Dream scenario plays out for Bears as they pair Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze

Dream scenario plays out for Bears as they pair Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze

By Oghale Apr26,2024

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — In the middle of a video call with the Chicago media on Thursday night, new Bears wide receiver Rome Odunze was asked about the most shocking pick from Day 1 of the NFL Draft: the Atlanta Falcons’ selection of Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

“It was awesome,” Odunze said of Penix, his former teammate. “I didn’t know that was coming.”

Neither did Kirk Cousins. But that’s a storyline in Atlanta.

Here in Chicago — the city where receivers once went to die and quarterbacks never stick — the story is about a dream scenario unfolding for the Bears and general manager Ryan Poles.

Not only did Poles draft his quarterback, he got his quarterback a star receiver in Odunze with the ninth pick and within an hour of making the first selection. The Bears hit back-to-back home runs.

“If you told me we would end up with both Caleb and Rome weeks ago, I would’ve said you were crazy,” Poles said.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

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For Williams, his selection was weeks in the making. The Bears believed early in what Williams could do on the field. His visit to Halas Hall and dinner with Bears players solidified the organization’s decision to select him with the first pick. Poles described Williams as a “culture fit.”

“(We) knew at that point that he was going to help us and we were ready to go,” Poles said.

Odunze was different. The Bears needed more luck. Their draft simulations showed they had a 50/50 shot of getting Odunze.

“I was nervous that he wasn’t going to be there at 9,” Poles said.


The Bears figured they had a 50/50 chance of drafting Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze (left, with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell) and were thrilled he was available. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)

He felt better after the Tennessee Titans selected Alabama offensive tackle JC Latham at No. 7. It came down to the Falcons at No. 8. Would they take him? Would a team move up?

Poles often praises his scouts for their projections, but the Falcons’ selection of Penix shocked everyone.

“Just happy it worked out that way,” he said, smiling.

With Odunze, the Bears offense now looks loaded. How often have we been able to say or write that? Just take a look.

QB: Williams
WRs: Odunze, DJ Moore, Keenan Allen
TEs: Cole Kmet, Gerald Everett
RBs: D’Andre Swift, Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson
OL: Braxton Jones, Teven Jenkins, Ryan Bates, Nate Davis, Darnell Wright

go-deeper

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It looks better than what Ryan Pace provided Mitch Trubisky in 2018. And it can surpass the offense that Phil Emery built for Jay Cutler in 2013 with receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and running back Matt Forte.

“One, the infrastructure has to be there, and I think we’ve done that part to have the talent around our quarterback now,” Poles said. “I think the other thing is our entire organization is going to have to be on the same page on how we handle this, how we develop Caleb. But I also say I think we have a really good approach with all of the players and I think that’s maybe different than it was in the past.”

Of course, this is all on paper. But it’s easy to get on board with what the Bears are doing. Everything makes sense. How often have we said or written that? The Bears also have nine picks — including two second-round picks — in next year’s draft.

There were trade calls received and made about the ninth pick, but Odunze was too good for them to move out of it. Poles’ decision to split his staff into three groups to argue about the receivers, offensive tackles and pass rushers available at No. 9 enhanced their evaluation process.

“You know who won that competition,” Poles said.

go-deeper

GO DEEPER

Chicago Bears draft Rome Odunze: How he fits, pick grade and scouting intel

The Bears wanted Odunze. He’s already caught passes from Williams, along with Moore and Allen, in California. It felt meant to be.

“Man, I don’t know where to start with that guy,” Poles said of Odunze. “First of all, a human being, what a great guy. Work ethic, just blue-collar in the way he goes about things. But as a receiver, he can line up anywhere, inside, outside. You love his ability to finish in contested situations. Plays strong, plays big. Run after catch is very good. He’s a punt returner as well.

“I mean, the kid’s just put time in and he got better and better every single year and he’s a winner. He can impact the game at any moment. If you’re at quarterback, and you’re in doubt, you want to just go give a guy an opportunity to go finish, he’s your guy. He’s done that consistently.”

Poles joked that assistant general manager Ian Cunningham had to hold him back from trading up for Odunze and doing “something crazy” as the picks came in.

“It ended up working out really well,” Poles said.

It did. It really did. It’s Williams and Odunze. It’s everything.

“We’ve done good work,” Poles said. “Again, it’s one thing to bring talent in, but it’s another to bring talent that like they’re good people and they’re great teammates. And the stuff that these guys have been doing over the last few weeks has been incredible. We’re seeing how close everybody is. But yeah, we were looking today at what the roster looks like and it’s been a journey. I know it hasn’t been that many years, but it feels like it’s been a lot of years. So we’ve done good work. But obviously … we’ve got to win.”

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(Top photo: Kirby Lee / USA Today)

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