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Bears Draft Wrap-Up

Ryan Poles: Bears made huge strides via 'impact draft'

“Overall, really excited about how the draft went this year. Everything fell into place.” Bears general manager Ryan Poles

Given what general manager Ryan Poles and the Bears accomplished, the 2024 draft could end up being viewed as a seminal moment in franchise history.

The highlight of the three-day extravaganza came Thursday night when the Bears selected USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 overall pick and landed a dynamic receiver they had been targeting in Washington's Rome Odunze at No. 9.

The Bears followed by choosing Yale offensive tackle Kiran Amegadjie in the third round Friday night before selecting Iowa punter Tory Taylor in the fourth and Kansas defensive end Austin Booker in the fifth Saturday. Booker was picked with a selection obtained from the Bills in exchange for a 2025 fourth-round choice.

"Overall, really excited about how the draft went this year," Poles said. "Everything fell into place. I would have never guessed that it lined up the way that it did, so we're all excited. A lot of hard work went into it, and it paid off, for sure. Now it's time to start a new chapter for this organization."

Poles was asked if he views this year's draft as a significant accomplishment in his career.

"I don't really look at it that way," he said. "But to have the opportunities we did this year, for everything to go what I think is in a really good direction, it's really big for our football team. I think we made huge strides forward. There's work to be done, but this is an impact draft for this organization, for sure."

In top-10 picks Williams and Odunze, the Bears added an exceptionally talented and highly productive quarterback/receiver tandem with unlimited potential.

Williams accounted for 120 touchdowns (93 passing and 27 rushing) in three seasons at Oklahoma (2021) and USC (2022-23) and won the Heisman Trophy in 2022. Odunze was named AP First-Team All-American last year after setting career highs with 92 receptions for an FBS-leading and school record 1,640 yards and 13 TDs.

Williams and Odunze flew together on a private jet from the draft in Detroit to Chicago Friday morning, but it wasn't their first trip together. Without planning it, they arrived in Detroit a few days earlier on the same flight from Los Angeles.

"It was really cool how they got to just by happenstance fly together to Detroit and then get on a private jet with their families and fly here," said coach Matt Eberflus. "That's pretty cool to be able to do that all together, get to bond a little bit with each other."

Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze, Kiran Amegadjie, Tory Taylor and Austin Booker. Take a look at photos of each of the new Bears rookies selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. (Photos via AP)

Eberflus told reporters that at one point Friday he had Williams and Odunze and their families in his office at Halas Hall, a group of 12 in all.

"It was a great process to be able to sit there and visit with those guys," Eberflus said. "I just took time to thank their parents because to have the quality of men you have in Caleb and Rome, that doesn't just happen. You have to be raised that way. And I really wanted to thank their parents; they all were in there.

"And they make good teammates. You know why? Because they love football. To me, that's what it's all about. Are they talented? Sure, they're talented, no question. But it's going to be fun to watch those guys grow up together."

Acquiring players that possess both an abundance of talent and character isn't easy. But that's exactly what Poles has done in rebuilding the Bears roster—and it's what he's most proud of.

"It's really rare to have the skill level be improved so much, but the culture and the people be top notch as well," Poles said. "To bring really good people and really talented players in, and for that to be the same, that's really hard.

"These guys love being around each other, they love football. And that's coming up through scouting, those are kind of the staples. You want to make sure guys are passionate about football, they're good teammates and you lean into that. And you've got to have faith that when you put a bunch of those people together, they can be special. I'm just proud of the people that we've brought in on top of the talent as well."

Speaking of talent, the Bears offense is seemingly more explosive than it's ever been, with Williams and Odunze joining receivers DJ Moore and Keenan Allen, tight ends Cole Kmet and Gerald Everett and running backs D'Andre Swift, Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson.

"It's going to be tough to defend, starting with practice," Eberflus said. "We've got to defend those guys in practice, which I think is going to be really good for our skillset on both sides of the ball. If you look at the receiving corps, they're all different. The halfbacks are all different. The tight ends are different. They're different skillsets. That's a credit to Ryan to be able to bring those guys together, acquire those guys. I think it's going to be very difficult to defend."

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