At some point on Saturday, Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Pauls went from an NFL draft observer to a frenzied bargain broker.
The Poles knew that the depth of this year’s draft category was matched by huge holes in his roster. He knew the venture capital finite he had to work with and was determined to do something about it.
A call with the Los Angeles Chargers caught up early on, with the Bears pushing for a 2023 sixth-round pick for two late Round 7 reviews Saturday night.
Soon, the Buffalo Bills called in interest to the Bears’ first picks in round 5. It was agreed. The Poles happily fell back 20 points and picked up an extra sixth player.
Houston Texans called after that. Another deal. Once again, the Bears retracted the fifth-round draft order with more selections added for Saturday’s actions.
Subsequent trade was carried out with the Cincinnati Bengals.
By 2 p.m., the Poles had turned the three Saturday selections he woke up on into eight all-in picks.
The bears drag hive was so lively with a flurry of trade and then a flurry of shots that area scout Breck Ackley found himself dizzy and excited.
“Fast and the Furious,” Akley said. “It was somewhat like ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ for a minute.”
No wonder the Poles entered his post-draft press conference before 7 p.m. with a little tired and a sense of accomplishment.
He said, “I am exhausted.”
It can be understood after the Poles slept in Hallas Hall on Friday night and then picked eight new starters in a 3 hour 36 minute period on Saturday afternoon to finish his run. 11 players in the draft category.
In all, the new Bears GM took four offensive troopers, including the Southern Utah offensive Braxton Jones and Doug Kramer, an outpost from Illinois via Hinsdale Central.
The Poles also found defensive players for new coach Matt Ebervlos, including promising but extremely rough passer Domonique Robinson of Miami, Ohio, who just three years ago was one of the Redhawks’ most promising recipients. Now he will push Robinson to evolve into a respected passer in a series with a rich defensive history.
After the Bears went without picks in the first and fourth rounds, eight of their picks were made into Saturday’s last 100 picks. So it would be wise and borderline reckless to anticipate this as a category that will change the zigzag trend of privilege.
But in a draft world with a widely disconcerting success rate, the Poles were satisfied that he gave himself a chance to take more swings.
He said, “Anytime you have more ammo, the better in terms of being hit. That was kind of a thought process.”
Who knows what any of them actually mean. We all know the old John Wooden idea: “Never mistake an activity for an achievement.” And on May 1, 2022, it’s impossible to predict whether a man like Southern offensive lineman Jeter Carter will one day emerge as a starter for the Bears or whether he will fade away like many of the third day prospects before him.
Likewise, will Baylor successor Tristan Ebner quickly re-emerge as an important contributor as a velocity-changing offensive weapon and as a comeback specialist? Or will it one day become just another big shoulder shrug like the third-day backs the bears have picked over the past decade? (Do you remember Cadim Curry, Jeremy Langford, and Craith White?)
The Poles obviously wish he had a crystal ball to provide long-term answers about how many of the 11 choices from his first draft would ultimately be considered successes. But unfortunately …
“I’d like to know tomorrow,” said the Poles. “But it will only take a year or two to see who is developing, who is jumping really fast, and who is taking a little time.”
And of course, who hasn’t been around for four months now. or a year. or two.
As a former offensive lineman, pushing the Poles to add sportsmanship and perseverance to the line wouldn’t happen overnight. But with the pick of four transfer workers on Saturday, the new GM feels he’s taken a step in the right direction.
“We added competition,” he said. “When you have competition, it brings out the best in you. … It’s all in an effort to improve – not only to improve our skill up front but also to make the whole group perform at a higher rate.”
The Poles were delighted with the Bears Corps’ Boy Scouts, who spent months compiling detailed reports on prospects and secured the team’s biggest draft class since 2008.
“(As a Scout), everything is smiling,” said Ackley. “That’s what you want. You want those opportunities and ups and downs. We are very proud of this.
“You write 400 guys during the year and sometimes when you start at it, you don’t even get to pick one. That’s the way it goes. But it’s really cool that you add picks like this and you see the names on the board and you start looking and you say, ‘Man, we have chance to get these guys.”
The Bears’ willingness to make four trades on Saturday hinges, of course, on the way the draft board was aligned. And the ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic – with many college players benefiting from an additional season of eligibility in 2021 – has given this draft an interesting volume in depth on Day Three even if the event lacked some of the usual first-round hype.
“I didn’t think it was that exciting at the top,” longtime Bears scout Jeff Shafer said. “There was no movie star there. But (the depth) kind of mixed up, all the way. …there will be guys in the seventh round where someone might steal.”
The Poles explained 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 handle the development process.
“We brought a lot of good teachers into this building,” Poles said. “So this is where it pays off.”
For a franchise that hasn’t had three winning seasons in a row since 1988, the early stages of another major reset can seem boring and unfulfilled. But there is no magic potion in the NFL that generates instant transformations.
The Poles did what they could on Saturday to add to his depth chart and give Eberflus a place to start. Now, the Bears will move forward with the understanding that they still have a long way to go.