An ESPN analyst took a public shot at Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles Wednesday for his draft preparation this year. The comments appear to be at odds with what Poles said following Day 1 and Day 2 of the draft. Like every team in the NFL, Poles and the Bears run through simulations of possible draft picks in preparation each season.
ESPN analyst claims the Chicago Bears simulated poorly
Per NBC Sports, Poles said in an interview with Cynthia Ferlund that the Bears were surprised to see Texas Roschon Johnson available at the 115th pick:
“Bears General Manager Ryan Poles told Cynthia Ferlund of NFL Media that his team ran 53 different simulations of the draft before the actual draft took place, and in every single one of those simulations, Johnson was drafted within the first 114 picks.
In the actual 2023 NFL draft, Johnson was still there at No. 115, where the Bears got him. Asked how the Bears got Johnson in the fourth round, Poles answered, “I have no idea.”
One idea is that the running back position has been devalued to such an extent that fewer and fewer teams are willing to take them in the first two days of the draft.”
While many in Chicago are excited about the choice, Bill Barnwell with ESPN saw the interview and blasted Poles with a Twitter Post misspelling Roschon Johnson’s name:
“Choosing to interpret this as “We were really lucky to get Roscon Johnson” and not “We were very bad at simulating the draft” is a very optimistic viewpoint!,” Barnwell wrote.
Choosing to interpret this as "We were really lucky to get Roscon Johnson" and not "We were very bad at simulating the draft" is a very optimistic viewpoint! https://t.co/ZIciB3duWF pic.twitter.com/WY8LkvSTOw— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) May 17, 2023
That post earned Barnwell deserved criticism from Bears fans.
I wasn’t there for Poles’ simulation of the complete draft, but, indeed, Roschon Johnson shouldn’t have been a big surprise to find in the fourth round. Mel Kiper listed Johnson as the tenth-best running back in the 2023 class. Lance Zierlein projected Johnson as a fifth-round running back.
Ryan Poles said the Bears were close to simulating through Day 2
However, Poles’ statements following Days 1 and 2 of the draft indicate Poles was closer than not to the pulse of the 2023 NFL Draft. He said the Bears’ first-round projections, based on analytical data, were “creepy” close to what happened Thursday night. Following Day 2, Poles said the Bears chose to trade up to draft Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson based on simulation and analytical data he had seen during the Bears draft prep:
“We know that [Tyrique Stevenson’s] range was coming up, and we knew that if we stayed still, there was a good chance we weren’t going to get him,” Poles said. “So it allows us to be more savvy, move with confidence to get the players that we want. But yeah, the draft that we have now, obviously, we [simulated] before, which, it’s kinda cool.”
Poles claims, at least through the third round, the draft was following a pattern the Bears were prepared for. It’s possible Poles thought Johnson would be taken early in the fourth round. But Poles is clearly on the record saying his simulation was close to the result up until the beginning of the fourth round.
Not every mock simulation is perfect on every player for seven rounds. The Bears benefited from that when they took projected second-round Cincinnati wide receiver Tyler Scott in the fourth round. Barnwell’s comments appear unnecessary and uninformed. If Barnwell wants to argue Poles reached for Johnson, he might have a case. But unless Barnwell wants to call Poles a liar for his projection statements after Day 2, he should back off on his comments the Bears were terrible in simulating the draft.
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