With the NFL Draft just two days away, Bears assistant GM Ian Cunningham spoke with the media Tuesday at Halas Hall. Here are seven things we learned.
(1) Cunningham said that there are 6-8 prospects the Bears would feel great about selecting with the ninth pick in the first round.
The Bears obtained the No. 9 choice as part of a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers. In exchange for the No. 1 pick, the Bears also acquired veteran receiver DJ Moore, a 2023 second-round selection, a 2024 first-round choice and a 2025 second-round pick.
(2) The Bears won't reach to fill a need in the first round.
"What we always do is try to take that best-player-available approach," Cunningham said. "It's funny, [GM] Ryan [Poles] and I were having this conversation earlier—those needs kind of get ironed out with the whole process, but ultimately it's the best player available.
"I think when you get into Day 3 and you kind of look at the board horizontally, you see some positions are maybe a little bit more robust than others. And I think that's where you kind of have to finesse it a little bit. Obviously you don't want to take somebody way down the board versus somebody higher, but when you look at it horizontally, it helps with some of that decision-making."
(3) Cunningham, who joined the Bears last year after spending 14 seasons with the Ravens (2008-16) and Eagles (2017-21), described the traits he's seeking in an offensive lineman.
"First, you can say the size and athleticism and his competitive spirit, how he plays down-in and down-out," he said. "Growing up in Baltimore, we had some really good players there and really good tackles. That's kind of where I cut my teeth and kind of learned how to evaluate. A lot of those guys which we played with there were kind of cut from that similar cloth."
(4) The Bears have an edge in evaluating offensive linemen because Cunningham and Poles both played the position in college and in the NFL as undrafted rookies.
"Playing the position helps just in terms of you know what is asked of those guys," Cunningham said. "And again, I feel like when you have a guy like [offensive line coach] Chris Morgan and you have the confidence in him and his development of players, you feel comfortable taking a player that you know has some upside because he is going to get the most out of him."
(5) Trying to identify potential trade partners, it's important to know which positions other teams are trying to upgrade.
"When you're looking at the board, you've got to have a feel for what those team needs are," Cunningham said. "Our pro staff, led by Jeff King, Chris White, along with JJ [Cosh], they've done a really good job of helping us understand some of those team needs. And you kind of have to weigh where we have guys versus what other teams' needs are and kind of weigh how far we would want to trade back."
(6) After the first round is completed Thursday night, the Bears will discuss whether they want to trade down in the second round. They currently have two second-round choices at Nos. 53 and 61.
"That's something we'll revisit after Day 1 and see where the dust settles," Cunningham said. "We'll meet after the draft that night, and then we'll come back in on Friday and meet again and see where the board is, and we'll make those decisions then."
(7) While running backs have been devalued in recent drafts, Cunningham said he thinks the position is worth addressing with a top 10 pick.
The last running back drafted in the top 10 was the Giants' Saquon Barkley at No. 2 in 2018. The first running backs chosen in the last four drafts have been the Raiders' Josh Jacobs at No. 24 in 2019, the Chiefs' Clyde Edwards-Helaire at No. 32 in 2020, the Steelers' Najee Harris at No. 24 in 2021 and the Jets' Breece Hall at No 36 in 2022.