Much has been made of the ages of the Chicago Bears’ NFL Draft class. Third-round pick Velus Jones Jr. turns 25 this month. Second-rounder Jaquan Brisker is 23, as are sixth-round picks Doug Kramer and Zachary Thomas. Braxton Jones? 23. See a trend?
Depending on who you ask, drafting older rookies is a slippery slope. There’s a school of thought that suggests college prospects who breakout late in their careers at an advanced age have an inherently lower ceiling than younger players entering the league. And by the time these older rookies reach the end of their first contract, big-money second contracts are riskier because they’re two or even three years older than the average player landing a huge deal.
The Bears don’t see it that way. In fact, General Manager Ryan Poles thinks there’s a benefit for a team in the midst of a rebuild to add players who are a bit more… mature.
“I think for where we are as a team, it actually probably benefits us just to have more mature, game-ready, pro-ready players that are a little bit more experienced and mature,” Poles told ChicagoBears.com’s Larry Mayer. “They’ve gone through some things. They’re a little bit more dependable, reliable, both on and off the field. So, I think that will benefit us for where we are. In terms of balancing, I think the draft alone will get back to where it was and the age curve will come back to what was normal.”
Chicago Bears draft class enjoyed an extra year of development
COVID-19 impacted college football beyond just the games lost in 2020. It afforded players an extra year of eligibility. It also produced a 2022 draft class that was ‘older’ than the average draft year, and the Bears happened to target several prospects who had that extra trip around the sun.
“They got another opportunity to show their talent and to improve and develop, which is exciting for them, and really presented these opportunities to be drafted by us,” Poles said. “Obviously, with COVID it increased the volume of players that were a little bit older. We thought it was a good idea just to bring in good football players and not get too caught up and move guys back because they were a year older than some of the other prospects.”
This whole age thing has been pretty baffling. Would Jones have had a better pro projection if he was drafted last year? Would the 23-year-old draft picks be more appealing if they were 22? It doesn’t make any sense to me, and as Poles suggested, good football players are good football players, regardless of their age.
The Bears aren’t in a position to be picky. The roster simply needs more talent, even if that talent is like wide receiver Byron Pringle, who made his first trek through free agency at 28 years old. As long as Poles’ additions pan out, no one will care about what’s printed on their birth certificate. Instead, their contribution toward winning football games will reign supreme.
Successful draft classes usually result in half of the draft picks panning out. The NFL is a meritocracy; players are either good enough to enjoy long careers or they aren’t. We’ll find out soon enough if the Bears’ mature 2022 draft class is, in fact, good enough.