2022 Chicago Bears NFL Draft Recap
Let’s just say I was under-impressed by new Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles with the way he handled the 2022 NFL Draft. His draft picks and his strategy were underwhelming at best. I understand he’s in a poor spot, taking over after a disastrous end to former GM Ryan Pace’s final season. Poles has a lot of work to do to get the Bears back in a good spot. Are the Bears contenders? Pretenders? Tankers?
It’s obvious from this new regime’s roster construction that the Bears will not be good in 2022. In fact, they will likely be fighting it out for the #1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, one year from now. Currently Chicago has one of the smallest and most unproven rosters in the league, with a majority of them unsigned past 2023. Poles drafted 11 players last weekend and will probably want to keep most on the roster after final cuts this August/September.
How many good young core players are there to build around? Let’s identify them:
- Justin Fields/QB
- David Montgomery/RB
- Darnell Mooney/WR
- Cole Kmet/TE
- Teven Jenkins/OT
- Cody Whitehair/OG (is 29 years old still young?)
- Roquan Smith/LB
- Jaylon Johnson/CB
- Kyler Gordon/CB (1st draft pick)
- Jaquan Brisker/S (2nd draft pick)
- Eddie Jackson/S (is he good? will he rebound similar to the way Kyle Fuller did?)
That’s 11 players. These 11 players aren’t even proven in most cases and possibly still on their way out the door once new Head Coach Matt Eberflus runs them through his system. So what we’re left with here is a handful to ten young players that Poles has to build around on his current roster. He has a couple other veterans that he could move in trades (Robert Quinn) to get more young pieces.
Basically, this 2022 Bears team is looking at no more than four wins. We’re talking a 4-13 record… at best. If Poles has his way, he will get the #1 overall pick next year, gather more salary cap space, and then really begin to invest in the future of this franchise. But who will be left standing when the dust settles?
As for my predictions as posted in our NFL Draft Preview, we had a few hits and several huge misses. We correctly predicted 22 of the first round’s 32 draft picks, three of which went exactly where we projected. Another seven projections were within three spots. Add those up and 10 of our projections (nearly 1/3) were within three spots of where they ended up getting drafted. Not bad. Admittedly, it was incredibly hard to predict this year because of the voluminous amount of trades that happened on Draft Night.
2022 NFL Draft First Round:
- Jacksonville – Travon Walker/EDGE/Georgia (Prediction: Travon Walker/EDGE/Georgia)
- Detroit – Aidan Hutchinson/EDGE/Michigan (Prediction: Aidan Hutchinson/EDGE/Michigan)
- Houston – Derek Stingley/CB/LSU (Prediction: Kayvon Thibodeaux/EDGE/Oregon; off 2 spots)
- N.Y. Jets – Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner/CB/Cincinnati (Prediction: Evan Neal/OT/Alabama; off 3 spots)
- N.Y. Giants – Kayvon Thibodeaux/EDGE/Oregon (Prediction: Ikem Ekwonu/OT/N.C. State; off 1 spot)
- Carolina – Ikem Ekwonu/OT/N.C. State (Prediction: Kenny Pickett/QB/Pitt; off 14 spots)
- N.Y. Giants – Evan Neal/OT/Alabama (Prediction: Malik Willis/QB/Liberty; off 79 spots)
- Atlanta – Drake London/WR/USC (Prediction: Sam Howell/QB/North Carolina; off 136 spots, LOL!)
- Seattle – Charles Cross/OT/Mississippi St. (Prediction: Derek Stingley/CB/LSU; off 6 spots)
- N.Y. Jets – Garrett Wilson/WR/Ohio St. (Prediction: Nakobe Dean/LB/Georgia; off 73 spots! How did five Georgia defensive players go in the 1st Round and Dean wasn’t one of them?)
- New Orleans – Chris Olave/WR/Ohio St. (Prediction: Garrett Wilson/WR/Ohio St.; off 1 spot)
- Detroit – Jameson Williams/WR/Alabama (Prediction: Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner/CB/Cincinnati; off 8 spots)
- Philadelphia – Jordan Davis/DT/Georgia (Prediction: Kyle Hamilton/S/Notre Dame; off 1 spot)
- Baltimore – Kyle Hamilton/S/Notre Dame (Prediction: DeMarvin Leal/DE/Texas A&M; off 70 spots)
- Houston – Kenyon Green/OG/Texas A&M (Prediction: David Ojabo/DE/Michigan; off 30 spots)
- Washington – Jahan Dotson/WR/Penn St. (Prediction: Jameson Williams/WR/Alabama; off 4 spots)
- L.A. Chargers – Zion Johnson/OL/Boston College (Prediction: Jordan Davis/DT/Georgia; 4 spots)
- Tennessee – Treylon Burks/WR/Arkansas (Prediction: Daxton Hill/S/Michigan; off 13 spots)
- New Orleans – Trevor Penning/OT/Northern Iowa (Prediction: Charles Cross/OT/Mississippi St.; off 10 spots)
- Pittsburgh – Kenny Pickett/QB/Pitt (Prediction: Devonte Wyatt/DT/Georgia; off 8 spots)
- Kansas City – Trent McDuffie/CB/Washington (Prediction: George Karlaftis/EDGE/Purdue; off 9 spots)
- Green Bay – Quay Walker/LB/Georgia (Prediction: Treylon Burks/WR/Arkansas; off 4 spots)
- Buffalo – Kaiir Elam/CB/Florida (Prediction: Andrew Booth/CB/Clemson; off 19 spots)
- Dallas – Tyler Smith/OT/Tulsa (Prediction: Jermaine Johnson/DE/Florida St.; off 2 spots)
- Baltimore – Tyler Linderbaum/C/Iowa (Prediction: Tyler Linderbaum/C/Iowa)
- N.Y. Jets – Jermaine Johnson/DE/Florida St. (Prediction: Devin Lloyd/LB/Utah; off 1 spot)
- Jacksonville – Devin Lloyd/LB/Utah (Prediction: Trent McDuffie/CB/Washington; off 6 spots)
- Green Bay – Devonte Wyatt/DT/Georgia (Prediction: Roger McCreary/CB/Auburn; off 7 spots)
- New England – Cole Strange/G/UT-Chattanooga (Prediction: Jahan Dotson/WR/Penn St.; off 13 spots)
- Kansas City – George Karlaftis/EDGE/Purdue (Prediction: Trevor Penning/OT/Northern Iowa; off 11 spots)
- Cincinnati – Daxton Hill/S/Michigan (Prediction: Kyler Gordon/CB/Washington; off 8 spots)
- Minnesota – Lewis Cine/S/Georgia (Prediction: Drake London/WR/USC; off 24 spots)
Chicago Bears 2022 Draft Recap
Round 2 (#39 overall) : Kyler Gordon/CB/Washington (Prediction: Christian Watson/WR/North Dakota State; went 34th to Green Bay) – GM Ryan Poles decided to take a probable starting CB for Eberflus’s new defense. Gordon is a solid pick. I had him going 31st overall to Cincinnati in my Preview. Last year he had 2 interceptions and 7 PBU’s in 12 games for the Huskies. Athlon’s said he’s “arguably the best all-around athlete in this draft class”. I compared him to Xavien Howard from the Miami Dolphins. If Gordon excels as much as Howard, we’ll all be pleased.
Round 2 (#48 overall) : Jaquan Brisker/SS/Penn St. (Prediction: Derion Kendrick/CB/Georgia, who surprisingly went 6th Round, 212th overall to L.A. Rams after being projected as a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd rounder in my three sources) – This is where the questions started for Poles. Did he really want to take a second consecutive DB when the needs at WR and OL were that great? Did he not want to make building around second-year QB Justin Fields a priority? Did he think that defense was more important? Did he think these two DB’s were the “best available” when the Bears were on the clock? I understand taking one defensive player, as I had the Bears selecting a WR and a CB in their top two picks, both at premium positions. Instead, the WR we wanted was gone and so Poles went for a CB first. Ok, I like it. But why not a WR at #48 instead of another DB, that being a Strong Safety? My backup options for a WR were George Pickens/Georgia and David Bell/Purdue, who were both available for Poles at #48. Pickens ended up going 52nd while Bell went 99th. Other excellent options at WR included Skyy Moore (54th), Tyquan Thornton (50th), Alec Pierce (53rd), and Jalen Tolbert (88th).
Round 3 (#71 overall) : Velus Jones/WR/Tennessee (Prediction: Cam Jurgens/C/Nebraska, went 51st overall to Philadelphia as their future replacement for All-Pro Jason Kelce, who we used as our NFL Comparison for Jurgens; This might turn out to be one of my greatest projections ever.) – Here we go again with the whole WR discussion. As noted above, instead of picking Brisker at #48, I believe Poles should have taken Pickens, Bell, Moore, Thornton, Pierce, or Tolbert. When there was a run on WR’s and four were taken at #50, 52, 53, and 54, Poles panicked at Pick #71 and took what he thought was the best WR remaining in Velus Jones. Of course, personally I would never pick Jones anyway, even with the last pick in the Draft. From all my scouting including watching college football games over the last six years, I was never impressed with Velus. He finally had a decent year in 2021 with the Tennessee Volunteers (62-807-7-13.0 ypc). However, Jones is really best at returning kicks and punts. He’s only 5’11” or 6 foot tall. He’s 25 years old already after playing for USC starting in ’17 . He is fast and uses his speed well on special teams. Jones was listed as the 22nd, 26th, and 27th best WR in the three publications I used for my research. Bottom line: Jones is a short, fast receiving prospect who also returns kicks and punts. Darnell Mooney is the same type of receiver. Chicago needs a bigger, taller, #1 type WR. I think a better fit would have been 6’3″ Pickens, 6’2″ Bell, 6’3″ Pierce, 6’3″ Tolbert, 6’2″ Thornton, 6’3″ Erik Ezukanma, 6’2″ Kevin Austin, 6’2″ Tre Turner, or even the possibly injured 6’4″ Justyn Ross from Clemson (Ross was undrafted but signed with Kansas City. He could be a huge steal if healthy.)
Round 5 (#168 overall) : Braxton Jones/OT/Southern Utah – Braxton Jones was listed as the 18th best OT in DTP’s 2022 NFL Draft Preview, a likely 4th rounder. In Athlon’s 2022 NFL Draft Guide, Jones was the 16th best OT, a likely 5th rounder. Lindy’s Pro Football Draft Preview had Jones as the 10th best OT, a 3rd rounder. Going by those sources, Poles took a solid OT with his fourth pick, #168 overall in the 5th Round. Jones is about 6’6″ 310 pounds out of Southern Utah, an FCS school. He has “nimble feet” for a big man, he’s a “nimble mover” who “plays with basketball feet” and can “hit reach blocks and make it to tough angles”. Jones is “an interesting project player going forward” who “played with a nasty streak in college” something that is important to Poles. DTP’s was most encouraging: “A high-upside prospect that has really impressed me, coupled with a large ceiling. His quick feet, length, and athleticism could allow him to have success as a tackle at the next level.” You know what? Call me impressed too. I think Braxton Jones could be a really nice find for Poles in the 5th Round of this Draft.
Round 5 (#174 overall) : Dominique Robinson/EDGE/OLB/Miami (Ohio) – This kid is intriguing. Robinson has the look, at 6’4″ 256 pounds. He’s an athlete, having switched positions from WR to DE starting in 2020. Therefore, he’s a raw project, just entering his third season at the position. Was it a reach by Poles? Sure. Is it fun, in that Tarik Cohen/Adam Shaheen kinda way? You betcha. As you’d imagine, the prognostications on Robinson are all over the board. Lindy’s has him as high as the 5th OLB, a 4th round prospect while Athlon’s has Robinson as the 13th DE, a 3rd/4th round prospect. DTP has Robinson as the 29th EDGE, an undrafted free agent. Expect the Bears to “redshirt” him like Lovie Smith used to do with rookies. Plus, I could see Robinson getting on special teams perhaps. Personally, I may have rolled the dice on Damone Clark/EDGE/LSU with this pick. Clark ended up going two spots later at #176 to Dallas.
Round 6 (#186 overall) : Zach Thomas/OG/OT/San Diego St. – Thomas is 6’4″ 308 pounds. He started 31 games in college, mostly at LT and RT. He only started 2 games at Guard but might have flexibility there. Zach’s brother Cameron (DE) was also drafted, in the 3rd round by Arizona with the 87th overall pick. That’s an impressive athletic family. Let’s hope the Thomas’s are like the Bosa’s.
Round 6 (#203 overall) : Trestan Ebner/RB/Baylor – Ebner was kind of a wasted pick in my opinion. Chicago already has two solid RB’s in David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. They now have a return man in Velus Jones. So Ebner might provide depth, if he can make the team. He’ll be the 3rd string tailback, at best. Why not take a WR here? There were several still available at this spot, such as Samori Toure/Nebraska (ended up going to Green Bay at #258), Bo Melton/Rutgers (drafted #229 by Seattle), or of course Justyn Ross/Clemson (undrafted). Another option would have been taking my original second round option, Derion Kendrick/Georgia (#212 to L.A. Rams). How did Kendrick fall so far? It’s surprising because he was highly valued by prognosticators (2nd rounder by Lindy’s, 1st/2nd rounder by Athlon’s, 3rd rounder by DTP). Just watch this Kendrick kid turn into a star for the Rams. As for Ebner, well, he’s a guy. If he makes the team, he might even turn into a backup in ’23 if Poles lets Montgomery go after this season.
Round 6 (#207 overall) : Doug Kramer/C/Illinois – Kramer grew up locally and went to Hinsdale Central before attending the University of Illinois. He started 48 games for the Illini over five seasons. He was a three-time captain at Illinois and from all accounts is a solid character guy. He’s not very athletic and a bit undersized but who knows, maybe the Bears can make him into something. If not, at least he provides more competition for a long-time Bears weakness, the offensive line.
Round 7 (#226 overall) : Ja’Tyre Carter/OG/Southern – Carter is 6’3″ 311 pounds, and like Kramer above, will provide competition at the Guard spot on the Bears offensive line. Carter wasn’t listed as a prospect in any of the sources I used.
Round 7 (#254 overall) : Elijah Hicks/DB/California – Elijah Hicks was selected by the Bears as another DB prospect. He’s only 5’11” 198 pounds. For whatever reason, the Bears had their eye on Hicks. He was one of Chicago’s 30 official pre-draft meetings at Halas Hall. He has played both CB and S and had a knack for takeaways. In his career he had 5 interceptions, four of which were last season. He also forced 4 fumbles in ’21. He probably did his research on Coach Eberflus “HITS” philosophy. Personally, I would have drafted Texas A&M’s Leon O’Neal, who is 6’1″ 210 pounds. He seems to be a bigger, more physical strong safety prospect than Hicks. He was projected as a 4th rounder in Lindy’s, a 4th/5th rounder in Athlon’s, and a 7th rounder in DTP’s. O’Neal was “decorated with team awards for his hard work and leadership”, according to Lindy’s. He finished with 6 career interceptions, 12 PBU’s, 162 tackles. Ultimately, O’Neal went undrafted but signed with San Francisco as a free agent.
Round 7 (#255 overall) : Trenton Gill/P/N.C. State – Gill is a punter. He’s got a leg. Bears long-time punter Pat O’Donnell (8 seasons) was released this offseason, so Chicago needs a new leg. Trenton Gill is 6’4″ 220. He finished his college career as the all-time Wolfpack leader with a 46.3 yards per punt average. He also handled kickoffs in college so that’s a bonus. Prediction: Gill will be the Bears starting punter in Week 1.
Overall, I think new GM Ryan Poles and the Bears staff did a decent, though underwhelming job with this 2022 Draft. Did he find some starters? For sure. Are they impact players? Hopefully a couple of them are, with the first two DB’s Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker the most likely. Ultimately, this draft will be made or broken by the offensive linemen and other prospects that Chicago nabbed.
Perhaps most interestingly, Poles was able to turn 6 selections into 11 selections. After all the trades that Poles pulled off to increase the number of selections, he was looking for quantity at the possible expense of quality. He achieved increased competition through all of that quantity. However, most of the players he picked (8 of 11) went late in the draft (two 5th rounders, three 6th rounders, three 7th rounders).
When assigning an initial grade to Poles for his first Chicago Bears draft, I’ll give him a C+. If I had to bet, he grabbed about 4-6 starters (Gordon at CB, Brisker at SS, one or maybe even two of the four offensive linemen will be decent, Jones as a KR/PR, and Gill at P) depending on if you call a return specialist and a punter “starters”.
The fun part of analyzing the NFL Draft in general, and the Bears draft in particular, is you never know until you “know”. Maybe Robinson comes out of nowhere to be a freak pass-rusher. Maybe Jones and Ebner become surprising playmakers. It’s all possible, until it isn’t. Ryan Poles, and Bears fans, are hoping.
2022 Chicago Bears Draft FINAL GRADE: C+