As he prepares to conduct his first draft as Bears general manager Thursday through Saturday, Ryan Poles spoke to the media Tuesday at Halas Hall. Here are five things we learned from his 21-minute session:
(1) During in-person draft meetings, Poles asked Bears scouts to anonymously rank prospects at each position.
"We had great debate, great conversation," Poles said. "We did some new things. We took polls. We watched players stacked up in their position, and we'd poll everybody off their cell phone, and that information would come down to a database, and we'd display it on screen, so we'd see how everyone was ranked. Sometimes it was a runaway for the same guy. Sometimes it was a really tight race that just led to more conversation and for us to watch more tape."
Poles revealed that the exercise enabled him to learn "a lot about us as a group" and was done "so that we make good decisions and we have our board set up the right way."
"The key is sometimes you just want to remove group-think," Poles said. "If I polled everyone and you had to raise your hand, sometimes you look around. It just removes that, and everyone puts their thoughts and ideas down and it takes that out of it. You see it. I put [the results] on the screen and you could hear the oohs and aahs. It was a real cool exercise."
(2) With just six picks in the draft, Poles reiterated that he hopes to be able to trade down to acquire additional selections.
"For draft picks, I would like to do some movement and get more picks, but it's got to be in the right area," Poles said.
The Bears will only deal down if they feel they can still land a prospect they covet with the pick or picks they acquire.
"The biggest thing is how many players you have at a certain level, so you can move back and get a quality player at that next spot," Poles said. "And when you get kicked other picks, that's an additional player. So, where is that pick located at in the draft and can I still get a quality player at that level as well? Also, you can accumulate on the back end and package things up and move them again. So, really it's just the volume and where the draft is deep at certain positions."
The Bears have their own picks in Rounds 2, 3, 5 and 6. They obtained additional selections in the second and fifth rounds as part of trades that sent outside linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chargers this year and receiver Anthony Miller to the Texans last year, respectively.
The Bears traded their first- and fourth-round picks to the Giants last April to move up nine spots in the first round to choose quarterback Justin Fields at No. 11. They also sent their seventh-round selection to the Texans in the Miller trade.
(3) When asked about the deepest positions on the second and third days of the draft, Poles named four different spots.
"I would say the O-line depth is pretty good," he said. "There's some good depth with the DBs. There's a couple defensive linemen. The running back class may not be top-heavy, but there's a ton. It's crazy how many running backs there are.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the COVID year [when all college players were given an additional year of eligibility]. A lot of those guys are kicking back, so the middle-to-bottom, definitely into free agency, there's a massive amount of players. That's why it took so much time to get the board set, not only at the top but at the bottom. There are a lot of players on this board."
(4) Poles indicated that he has conducted "simulations of the draft over and over and over and over again" with his personnel department.
"We had guys call in fake trades just to test our communication, test our trade charts, test all of that, just to make sure that everything's smooth on game day, and we're just applying that," Poles said. "I feel really confident at this point and it has a lot to do with the work of really everybody. It's been all hands on deck, so I'm excited."
Even though the Bears aren't slated to pick until the second round Friday night, their preparation will continue throughout the first round Thursday night.
"It's going to be fun because we spend so much time watching this and just seeing how things play out," Poles said. "The other thing is there is going to be an opportunity for us to continue to simulate us having a pick and acting like maybe we're at 10, maybe we're at 20, and just act like we're in different spots and just repping out communication to make sure when we go the next day that we're ready."
(5) When scouting college players, Poles puts more weight on how he's seen them perform on the field versus their measurables or Combine results.
"I feel like my foundation is old scouting," Poles said. "That old foundation was set earlier in my career. A lot of that has to do with just watching tape, watching a lot of tape, and understanding that sometimes you're taking a good football player. Sometimes, it's just that basic: Are we taking a good football player?
"Do I think you can use some of these tools and technology and get too cute? Absolutely. But I think my foundation is that, at the end of the day, I want to take away a good football player because I've watched the tape and there's proof on film. If you get kind of funky with, all of a sudden, 'the proof is on the paper,' you're kind of playing with fire a little bit. So, that's kind of the old-school part. But I do like to use the numbers and the numbers on paper to confirm what I see and what we see."