Bears GM Ryan Poles is all for trading back in draft, but ‘it just depends how far back’

While the Bears don’t seem to be eyeing a quarterback and could parlay the No. 1 pick into more assets, they still need a star out of this draft class.

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Bears general manager Ryan Poles.

Whatever GM Ryan Poles does with the No. 1 draft pick, the Bears need to find a star in this year’s class.

Quinn Harris/Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS — It seems obvious that Bears general manager Ryan Poles should trade out of the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft to stockpile assets as he tries to fortify a roster rife with holes. But it’s not nearly that simple.

Poles is trying to hit a narrow target by trading back but staying within reach of a star. So while it’s advantageous that at least five of the next eight teams behind them need a quarterback and could be compelled to trade up, the Bears shouldn’t risk slipping past No. 4.

Poles’ rating system for prospects goes, in descending order, blue, red, gold, orange and gray. With such a great starting point at No. 1, he can’t slide out of the blue range.

“You don’t want to go so far back that you may not get the caliber of talent that you need,” Poles told the Sun-Times on Tuesday at the NFL Scouting Combine. “We’ll do a thorough workup of who’s going to be there, potentially, for how far we’ll move back.”

He didn’t say it outright, but Poles’ comments repeatedly have indicated his intent to trade down. There were times Tuesday when it sounded like it was virtually decided.

If the Bears are moving forward with Justin Fields at quarterback, they need Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter or Alabama defensive end Will Anderson. And they probably can’t get either of them later than No. 4.

Assuming the Bears trade their pick to a quarterback-desperate team such as the Colts (currently picking fourth) and the Texans take one at No. 2, that would leave Carter and Anderson to go third and fourth. Trading back and still landing one of them is the ideal outcome.

“Yeah, it just depends how far back,” Poles said.

Anything past No. 4 would be a mistake.

Poles’ options generally fall into three categories: He can use the pick to secure the best non-quarterback, parlay it into more picks and hope he still gets a future All-Pro or trade quarterback Justin Fields and draft his replacement.

The last of those choices is the least likely. Poles has continued to leave room to be “blown away” by Alabama’s Bryce Young or someone else and deal Fields, but there’s little chance that happens.

Poles needs to stir competitive offers for the top pick, and it helps to create a threat that he’ll keep it and take a quarterback. He essentially is using the Bears as a bidder in their own bidding war.

By Poles’ own admission, though, he’s only leaving that door open “for some crazy possibility because of something that happens that I can’t see right now” and doing his “due diligence” on Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and others.

In other words, never say never about anything in life. But it’s an unconvincing bluff so far. Poles said he hasn’t gotten any calls from teams inquiring about Fields.

As he tries to foster tension among teams interested in trading for the No. 1 pick, Poles must be mindful of it swelling within his organization. There’s no doubt Fields wants concrete clarity, and Poles said it could be helpful to trade the pick before free agency opens March 13 because resolving this issue would provide “a clearer view of what we need.”

It might take longer for teams to get fixated on one of the quarterback prospects and make an overwhelming offer. The landmark 2021 trade in which the Dolphins got two additional first-rounders from the 49ers to move from No. 3 to 12 didn’t happen until late March.

But as the offers start rolling in, Poles must remember that even if he trades back, he still needs to walk out of this draft with a pillar of the franchise’s future.

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