Chicago Bears NFL Draft

Here’s why Bears GM Ryan Poles went with defense over a wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft

The Chicago Bears’ 2022 offseason storylines have focused on quarterback Justin Fields. The second-year passer has to take the next step in his game like all young quarterbacks entering year two, and the consensus opinion heading into free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft was that the Bears would do whatever was necessary to help him take that leap in development.

Free agency came and went without much investment in Fields or the offense. Center Lucas Patrick was signed to strengthen the Bears up front, and wide receivers Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, and David Moore were added on one-year deals. None of them represent significant upgrades at the position and feel more like quality depth.

Naturally, frustration has been brewing within the fanbase. But the 2022 NFL draft provided hope, hope that Poles would take that first big swing and draft a first-round wide receiver destined to fall into the second round. And it appeared like that was going to happen when Georgia’s George Pickens and Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce were both on the board when Chicago’s pick at No. 39 was on the clock.

Poles had other plans. He chose cornerback Kyler Gordon at No. 39, and even with a second crack at adding a quality wide receiver with the 48th pick, Poles stuck to the defensive theme and selected Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker.

The immediate reaction to the picks was predictable. Bears fans took to Twitter with some… rough messaging. But after a few deep breaths and a good night’s sleep, it became obvious that Poles made the right choices; he applied the right strategy. On Saturday, he explained that strategy in depth.

“It comes down to the board and where guys are valued,” Poles said Saturday via The Athletic. “And … where we sat, there were two good starting-level defensive players, and I would have made a huge mistake for this organization to say, ‘Let’s leave them there; let someone else take them,’ and we’re going to go to offense where they’re not on the same level. And then you’re kicking yourself a year or two later when that guy’s an All-Pro.”

Stick to the board. It’s an old saying in scouting that Poles applied on day two. And if his evaluations of Gordon and Brisker are correct, Bears fans will be happy he did. We won’t really know if Poles was right for some time. There’s a chance one or both of the wide receivers he could’ve drafted gets off to a hot start and creates some immediate remorse. But it takes time and patience to fairly evaluate a draft class.

“In scouting, we say it takes three years,” Poles said. “I’d like to know tomorrow, but it’ll take a year or two just to see who develops, who jumps out real quick, who takes a little bit of time. So it’ll take a little bit of time. I don’t know that I have a specific number that I want to hit to make sure. I hope they all do, but we’ll see how it goes.”

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