At his introductory press conference, Chicago Bears General Manager Ryan Poles said he wanted to build through the NFL Draft.
I know what you’re thinking. OK, so what? All general managers say that when they get their first gig. And that’s fair. But I’ll give Poles credit for one thing: He appears to have gone about doing so with specifics in mind. ESPN’s Dan Graziano shares those specifics in clearing out his reporter’s notebook. And it’s got me thinking about something we, as Bears fans, have been discussing all offseason.
First, the words from Graziano:
Poles told me in training camp that one of his first priorities when he got the job was to overhaul the organization’s scouting procedure in a way that aggressively targeted specific scheme-fit players they believed could contribute right away, and he came away from the draft believing he’d done so. The Bears might not be a contender this year, but Sunday’s win was one few people expected them to pocket. And if Justin Fields shows the kind of toughness he did in coming back against San Francisco in that lousy weather, they could be better than you think.
There are a bunch of things worth highlighting in the passage above. And they all circle back to the idea of building around Justin Fields.
Firstly, the idea of drafting players who could contribute immediately. That might seem like an easy concept to build upon for a GM. But often, rebuilds lead general managers to draft early round projects who might not necessarily be chipping in right away, but theoretically come with a higher ceiling somewhere down the line. Drafting a bunch of projects would’ve done nothing to help develop around Fields. And it certainly would’ve done nothing to help us evaluate Fields as a second-year player.
Secondly, there is a mention of Poles targeting scheme-fits. We’re familiar with previous GMs drafting prospects with physical and athletic traits similar to proven players. And we’ve seen so many of those prospects never play like the fits they were presumed to be based on physical and athletic traits. So, with Poles, perhaps we have the marrying of the two. Drafting a good football player who is also a scheme fit — what a concept.
And finally, let’s not treat that line about Fields as a throwaway. Because, to me, that feels like Graziano relaying a message from Poles essentially saying we believe in Justin so much that we think we can win some games others might not expect because of the QB and the team around him.
Maybe I’m reading too much into a sentence. But we spent a healthy chunk of the offseason discussing building around Fields. And while much of that chatter was focused on adding offensive playmakers, the most notable splashes came elsewhere. It doesn’t mean the Bears weren’t trying to build around Fields just because they chose defensive players in the second round. Sure, drafting a cornerback (Kyler Gordon) and safety (Jaquan Brisker) when there were various receivers on the board might’ve rubbed some the wrong way. But their contributions were key in a win. I’m not saying Poles saw this exact result coming. However, Poles might’ve been seeing a bigger picture in terms of team building when he made his picks. After all, Chicago’s defense keeping it close allowed Fields and the offense to make in-game adjust, score points, and ultimately win the game.
In the end, Poles prioritizing picks who were scheme fits with the ability to immediately contribute seems like an obvious and smart thing to do. And as Bears fans, those concepts are pretty foreign to us. Here’s to seeing it more in future drafts.