Bears GM Ryan Poles: ‘Can’t fix everything in one year, but we keep chipping away’
Poles went defense-first in his first draft with the Bears and is betting on third-round receiver Velus Jones to boost the offense.
The Bears had more needs than valuable picks going into the draft, so it’ll take general manager Ryan Poles at least two classes to get through the necessary roster repairs.
He got started on that list in the second round Friday by taking Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon at No. 39 and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker at No. 48.
“We can’t fix everything in one year, but we can keep chipping away,” Poles said.
The stakes are low this season, but drafting Gordon could put out a blazing fire in their secondary.
They inexcusably went into last season with just one dependable corner in Jaylon Johnson and the results were predictable: They allowed the NFL’s highest passer rating, third-most completions of 20-plus yards and fourth-most touchdown passes.
Gordon’s potential gives the Bears’ defense a shot at having some dignity after a season in which Johnson led a crew of most practice-squad-level cornerbacks.
If Gordon is as good as advertised, he solves that problem immediately as a starter this season and for the long term.
The Bears ran draft simulations over the last few weeks, and Poles said Gordon popped up as available in some of those trial runs, but he never believed it was a legitimate possibility at No. 39.
“We kinda laughed it off,” he said. “We said, ‘No way.’ So when it actually happened, it was a really cool moment.”
The Bears could be well fortified for years to come with Johnson (23) and Gordon (22), and they have both of them under contract cheaply through 2023.
That part makes sense. The concerns swirled when Poles doubled down on defense with the Brisker pick when several top wide receivers were still available. Maybe he sees Brisker as insurance in case Eddie Jackson can’t play up to his contract.
Nonetheless, it was absolutely imperative that Poles emerge from this draft with significant help for quarterback Justin Fields. It was surprising that he waited until the third round at No. 71 overall to take an offensive weapon in Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones.
“It has to be in the right spot,” he said. “Sometimes other positions are higher because [the prospects] are really good at their position. It’d be a mistake to ignore someone that good just because of a need [at receiver] right now.”
Even if the Bears are willing to write this off as a transition season, they need to supply Fields with everything he needs to make a significant jump. And right now, Poles’ plans at offensive line and wide receiver require a lot of faith.
The Bears allowed the most sacks in the NFL last season, and their only new starter as of now is free agent center Lucas Patrick. They have question marks at both tackle spots. Sam Mustipher is fifty-fifty to hang on to the starting job at right guard.
At wide receiver, Poles is betting that Darnell Mooney can be a true No. 1 target, ex-Chief Byron Pringle is still an ascending player at 28 and that former sixth-round pick Equanimeous St. Brown was an untapped talent in three seasons with the Packers.
Meanwhile, only seven receivers had been taken when the Bears were up at No. 39. Kentucky wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson and Alabama’s John Metchie III went a handful of picks later, and the Bears still had their choice of Baylor’s Tyquan Thornton, Georgia’s George Pickens, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce and Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore at No. 48.
The draft is wildly unpredictable — Mooney was the 25th receiver picked in 2020, but is third in his class in catches and fifth in yards — but the odds of finding a dynamic receiver taper each round. Poles valued Brisker’s overall talent more than addressing the more pressing need at receiver, so Jones proving people wrong is pivotal to making this draft a success.