At some point Saturday, Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles transformed from a patient NFL draft observer into a frenzied deal broker.

Poles knew the depth of this year’s draft class matched up with massive holes across his roster. He knew the limited draft capital he had to work with and was determined to do something about it.

A call with the Los Angeles Chargers heated up early, with the Bears pushing to deal a 2023 sixth-round pick for two late swings in Round 7 Saturday evening.

A little while later, the Buffalo Bills called with interest in the Bears’ first of two picks in Round 5. Done deal. Poles happily slid back 20 spots and picked up an extra sixth-rounder.

The Houston Texans called next. Another deal. Once again, the Bears backpedaled down the Round 5 draft order while adding more picks.

A subsequent trade was executed with the Cincinnati Bengals.

By 2 p.m., Poles had turned the three Saturday picks he woke up with into eight selections.

The Bears’ draft hive was so alive with the flurry of trades and then a wave of picks that area scout Breck Ackley found himself dizzy and excited.

“Fast and furious,” Ackley said. “It was a little like ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ there for a minute.”

No wonder Poles entered his post-draft news conference just before 7 p.m. with a look of fatigue and a sense of fulfillment.

“I’m exhausted,” he said.

Understandable after Poles slept at Halas Hall on Friday night and then selected eight new rookies in a span of 3 hours, 36 minutes Saturday afternoon to finish off his 11-player draft class.

In all, the new Bears GM grabbed four offensive linemen, including Southern Utah offensive tackle Braxton Jones and Doug Kramer, a center from Illinois by way of Hinsdale Central.

Poles also found two defensive players for new coach Matt Eberflus, including promising but ultra-raw pass rusher Domonique Robinson from Miami of Ohio, who just three years ago was a wide receiver in the Redhawks program. Now Robinson will try to develop into a respected pass rusher in a franchise with a rich defensive history.

After the Bears went without picks in the first and fourth rounds, eight of their selections were scooped up in the final 100 picks Saturday. Therefore it’d be imprudent and borderline reckless to forecast this as a class that will change the meandering direction of the franchise.

But in a draft world with an unsettling success rate leaguewide, Poles felt satisfied that he gave himself an opportunity to take more swings.

“Any time you have more ammunition,” he said, “the better it is in terms of getting hits. That was kind of the thought process.”

Who knows what any of it actually means? We all know the old John Wooden-ism: “Never mistake activity for achievement.” And on the first day of May 2022, it’s impossible to forecast whether a guy like Southern offensive lineman Ja’Tyre Carter will one day emerge as a starter for the Bears or whether he’ll simply fade away like so many Day 3 prospects before him.

Likewise, will Baylor running back Trestan Ebner quickly emerge as a significant contributor as a pass-catching change-of-pace offensive weapon and as a return specialist? Or will he one day become just another big shrug like other Day 3 backs chosen by the Bears over the last decade? (Remember Ka’Deem Carey, Jeremy Langford and Kerrith Whyte?)

Obviously, Poles wishes he had a crystal ball inside Halas Hall to provide long-term answers on how many of the 11 picks from his first draft will ultimately be considered hits. But alas …

“I’d like to know tomorrow,” Poles said. “But it’ll take a year or two just to see who develops, who jumps out really quickly, who takes a little bit of time.”

And, of course, who’s no longer around in four months.

Or even in a year. Or two.

As a former offensive lineman, Poles’ push to add athleticism and tenacity to the line won’t happen overnight. But with four linemen picked Saturday, the new GM feels he made a step in the right direction.

“We added competition,” he said. “When you have competition, it brings the best out of you. … It’s all in an effort to get better — not only to improve our skill set up front but also just making the entire group function at a higher rate.”

Poles was also pleased for the Bears’ legion of scouts, who spent months compiling detailed reports on prospects and were rewarded with the team’s largest draft class since 2008.

“(As scouts), it’s all smiles,” Ackley said. “That’s what you want. You want those chances and swings. We take a lot of pride in this.

“You write up 400 guys during the course of the year and sometimes when you get down to it, you don’t even get one pick. That’s the way the job goes. But it’s really cool when you add picks like this and you see the names on the board and you start looking up and saying, ‘Man, we’ve got a chance to get these guys.’”

The Bears’ willingness to make four trades Saturday, of course, hinged on the way their draft board was aligned. And the ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic — with many college players taking advantage of an extra season of eligibility in 2021 — gave this draft intriguing volume deep into Day 3 even if the event lacked some of its usual sizzle in Round 1.

“I didn’t think it was that exciting at the top,” longtime Bears scout Jeff Shiver said. “There was not the movie star up there. But (the depth) just kind of blended through, all the way down. … There will be guys in the seventh round where somebody is going to get a steal.”

The Bears hope they did some of the stealing.

Poles also made it clear Saturday night that his eagerness to roll the dice so many times was a vote of confidence in Eberflus and his coaching staff, who will now take over the developmental process.

“We brought a lot of good teachers into this building,” Poles said. “So that’s where it pays off.”

For a franchise that hasn’t had three consecutive winning seasons since 1988, the early stages of another major reset can seem tedious and unfulfilling. But there is no magic potion in the NFL that generates instant turnarounds.

Poles did what he could Saturday to add to his depth chart and give Eberflus a place to start. Now, the Bears will march forward with an understanding that they still have a long way to go.


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