Is Ryan Poles a Draft Shark, or Will He Overplay the Bears’ Hand?

In the beginning of the movie Rounders, Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott watches his law professor play poker. McDermott is a poker shark who quickly realizes that everyone at the table, including his professor, is a minnow. He plays his professor’s hand for him and bets the maximum amount after the cards are dealt in the first round. The other lawyers at the table begin to grumble. The question is whether what Mike is doing makes sense. “That’s very wise” Mike answers. “We know what we’re holding and we know what are you holding.”

The mood is changing. One of the judges at the table suggests that Mike be considered a handy clerk if he can guess which cards everyone has. Mike, of course, guesses everything and his professor wins, well deftly. They ask him if he wants to stay and play. “I can’t,” Mike says, “I don’t play cards.” Mike’s key to poker is to play with the person, not with the cards. This year’s NFL Draft saw the Chicago Bears in a high-stakes poker game similar to what Mike McDermott is facing. Rounders.

The Bears have the first pick, an incredibly valuable asset because there are four good quarterback prospects in this class: Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson, and Kentucky’s Will Lewis. Bears don’t need any of these passers-by. Chicago already has quarterback Justin Fields, their 2021 first-rounder who had the second-best quarterback in NFL history last season. So Chicago can trade the pick for a bonanza – if they play their cards right. general manager Ryan Poles said Peter King of NBC that the pick is likely to be sold, and that he believes the Bears can get three first-round players for no. 1 choice – one this year, one in 2024 and one in 2025.

Do the Poles know about this because, like Mike McDermott, he is already well versed in what his competitors hold and what they plan to do? Or are the Poles bluffing and risking outplay?

If we want to answer the simple question of who will be selected first in the 2023 NFL Draft, we first need to figure out which team will be trading with Chicago for the first pick, i.e. who to propose majority for the first choice. And to answer this question, we must try to draw Mike McDermott and guess the cards that everyone has in their hands.

We’ve narrowed this down to teams that are most likely to want to move up — teams that clearly lack a quarterback, that are in or close to the top 10, and that have an owner, general manager, or head coach who is desperate . enough to take a big step up the draft board.

Pick #1: Chicago Bears

Theoretically bears could trade fields and take the quarterback with the first pick. In fact, the down trade is a dream scenario for the Pole, a former college offensive lineman who speaks scouting like his native football language but is also fluent in analytics. Adding multiple choices by trading down from no. 1 satisfies the thirst of the nerds who think the first pick is overrated, while satisfying the scouts who are bringing in more players to the draft. Bears need pickaxes because Bears need bodies. Chicago has to fill a lean roster, and while they have the most cap space in the NFL (nearly $100 million), teams are drafted.

“All options are open to us,” Bears head coach Matt Eberfluth told reporters at the NFL’s scouting facility last week. “We have a huge amount of flexibility because we don’t have that. 1 choice, because we have all this income inside free agents.

The real question is how far the Bears can move down the board before the Poles or Eberfluss get frustrated with the loss of an elite prospect. Let’s go to no. 4, if they trade with the Colts, will be in a great position to get a better quarterback like Alabama Jr.’s Will Anderson. But what if the Poles bargain outside the top ten? In a draft where there may not be as many elite talent at the top, this can frustrate a defensively-minded coach like Eberfluss, whose defense certainly needs more top-notch players. As the Pole contemplates how to play his hand, he must also keep his relationship with Eberflux and the coaching staff in mind. And the Poles should also keep in mind that if the bears hold on for too high a price, then the Arizona Cardinals won’t. 3 can compete with teams that want to trade without breaking the bank.

Pick #2: Houston Texans

The Texans need a quarterback. There’s no doubt about it, even as Texans general manager (and former longtime Patriots front office employee) Nick Caserio goes out of his way to impress Colin Robinson and drains the vitality of anyone who listens to his press conferences.

We know the maps of Houston. The Texans can get one of their top two numbered quarterbacks. 2 no matter what. However, we also know the person holding these cards. Caserio obsessed with draft selection. Forgo even a relatively small amount of draft capital to transition to nothing. 1 is what probably keeps this man awake at night. Expect Texans to stand their ground and draw energy from other general managers they talk to on the phone.

Pick #4: Indianapolis Colts

As they say in Rounders“If you can’t find a sucker at the table within 30 minutes, then you’re the sucker.” The Colts played four offseasons. Ever since Andrew Luck’s stunning retirement in 2019, the team has jumped from Jacoby Brissette to Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan, just burning seasoned QBs like they were lottery tickets. The Colts got into this habit because they won the lottery twice: in 1998 they had the first pick when Peyton Manning was available, and in 2012 they had the first pick when Andrew Luck was drafted. But winning the lottery twice doesn’t make you a businessman.

Team owner Jim Irsay almost said his team wanted a young quarterback. He even tweeted a photo illustrating his relationship with the Chicago Bears, hinting at a trade.

He even told Colts new head coach Shane Steichen’s opening press conference last month that “the guy from Alabama [Bryce Young] looks good”.

Perhaps Irsei is playing four-dimensional chess here, and these are such sophisticated tactical fakes that we do not understand them. Or maybe it’s the 63-year-old who inherited an NFL team and just says what he thinks, even when he shouldn’t. Just scroll through what Irsey tweets and you can make your own decision.

This is the fish that the poker sharks try to eat, or in this case, the salmon that the bears can fish out of the Alaska River. Chicago could go down to that fourth seed, get a bunch of picks from the Colts, and still pick one of the top two non-quarterbacks in this year’s draft.

“To get up there has to be a guy worthy of it,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard told reporters at the mill last week. “Everyone just automatically noted that you need to go up to 1 to get it right. I don’t know if I agree with this. And it will be a story, and that’s okay. You all have to write something, you have to keep the news flowing. …

“I don’t know if [trading up is] the right course of action. If when we meet with the staff and say, “This is what we need to do, this is the guy for the next 10-15 years” and we think he’s the right guy, of course we’ll do it. But who said we won’t get it in [pick no.] 4?”

In a draft with four quarterbacks, this is a legitimate question.

Pick #7: Las Vegas Raiders

The Raiders are stuck between the present and the future: Will they trade Aaron Rodgers and instantly re-establish the best connection in football between him and host Davante Adams? Or are they avoiding the 39-year-old who just completed a dark retreat and has been open about retirement for the third year in a row? Raiders choose seventh place. Why trade draft picks and pay Rodgers $50 million a year when they can trade and get a rookie quarterback on a much cheaper contract?

“At the end of the day, our goal is to find someone who stays here for the long haul,” Raiders coach Josh McDaniels said at an NFL training camp last week. “I think you can see that the teams that are doing well in our league, in our conference and in our division are young players who have been drafted by their clubs and who are developing there as part of the same continuity. So in the end yes [we have to draft a quarterback]. But do I think that you should do this if you are unsure or don’t believe in the player and now you are making the mistake of just trying to say you are solving the problem? I don’t think it’s a smart decision.”

It’s a surprisingly honest answer: if the Raiders like one of the guys from this year, they can go and get it. If the Raiders don’t sell Rogers, they may target McDaniels’ former student in New England. Mac Jones, who was reportedly the subject of a trading hype during the combine last week, or signed Jimmy Garoppolo, who was a Mack Jones before Mack Jones. A move for an experienced passer will likely reflect how they feel about this year’s collection of prospective quarterbacks. The trick is not to get past Rogers or the solid veteran. And skip choosing one of…


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