The Chicago Bears knew they were under pressure going into the 2022 NFL draft. GM Ryan Poles only had six picks and no 1st rounder. That provided a razor-thin margin of error. Rather than leave it up to fate, Poles decided to take a different approach. He traded down several times during day three of the draft, securing an extra five picks in the process. Not until late in the 5th round did he finally make a selection. That player ended up being Southern Utah tackle Braxton Jones.
Initial reactions were shrugs. Jones played his final year of college on a 1-10 team. His momentum came from a strong showing at the Senior Bowl. The Bears liked his size, length, and athletic profile. He also displayed rare maturity for somebody so young. They thought he might develop into somebody interesting with time. A few months later, he was elevated to the starting left tackle job, didn’t relinquish it in training camp, and started every snap for the Bears during the regular season. Quite an accomplishment for a rookie, let alone a late 5th round pick. Now he’s getting recognized for it.
Jones is the first Bears rookie since 2018 to make the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie team.
“The All-Rookie team offense includes the San Francisco 49ers’ Brock Purdy at quarterback, the Atlanta Falcons’ Tyler Allgeier and Seattle’s Kenneth Walker III at running back, the New Orleans Saints’ Chris Olave and Wilson at wide receiver, Tennessee’s Chigoziem Okonkwo at tight end, Baltimore’s Tyler Linderbaum at center, the Chargers’ Zion Johnson and the Las Vegas Raiders’ Dylan Parham at guard and the Chicago Bears’ Braxton Jones and the Dallas Cowboys’ Tyler Smith at tackle.”
Braxton Jones overachieved in every way possible.
Yes, it’s acknowledged that his pass protection was average at best. Again, he is a rookie. He’d never seen the level of competition he faced every week. The fact he wasn’t the worst-rated rookie pass blocker in the league is worthy of praise. Where he really stood out was run blocking. Jones was just adequate. He was good. The Bears routinely had success whenever they ran to the left side of the offensive line. His strength, technique, and range allowed him to create lanes regularly.
He can get better. Braxton Jones himself admitted that he needs to fix holes in his game. Getting stronger and improving his anchor against power rushes is the biggest. That can come with more time in the weight room and continuing to hone his craft. There is no reason to think he can’t improve. The Bears can do him a great service by improving the rest of the offensive line to make life easier for him. If he progresses as hoped, he may go down as one of the biggest draft steals in years.