One thing is undeniable. When Ryan Poles took over as GM of the Chicago Bears, he was handed a raw deal. Not only did he inherit an old and expensive roster, but he also had a paltry five draft picks at his disposal, including no 1st rounder. His predecessor Ryan Pace had given them away in prior trades, desperately trying to save his job the previous year. Poles had to figure out how to retool that roster with limited resources.
His solution was straightforward. He traded Khalil Mack to the Chargers for a 2nd round pick in 2022 and 6th round pick in 2023. Then he flipped that 6th rounder back to the Chargers for two 7th round picks this year while also trading back three times on the third day of the draft. This landed the Bears 11 picks overall, the largest class the franchise has produced in 14 years.
Poles made it clear he wanted as many bites at the apple as possible.
He and the rest of the Bears brass seem happy with it. They feel they got two legitimate Day 1 starters on defense with Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker. Wide receiver Velus Jones gives them tons of versatility on offense and some explosiveness in the kick return game. They also added four athletic blockers for the offensive line, a versatile running back, an athletic pass rusher, a ballhawk safety, and even a big-legged punter.
Nobody can say the team didn’t address as many needs as possible. Was it enough to earn some praise from the wider media, though? It doesn’t seem that way. NFL.com released its official draft class rankings for 2022. The usual suspects were at the top such as Baltimore, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Sadly Chicago didn’t get much love. They finished 29th in the rankings largely due to Poles’ refusal to invest more high picks in Justin Fields.
“After the No. 11 overall pick’s uneven rookie campaign — in an admittedly unfavorable environment — Fields lost his No. 1 receiver (Allen Robinson), his best young offensive lineman (James Daniels) and the veteran tackle who competently protected his blind side (Jason Peters). In free agency, the Bears went the contemporary Texans route, signing a bunch of low-wattage vets on short-term deals.
And then in the draft, Chicago used its top two picks on defense before adding a soon-to-be 25-year-old wideout with one year of solid college production and tossing a series of Day 3 darts at a depleted O-line board. First-year GM Ryan Poles says he’s not done improving the roster, but at this point, how many impact guys remain available to help foster Fields’ development?”
The Chicago Bears’ approach is being derided more than the picks.
That is the weirdest thing about this entire process. Most experts don’t have glaring issues with the actual players picked. Gordon and Brisker both received high marks for where they were taken. Even Jones got plenty of love for his speed, quickness, route-running improvement, and kick return prowess. All anybody could focus on was the fact he’s turning 25-years old. Unfortunate, but not surprising.
Poles didn’t seem perturbed by the criticisms. He explained that he could not, in good conscience, pass on Gordon and Brisker at their respective picks, knowing they were the best players on the board. Yes, he wants to help Fields as much as possible, but his primary job is to make the Chicago Bears team successful. While the quarterback is the most important position, it takes a team to win a championship.
A hard truth that is easy to forget.
In reality, nobody knows what to expect from the Bears’ 2022 draft class. Though large, it’s made up mostly of later round picks. Those might as well be dice rolls. It is impossible to predict if any of them end up panning out. The truth is this. If Poles manages to squeeze three competent starters out of this group, considering where things started when he took over, that is an undeniable victory.