General manager Ryan Poles faced a brutal task when he took over the Chicago Bears. Ryan Pace not only left behind an overloaded roster of older players and inflated contracts, but also just five picks in the 2022 draft. There was almost no room for improvement. That left the Poles with a difficult decision. He could keep the status quo with the current core and make the best of what he had, or he could hit the reset button and start gathering resources. He chose the latter. Several key veterans were traded or fired. Through a series of moves, the Poles were able to clear future cap space and secure a few additional draft picks.
Despite not having a first round pick, the Bears went from five picks in the 2022 draft to 11. The Poles didn’t have a lot of quality, so he went with quantity. In the end, it seems that he did better than expected. ESPN’s Aaron Schatz and Alex Vigderman compiled data on which NFL teams had the most productive rookie classes this season. To their surprise, the Bears slipped to eighth out of their top 10. What makes it even more impressive is that they were the only ones to accomplish that feat without a first-round pick.
That should give fans a lot of hope.
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The Bears used two second-round picks at defensive backs in the 2022 draft, and those were their top rookie contributors. But the Bears also had plenty of minor contributions from useful rookies, with six different players dropping between three and 10 point totals on the season.
Kyler Gordon started 14 games at cornerback, but his graphics metrics were problematic; SIS has him at 11.1 yards allowed per target. Safety Jaquan Brisker came off much better, allowing just 6.2 yards per target plus four sacks as a blitzer. Undrafted cornerback Jaylon Jones also contributed, starting four games and allowing 7.5 yards per target.
Fifth-round pick Braxton Jones started the entire season at left tackle and did about as well as you’d expect from a fifth-round rookie, near the bottom of the league with a 3.6% blown block rate. and 12 catches allowed.
The Chicago Bears are in a much better place now.
The Poles went from having no top-38 picks last year to having the No. 1 overall pick in 2023. You can turn that into even more picks if you decide to switch in the coming months. It’s a great opportunity to add top-tier talent to this roster. If Poles could find solid collaborators with what he had last year, there’s no telling how much better he could do this April. That’s why so many Bears fans are excited. They feel like this offseason could be the start of something special. It all comes down to making the right assessments.
Previous GMs complained at those times. Pace took Mitch Trubisky with the #2 pick in 2017. Jerry Angelo took Cedric Benson with the #4 pick in 2005. Those misses helped close out what should have been championship windows. The Chicago Bears are at the opening once again. The Poles can push them through. This is what he’s been up to since he took office. That 2022 draft class was a sign that he might finally be the one to turn his fortunes around. The only thing left is to prove it.