True or false: Caleb Williams will be the most gifted quarterback ever to play for the Chicago Bears

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles seemed excited but fatigued Saturday evening, both emotions entirely fitting after the last two months of roster building. Poles had assembled his 2024 draft class over the previous three days, a five-player group headlined by top-10 picks Caleb Williams and Rome Odunze.

In many ways, it felt like a landmark moment for the organization, particularly with the selection of Williams at No. 1. The Bears united with a quarterback whose talents have been widely acclaimed for years and who distinguished himself as the consensus top prospect at the position in this draft cycle.

Pairing Williams with Odunze also felt energizing as the two explosive playmakers vowed to grow together and be productive in Chicago for years. Add the notable offensive additions the Bears made in free agency and via trade this offseason — Keenan Allen, D’Andre Swift, Ryan Bates, Gerald Everett — and top-tier returning starters DJ Moore, Darnell Wright and Cole Kmet, and it’s easy to feel the momentum building.

Poles zoomed out Saturday to take a big-picture look at his team’s progress.

“To have the opportunities we did this year and for everything to go in what I think is a really good direction, it’s big for our football team,” he said. “I think we made huge strides forward. There’s (still) work to be done. But this is an impact draft for this organization for sure.”

It may take a while before we can measure the exact impact. But there’s little question the Bears will enter training camp this summer in the best shape they’ve been in since Poles’ arrival in 2022.

So what should we make of how draft weekend unfolded? What more do we need to learn about Williams, Odunze and the other draft picks? Where should the Bears set the bar for next season?

Tribune writers Dan Wiederer and Colleen Kane sort through a variety of post-draft talking points in “true or false” format.

True or false: Caleb Williams is about to become the most gifted quarterback ever to play for the Bears.

Wiederer: True. And I’m not sure it’s even close. From a talent standpoint, Williams is the total package, blessed with extraordinary arm talent, field vision, pocket awareness and running ability. To top it all off, his creative playmaking artistry as a passer is what many talent evaluators identify as his superpower. Not a bad start, right?

Just to be clear, this isn’t Mitch Trubisky. This isn’t Justin Fields. Williams is on a different level in terms of the superior assets he brings to the position. And, no, Chicago has not witnessed anything like this.

Obviously there’s a fine-print disclaimer to emphasize none of this guarantees high-level NFL excellence. Williams must prove, over weeks and months and years, that he can be consistently sharp with his decision making, play well within structure and make the simple plays as frequently and as well as he makes the highlight-reel throws.

He also will have to adapt to the unique pressure, expectations and critical noise in Chicago. And he must quickly become the energy source in the Bears locker room, serving as the team leader through all the inevitable highs and lows. Williams already seems to understand those dynamics and responsibilities and is ready to lean into all of it.

Kane: You’re right that Williams’ arrival is different in many ways from anything the Bears have experienced.

It’s the talent — all of those qualities you mentioned — that helped him win the 2022 Heisman Trophy at USC. It’s the preparation. He has been trained to be an NFL quarterback — and all that comes with it — since he was 10 years old. It’s the stardom. No rookie quarterback has come to the Bears with the same level of hype.

And, as we’ll detail shortly, it’s the talent on offense the Bears have assembled around Williams.

As part of the predraft process, Williams and his father, Carl, delved into the question of why the Bears never have had a 4,000-yard passer. They asked Bears leadership for answers.

“It was just that they haven’t put everybody in the right spaces, and that’s their mission and goal here,” Williams said. “That’s why y’all have been seeing the people hired, whether it’s coaches, executives, PR (staff), and then getting those right people to bring in the right people for the culture and to lead to victories and the brotherhood that we should have.”

It certainly seems like a better situation to maximize Williams’ potential than the ones Trubisky and Fields entered. But as you mentioned, a lot needs to unfold the right way for Williams to capitalize on that “most gifted” label.

True or false: With the addition of Rome Odunze, the Bears now have one of the most dangerous groups of pass catchers in the NFL.

Kane: True. With Odunze joining Allen and Moore — plus tight ends Kmet and Everett — this could be a top-five group, if not better.

Once the Bears traded for Allen last month, they already had their best receiving duo in a decade. Allen is a six-time Pro Bowl selection who has topped 1,100 receiving yards in five of his last seven seasons and had one of his best years in 2023 at age 31. Moore has topped 1,100 receiving yards in four of his last five seasons and had a career-high 1,364 last year.

Now the Bears add a receiver in Odunze who led the nation in receiving yards at Washington in 2023 and who Poles believes “can impact the game at any moment.” Poles raved about Odunze’s versatility, his ability to finish contested catches, how he plays big and strong and his run-after-catch talent. He spoke highly of Odunze as a person and a worker.

Odunze comes into a great situation for a young receiver, with a chance to learn from top-notch professionals at his position while growing alongside a rookie quarterback. After years of looking at other team’s offensive skill players with jealousy, Bears fans have the right to be ecstatic.

Wiederer: Odunze was mystified during a radio appearance Friday when told the Bears record for career receiving yards is 5,059, a mark held by Johnny Morris since 1967. It’s understandable why that felt so confusing. Allen surpassed 10,000 career yards last season with the Los Angeles Chargers. And Moore now has 6,565 after that 1,364-yard season in his first year in Chicago.

So, yes, parts of the Bears record book could be in serious danger in the coming years. As for the top four projected pass catchers for 2024 — Allen, Moore, Kmet and Odunze — it’s a formidable (and fantasy-relevant) quartet that certainly has a case as one of the most dangerous groups in the league.

To be fair, many other teams are in that conversation. The Miami Dolphins with Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios and Jonnu Smith. The San Francisco 49ers with Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Ricky Pearsall and George Kittle. The Houston Texans with Stefon Diggs, Nico Collins, Tank Dell and Dalton Schultz. The Minnesota Vikings with Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, Brandon Powell and T.J. Hockenson. The Cincinnati Bengals with Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Andre Iosivas and Mike Gesicki. The Philadelphia Eagles with A.J. Brown, Devonta Smith, Parris Campbell and Dallas Goedert.

Still, even the idea that the Bears have worked themselves into this debate is a major victory for Poles — and a pretty darn nice welcome gift for Williams.

True or false: Ryan Poles erred in using his fourth-round pick on a punter.

Wiederer: False. Look, folks, punters are people too. And they can be game-changing weapons as well. That’s what Poles and his talent evaluation team identified in Iowa’s Tory Taylor heading into the draft. And they were prepared to act accordingly at selection No. 122 in Round 4 on Saturday — which at the time was slated to be the Bears’ final pick.

The buzz within league circles was that Taylor wouldn’t last into the fifth round. Thus the Bears, even with notable needs remaining on the defensive and offensive lines, felt confident pushing in their chips on a specialist.

It may feel odd to label a punter as an exciting player. But Poles seemed to light up when talking about Taylor, who has not only elite leg strength, but also uncanny precision with his ability to place and stop his punts. He had 103 career punts of at least 50 yards in college and set an NCAA single-season record last year with his 48.3-yard average.

“Tory is a weapon for the whole football team,” Bears coach Matt Eberflus said.

Added Poles: “One of the best punters I’ve ever seen.”

Kane: After the Bears selected Taylor on Saturday, he received a text from Williams. The message, according to Taylor: “Hey, you’re not going to punt too much here.”

Taylor got a laugh out of that initial interaction with his new quarterback. And he knows there will be plenty of moments to make a difference — though probably not as many as he had with Iowa’s woeful offense.

I understand questions about the pick. Taylor is the highest-drafted punter since the San Francisco 49ers took Mitch Wishnowsky at No. 110 in 2019. And as you mentioned, there are still questions about the Bears roster, especially on the defensive line — though Poles at least jumped back in to select Kansas edge rusher Austin Booker in the fifth round.

But the Bears’ punting situation over the last two years with 2022 seventh-round pick Trenton Gill was primed for an upgrade. The roster as a whole is in a better spot to take a specialist in the fourth round. And Taylor is ready to help the Bears as much as he can.

“At the end of the day, whenever I had the ball in my hand, I could manipulate the game and control the game the way that I wanted to,” Taylor said. “I love that pressure. I always think, well, if someone else wasn’t going to do it, give me the ball and I’ll do it.”

True or false: After an offseason of upgrading the roster, the Bears seem like a lock to make the playoffs.

Kane: False. The playoffs do seem like a real possibility given the upgrades the Bears made on offense. But I’m not going to say they’re a lock. It’s too soon for that because, as talented as Williams is, there is a possibility of growing pains as he dives into a new offense with new teammates in a new environment.

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The excitement around draft weekend is great. I do think this moment with Williams feels different than in the past, given both the consensus on the caliber of prospect he is and the team the Bears have built around him. But that doesn’t mean it’s all going to come together right away.

There are still plenty of unknowns. About how new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and Williams will mesh. About how good this defense will be without any significant upgrades to the line. About whether Eberflus is ready to lead this group to a new level. There’s legitimate hope — but it’s too soon to declare the Bears have arrived.

Wiederer: I’m with you, Colleen. No one does premature victory laps quite like the most excitable folks in Chicago. In the last five years alone they’ve experienced the jarring disappointment of the 2019 season and the abrupt and unfulfilling end to the Fields era, yet they are lured into the temptation of proclaiming a long-lasting breakthrough given the current roster makeup and the arrival of Williams.

That said, the Bears have every reason to raise the bar. They have every reason to believe they can become a playoff team in 2024. They have every reason to sense their window of opportunity is open. It’s just going to take a lot of hard work and good luck and consistent focus to keep this current joyride on the road.

As of now, oddsmakers have the Bears’ over-under for wins this season at 8.5. They’re projected to finish behind the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in their division and also the 49ers, Eagles, Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Falcons in the NFC. The Los Angeles Rams also have an 8.5 over-under victory total. You do the math.

The Bears seem like they’ll be, at a minimum, “in the hunt” for a playoff berth in early January. They might even be good enough to claim one, but that’s not a lock. And it would be foolish to think a playoff berth is necessary for 2024 to be considered a success in the big picture.