Bears GM Ryan Poles needs to hit jackpot with 2022 rookies
The early reviews on Poles’ top three picks are promising, and fifth-rounder Braxton Jones has emerged as the leader at left tackle.
General manager Ryan Poles will get time to rebuild the Bears — they gave Ryan Pace seven years even though he had only one winning season, so there’s that — but the clock started ticking after the draft.
Poles can discard any of the pieces Pace left him, even a recent second-round pick (offensive tackle Teven Jenkins), but he needs to come up big on his first draft class.
He needs to be right about passing on some of the top wide receivers in the second round to take cornerback Kyler Gordon (No. 39) and safety Jaquan Brisker (No. 48) and waiting until the 71st pick to snap up Velus Jones, the 14th receiver selected in the draft.
With depleted draft assets in his first year, Poles has to hit on all three of those picks. They need to show promise this season and make considerable contributions no later than next season. As for the eight players Poles took in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, as well as the 13 undrafted rookies in camp, finding a handful of reliable players would be a success.
So far, so good.
The early reviews on Gordon and Brisker are encouraging. Jones has as good of a shot as anyone to emerge as Darnell Mooney’s running mate. And perhaps no rookie has made as much headway as fifth-rounder Braxton Jones from Southern Utah. He’s in line to start at left tackle.
Given where they were picked, Gordon and Brisker should be ready to start from the jump. It’ll be choppy, at least at the start, but they need to be competent.
“They’re surprising me,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson said. “Kyler, just his versatility, being able to play the nickel spot. That’s not an easy position to learn. It just shows his IQ for the game, shows his learning ability, being coachable.
“I didn’t really know too much about [Brisker] coming in. I had a lot of question marks, but just seeing him play and having conversations with him and working out after practice, he’s definitely hungry for success. He’s definitely a competitor. He wants to win, and I love that to start with, for sure.”
Safety Eddie Jackson added of Brisker: “He asks a lot of questions — a lot of the right questions. It just shows you that he’s going to have a lot of success in his career because he pays attention to the little things.”
The only snag with Gordon has been that he has missed time here and there with minor injuries. He sat out his second consecutive practice Sunday. Aside from that, the Bears have been marveling at his exceptional athleticism.
“He’s just a freak athlete,” Jackson said. “Some of the plays he makes, it’s not even his man. He’s coming off his man, making plays on the ball. Just seeing how very instinctive he is. He’s smart, he’s willing to learn. . . . When you have a guy like that, you know he’s going to be special.”
Gordon and Brisker are certain to be season-opening starters, and Braxton Jones seems to be on the cusp of solidifying that status, as well, as he fights off a push from 10-year veteran Riley Reiff. Jones’ progress appears to have redirected Reiff toward competing with Larry Borom at right tackle.
As for the rest of the rookies, the goal is to identify anyone who can help the Bears in 2023 and beyond.
If late-round selections such as defensive end Dominique Robinson, center Doug Kramer and safety Elijah Hicks aren’t ready now but show enough potential for the future, they will have been smart picks. Even punter Trenton Gill, a seventh-rounder who went No. 255 out of 262, could solve a long-term problem.
None of those developments would have a massive impact on this season, but as the Bears look ahead, it could lay the groundwork for meaningful contributions in the long run.