(670 The Score) In five years of scouting under former Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, Ryan Poles was immersed in a careful, thorough approach to building a draft board. It’s a concept he has brought to the Bears as their new general manager.
Poles has gathered his entire scouting team from the road this spring. The scouts sit for hours at a time, going through each prospect they've examined and then also critiquing each other's evaluations. When one scout presents a wide receiver who he believes has great hands, the group at large questions a drop they observed on film. If an offensive lineman is touted for his technique, every scout in the room will watch closely and look for flaws. Constructive criticism takes place between peers.
That's how Dorsey operated his draft rooms, and it's what Poles believes brings out the best in his scouting department. That mindset challenges each scout.
“You can find truth that way by watching a lot of tape, a lot of input,” Poles said back in late January when he was hired. “You have to structure the meetings the right way, set the rules. But all that tape watching also allows all your evaluators to grow because they watch hundreds of players more than what they would’ve if they just worried about their area or their concern or their needs.”
That's the theme for the Bears as they prepare for their first draft led by Poles. This is an organization in transition, and the priority is building roster depth. When he took over, Poles saw a Bears roster that was deteriorating and needed a reboot, with a direction that requires patience. He immediately realized that Chicago wasn't just one player away from being great. In March, Poles made a high-profile move by trading star pass rusher Khalil Mack to the Chargers in exchange for a 2022 second-round pick and a 2023 sixth-round pick.
Poles has put an emphasis on adding low-risk players -- mostly on short-term contracts -- who offer a potentially strong reward. The focus on the big picture is set to continue in the draft. It seems likely that the Bears will look to trade down -- perhaps multiple times -- and acquire additional selections. The Bears hold six picks entering the draft, which begins Thursday. They don't own a first-round pick but do have a pair of second-rounders at No. 39 and No. 48 overall.
This NFL Draft seems to have a good deal of uncertainty in the first round, which could have effects in the rounds beyond that. The Bears and other teams may land a player in the second round that they have a top-20 grade on. The Bears could also choose to trade back from one of their three Day 2 picks if their draft board remains deep in options as the events unfold.
Poles and the Bears will be watching closely in the first round Thursday night to see which players are falling in the draft. There will likely be phone calls to track trade possibilities. Perhaps the allure of reuniting quarterback Justin Fields with a receiver like Chris Olave is too great to pass.
But Poles was part of a Chiefs organization led by Dorsey that landed star tight end Travis Kelce in the third round back in 2013 and star receiver Tyreek Hill in the fifth round three years later. They also found many other diamonds in the late-round rough.
When Kansas City transitioned from Dorsey to Brett Veach as general manager in summer 2017, Poles took note of how the organization built a sustainable roster around franchise quarterback Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs won a Super Bowl in February 2020 because of a deep roster, not just because of Mahomes, Kelce and Hill.
Poles has already indicated his desire to add “volume” to the Bears’ roster this offseason, and he has referenced the benefit of trading down. He’s a confident scout at heart who believes in the value of late-round picks. That’s why he has structured Chicago’s scouting process similarly to what he witnessed in Kansas City.
Since being hired by the Bears in late January, Poles has implemented a plan with the goal of building a long-term winner. As he put it, Chicago hopes to “take the North and never give it back.” But what Poles hasn't directly said was what has become clear since – the Bears needed time to build toward that goal.
Poles’ first draft as the Bears’ general manager will feature important decisions toward achieving those lofty hopes.
Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670.