Column: Options at ‘premium positions’ give Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles confidence at No. 9. Now he just has to nail the pick.

Some calculated decisions aimed at fulfilling long-range plans — plus a dose of good fortune — have put Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles in the most enviable position for the past 3½ months.

Since last season ended, Poles has been able to chart critical steps in his bid to turn the franchise into a perennial contender while knowing that the NFL draft, which begins Thursday night in Detroit, offers a measure of hope that has been fleeting at Halas Hall over the last couple of decades.

The Bears have taken shots at quarterbacks since 2000 — most notably Justin Fields, Mitch Trubisky, Jay Cutler and Rex Grossman — but dreams have been short-lived and postseason success has been scarce.

Nothing is guaranteed even as the Bears move full speed ahead toward drafting USC quarterback Caleb Williams with the No. 1 pick, but armed with two selections in the top nine, Poles has an opportunity to transform a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since Jan. 16, 2011.

Discussing that opportunity Tuesday at Halas Hall with roughly 55 hours remaining, Poles expressed confidence his team will emerge on the other side of the weekend much different from the one that went 10-24 over the last two seasons.

The Bears are going to draft Williams with the top pick, although Poles said you’ll have to wait to hear it officially.

“Everyone has got to tune in on Thursday to watch and figure out,” he said. “But I feel really good about our process and where we are and where we’re headed. We know what we’re going to do.”

By waiting a year to address the quarterback situation and sticking with Justin Fields for the 2023 season, Poles was able to improve the infrastructure around the position and create what appears to be a stable environment for Williams.

It’s worth watching how C.J. Stroud continues to develop in Houston after one of the finest rookie seasons in NFL history, as the Bears could have had him with last year’s No. 1 pick. Heck, the Carolina Panthers could have chosen Stroud instead of Bryce Young a year ago after trading with the Bears for the top pick, and then the Bears probably wouldn’t be sitting here at No. 1 this year. That’s part of the good fortune that has shined on the organization.

There’s a chance to build around Williams with the ninth pick, and the strength of this draft — quarterbacks, wide receivers, offensive tackles — sets up well with areas that could be “wants” for the Bears. It’s also a spot where edge rushers or perhaps a defensive tackle could come off the board.

Poles spoke earlier this spring about dividing staff members into groups to make cases for players with this second first-round pick, and he believes that process will pay dividends Thursday.,

“From the work that we’ve done, I feel pretty good about just being flexible,” he said. “That’s why we did that project with some premium positions with O-line, with D-line, receiver. All of that feedback was outstanding. It gave you a really good feeling.

“There’s different championship-caliber teams that have built their teams in different ways. And it really solidified (that) those premium positions are important. I’d say those three are three. It matches up with this draft pretty well.”

You can make a strong case for the Bears to use the ninth pick on a receiver, an offensive tackle, an edge rusher or Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II. If a small cloud of players with similar grades is available when the Bears are on the clock at No. 9, a slight trade down might make sense with an appropriate offer. The Bears have done extensive work on a handful of players who would fit in a range for trading back.

Two league sources said the Bears have indicated to other teams they are open to conversations, although that’s not a surprise. It would be more newsworthy if the Bears told teams they were locked in at No. 9.

Another source said the Atlanta Falcons have gotten a lot of chatter about trading the No. 8 pick. That might be more about finding a landing spot for the fourth quarterback to come off the board than trying to jump the Bears. The more quarterbacks selected before No. 9, the better things set up for Poles, and it’s possible four are gone before No. 8.

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Whether it’s staying put, moving down to add depth to a class that currently includes only two more selections (No. 75 in Round 3 and No. 122 in Round 4) or even moving up, the one thing Poles has to do is nail the high picks. There’s depth with talent throughout the top half or two-thirds of Round 1, depending on whom you talk to from different teams, and Poles and the Bears figure to be the talk of the NFL on Thursday.

It has been a bumpy ride at times. There were tense moments in the building when the team came off a 4-13 season in 2022 and then started last season 0-4 and sat at 2-7 after the first week of November. That wasn’t enjoyable. That wasn’t part of any master plan.

“We have had those conversations and it does put a smile on your face in terms of the work that we’ve done,” Poles said. “I feel like we’ve done a good job getting the roster where it is. It makes me feel really fortunate about some of the things that happened to allow us to build the roster maybe a little bit more efficiently than if everything was kind of flat.

“So it’s something to be proud of, but at the same time, the job’s not done. I’ve talked about it before, it’s on paper. You’ve got to play and you’ve got to win games in this league. That’s what it comes down to, but we have taken the time just to — for a second, not long — but we’re proud of where we’ve come from.”

The Bears will be prouder of where they’re headed if all of this comes together. Poles and assistant GM Ian Cunningham seemed at ease discussing what’s ahead without really saying anything. They are in a great position. Now they have to deliver.