It is a fact that most experts have the Chicago Bears being bad in 2022. GM Ryan Poles gutted a lot of the veteran roster this offseason, with core names like Allen Robinson, Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman, and James Daniels gone. In his mind, they didn’t deserve the kind of money they were getting paid or wanted because the team was 6-11, even with them on the roster. A bit harsh but also logical.
With so much turnover, expectations are low. Some have already predicted the team will end with the worst NFL record by the end of the regular season. Draft insider Matt Miller is no different. In his first mock draft looking ahead to 2023, he has the Bears holding the #2 overall pick behind the New York Jets at #1. His choice of player for them is both a surprise and not a surprise.
“2. Chicago Bears
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State*
The Bears have not surrounded second-year quarterback Justin Fields with much in terms of a supporting cast, but that will change via free agency and the draft following the 2022 season, once they have more cap space. The electric Smith-Njigba left us with a statement game in the Rose Bowl when he caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns as the entire Utah defense failed to stop him. This would be the highest a wide receiver has been drafted since Calvin Johnson in 2007, but Smith-Njigba is the type of talent Fields needs.”
Chicago Bears would join a very exclusive club.
In the entirety of NFL history, a wide receiver went in the top 3 picks only 12 times. That hasn’t happened since 2007 with the aforementioned Calvin Johnson. The good news is the hit rate on the position is outstanding. Eight of those 12 picks went to at least one Pro Bowl. Two are in the Hall of Fame (Charley Taylor and Johnson), and two more soon will be (Andre Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald). So if Smith-Njigba proves promising enough to earn that honor, then the odds favor him turning into a great player. Justin Fields would love that.
The problem is it doesn’t feel like that is where Ryan Poles will focus. Remember, he had every opportunity to add a receiver with one of his two 2nd round picks in April. He opted for a cornerback and safety instead. The Chicago Bears GM mentioned his premium positions when he took over. Wide receiver wasn’t among them. He’s a big believer in the trenches, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if he targeted an offensive or defensive lineman.
Maybe that stance will change by next year, but it would be shocking if the Bears went for a receiver that high.