Spiraling balls go through Chicago Bears wide receivers hands, fans hold their collective breath as Justin FIelds holds his chest while being helped off the field as the next image on their TV screen —this is the team general manager Ryan Poles inherited this offseason.
Poles talked a big game leading into the 2022 NFL Draft, but failed to make significant changes to the offense at quality positions in the early rounds of the draft. Not entirely off-the-wall decision making, but just the standard sort of moves that get general managers eventually canned.
No trades were made by the Bears until the third day of the draft. Poles seemed to take the draft board Friday like a bumbling intern making their first decision after railing against the status quo—stone-faced fear to make a bold call for fear of failing. All of the mock sims in the world couldn’t prepare Poles for the second day of the draft.
The Bears had their highest two picks in the second round, and Poles spent them on the secondary. Poles chose cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker (with the pick from the Khalil Mack trade) over the glaring needs at wide receiver and offensive line.
He offered no red meat for a fan base starving in want of a functioning offense, instead bringing berries from the woods, thistles in tact.
He waited in the third round before setting his appetite on a 24-year-old (the same age as A.J. Brown, traded from the Tennessee Titans to the Philadelphia Eagles in the last year of his rookie contract) wide receiver, Velus Jones Jr., predominately a kick returner during his six seasons college.
Post Friday’s press conference, Poles, quickly becoming a Yogi Berra figure, claimed there were still offensive linemen available, if not in the draft, in the streets, as if he thinks there’s some 6-foot-5, 314-pound free agent about to waddle up Michigan Ave.
Poles bothered to move back starting in round five, gaining extra 6th and 7th round talent. He went after a mix of positions including the offensive line (after seeing the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions take defensive linemen with their first-round picks) with the bravado of a 20-year-old who just discovered the margin feature on Robinhood. Poles likened the Bears to a remodel vs a rebuild, but this seems like he replaced outdated furnishings with the clearance rack at IKEA.
Poles can claim these moves were to stay disciplined, but they’re the sort of moves scouting rooms who aren’t sure of themselves make, failing to target quality players at a high value, and instead, they have to play a numbers game, hoping a few of these guys make the cut.
While it’s entirely possible some of those offensive picks will be gems, it doesn’t appear to be a safe bet.
Put it another way, is anyone but the opposition really excited to watch the Bears offense play after this draft?
The second-round picks in retrospect will likely be solid, but they undermined the mission Poles needs to be successful at his job. He needs to develop the player the Bears have invested the capital in that put the Bears in the spot where they didn’t have many picks coming into the draft.
Those two players will not fix the fact the Bears averaged 18.3 points per game in 2021. Fields is going to need an offensive line to give him time to throw to receivers who can run routes (reports on Jones say he struggles with this) and catch his passes. Poles has acknowledged Fields needs that help.
Poles has hinted that moves will be made in the future, via trades or other methods to help the young quarterback. After how he played up the draft following a boring free agency, that hope seems hollow.
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