LAKE FOREST – It’s easily the biggest of the Ryan Poles era of the franchise to date, as the selections he makes will have an impact on the franchise for years to come.
That might seem a bit hyperbolic, but with a team in need of talent and a Top Ten pick in hand, it’s important for the Bears’ general manager to come through for the next three days.
As the 2023 NFL Draft begins at 7 p.m. central time on Thursday, Poles will have ten picks at his disposal to either use to select players or trade in order to get other selections. Outside of the quarterback spot, pretty much every position is in need of either a starter or looking for depth ahead of next season.
So are Poles and his assistant general manager Ian Cunningham grasping the magnitude of the moment? Yes, but it’s not what you might think.
“Pressure’s a privilege,” said Cunningham at a news conference on Tuesday. “At least for us, I think we just look at it as this is a draft. We’re excited about it. You try to keep yourself in the moment and stay in the moment. You try to keep yourself in the moment but we try not to put much more pressure on it than it needs to be.”
Some on the outside might differ considering the team’s 3-14 record and the sizable rebuild the team is under to attempt to take control of the NFC North “and not give it back.” as Poles decreed at his introductory news conference in January 2023.
With healthy cap space, the Bears addressed a few needs in free agency with 11 signings, linebackers T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds along with defensive DeMarcus Walker, and guard Nate Davis.
Arguably their biggest addition to the roster came from the trade of the No. 1 overall pick that netted them a No. 1 wide receiver in D.J. Moore from the Panthers.
Yet other positions remain in question, as depth and talent are needed to shore up both the offensive and defensive lines. While Jaylon Johnson, Jaquan Brisker, and Kyler Gordon provide potential long-term pieces in the secondary, it’s a unit that could use more depth as well.
You could say the same about the wide receiver and running back spots, even though additions have been made in the offseason. If the Bears want to build a winner, they’re going to need talented depth, and that starts with a strong draft.
Of course, how they handle the ninth overall pick is the one that most have debated, with their need for starters at a few spots opening up a number of possibilities. If he’s there, would the Bears take Jalen Carter, a force in the middle of the defensive line from Georgia? How about a potential starter on the offensive line like Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr, Northwestern’s Peter Skronski, Georgia’s Broderick Jones, or Tennessee’s Darnell Wright?
Perhaps Poles would trade back to get more draft capital for this year or even next when the Bears will have another haul of picks to build their roster.
All are possibilities at the moment for the Bears, and after months of debate, questions will finally start to get answered Thursday.
WGN News Now had a special edition of “The 9-Yard Line” on Thursday ahead of the selections as Larry Hawley looks ahead to a big three days for the Bears. You can watch that in the video above along with an interview with Jacob Infante, lead draft analyst for Windy City Gridiron, in the video above.