringing Williams and only Williams in for a top-30 visit.

"I would say the different prospects are kind of the journey to collect all that information is different for everyone," Poles said. There's guys on our board that are high that didn't come in for a 30 visit that we've had other touch points. Our networks in the building know the player inside and out that we really, really trust. You had the combine. There's different kind of touch points and you don't necessarily have to bring everybody in on a visit."

Still, this isn’t a decision that’s made on a whim. The Bears know just how harrowing it can be to swing on a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft and miss.

In the last two decades alone, there were the likes of Rex Grossman, Shane Matthews and Mitchell Trubisky. The team just traded its last first-round pick at quarterback, Justin Fields, to make way for the No. 1 overall pick.

All signs point to Williams being that pick.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 20: USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams performs drills in front of NFL scouts during the USC Pro Day on March 20, 2024 at Loker Stadium in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

That’s just one facet of the evening, too. The Bears still need to make the No. 9 overall pick. Luckily, that’s where the confidence factor plays a massive part.

"We both feel comfortable with how the board's set," Cunningham said. "We both have work within the constructs of this year."

All the moments that led to Thursday’s No. 1 overall pick should flash through the heads at Halas Hall like a movie.

The Texans stunning the Colts, the trade with Carolina last year, the struggles to start the 2023 season, the rebound to show the team is improving and, finally, the Fields trade. These are the moments that Poles and his staff had to happen to have the chance at the No. 1 overall pick.

With that in mind, there’s no second guessing at Halas Hall.

"We know what we're going to do," Poles said.


2024 NFL Draft Day 1 Preview: Caleb Williams at No. 1, and then what for the Chicago Bears?

Here's a preview of Day 1 of the NFL Draft for the Bears, which promises to usher in a new era for Chicago.