According to FiveThirtyEight, the Bears currently have a 6 percent chance to make it to the playoffs for the 2021-22 NFL season.
I use this to say that, while it’s not time to give up on the season when just 8 games have been played, but it is a likely reality that the Bears won’t make a consecutive trip to the postseason. With that in mind, now would be a great time to keep one’s eyes focused on the future and start paying attention to prospects for the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Bears don’t have a first-round pick this year as a result of the trade for Justin Fields, nor do they have a selection in the fourth round for the same reason. With the draft capital they do have, though, they will likely have plenty of different directions they could pursue.
To get an early look at what to expect from this year’s draft, here are my top 100 players on my 2022 big board with the regular season roughly halfway over. In addition to my rankings, I’ll do a brief positional breakdown for some of the Bears’ top needs heading into the offseason.
2022 NFL Draft Big Board 3.0
|2||Kyle Hamilton||SAF||Notre Dame||SAF1|
|4||Derek Stingley Jr.||CB||LSU||CB1|
|7||DeMarvin Leal||DL||Texas A&M||DL1|
|9||Chris Olave||WR||Ohio State||WR1|
|10||Kenyon Green||OG||Texas A&M||OG1|
|11||Garrett Wilson||WR||Ohio State||WR2|
|14||Andrew Booth Jr.||CB||Clemson||CB3|
|16||Charles Cross||OT||Mississippi State||OT2|
|18||Jalen Wydermyer||TE||Texas A&M||TE1|
|19||Matt Corral||QB||Ole Miss||QB2|
|20||Isaiah Spiller||RB||Texas A&M||RB1|
|24||Ikem Ekwonu||OT||NC State||OT4|
|28||Zion Nelson||OT||Miami (FL)||OT5|
|29||John Metchie III||WR||Alabama||WR4|
|30||Zach Harrison||EDGE||Ohio State||EDGE6|
|32||Breece Hall||RB||Iowa State||RB2|
|34||Nicholas Petit-Frere||OT||Ohio State||OT6|
|36||Jahan Dotson||WR||Penn State||WR6|
|39||Nik Bonnito||EDGE||Ohio State||EDGE7|
|41||Dohnovan West||C||Arizona State||C2|
|46||Demani Richardson||SAF||Texas A&M||SAF4|
|48||Trevor Penning||OT||Northern Iowa||OT8|
|51||Kingsbury Enagbare||EDGE||South Carolina||EDGE9|
|53||Jaquan Brisker||SAF||Penn State||SAF5|
|56||Rasheed Walker||OT||Penn State||OT9|
|60||Trey McBride||TE||Colorado State||TE3|
|63||Martin Emerson Jr.||CB||Mississippi State||CB10|
|64||Zion Johnson||OG||Boston College||OG3|
|65||Verone McKinley III||SAF||Oregon||SAF6|
|66||Khalil Shakir||WR||Boise State||WR10|
|67||Sam Howell||QB||North Carolina||QB5|
|69||Bubba Bolden||SAF||Miami (FL)||SAF7|
|72||Sevyn Banks||CB||Ohio State||CB12|
|73||Brandon Smith||LB||Penn State||LB4|
|74||Jermaine Waller||CB||Virginia Tech||CB13|
|76||Isaiah Likely||TE||Coastal Carolina||TE5|
|79||Jaivon Heiligh||WR||Coastal Carolina||WR11|
|80||Kyren Williams||RB||Notre Dame||RB3|
|82||Abraham Lucas||OT||Washington State||OT11|
|84||Zay Flowers||WR||Boston College||WR13|
|85||Kenneth Walker III||RB||Michigan State||RB4|
|86||Jalen Tolbert||WR||South Alabama||WR14|
|87||Henry To'o To'o||LB||Alabama||LB5|
|93||Jarrett Patterson||C||Notre Dame||C4|
|95||Cam Hart||CB||Notre Dame||CB15|
|98||Braxton Jones||OT||Southern Utah||OT12|
|99||Calvin Austin III||WR||Memphis||WR16|
If you try to compare this year’s class of wide receivers to the groups from 2020 and 2021, you may find yourself being pretty disappointed. If you take off the recency-bias lenses, however, you’ll still find plenty of intriguing talents at the position.
Two teammates of Justin Fields — Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson — will likely be long gone by the time the Bears are on the clock, but both Ohio State weapons have a legitimate case to be WR1 in this class. Treylon Burks is a size-speed-strength monster who should see Round 1 looks, as well.
If the Bears plan on taking a receiver Round 2, they should have plenty of dynamic weapons to choose from. John Metchie III is one of the best route runners in the class, Jahan Dotson is a well-rounded dynamo with insane ball skills, and David Bell is a prototypical ‘X’ receiver who blends physicality with a sneaky good route-running arsenal. Drake London dominated box scores at USC this year, but the 6-foot-4 weapon suffered an ankle injury that will cause him to miss at least the rest of the 2021 season.
Round 3 could end up being a great spot for Chicago to find great value at the wide receiver position, too. Should either of them be available, Zay Flowers and Jalen Tolbert both stand out as athletic deep threats, the former offering more upside after the catch and the latter carrying a 6-foot-3 frame. Jameson Williams could parlay his breakout 2021 season into a Day 2 selection in the draft, while such receivers like Wan’Dale Robinson and Calvin Austin III have insane agility after the catch and a high athletic ceiling.
Darnell Mooney is the only wide receiver the Bears have on the active roster who is under contract beyond this season. Whether they re-sign Allen Robinson or not, expect them to look for new receivers to add in this upcoming offseason.
The saying goes that games are won in the trenches, and whether one abides to that philosophy or not, there’s no denying the 2022 draft class has a lot of really fun offensive linemen.
Should the Bears target an offensive tackle, it would be a good class to do so in. Evan Neal is the consensus top lineman in the 2022 draft, while others like Charles Cross, Sean Rhyan, Zion Nelson and Ikem Ekwonu all realistically could be taken Round 1. In terms of Day 2 talents to watch out for, remember athletic tackles like Nicholas Petit-Frere and Trevor Penning, who both use their hands well and can generate push in the run game. Daniel Faalele is a behemoth whose draft stock has arguably fallen farther than it should have, and Braxton Jones is another notable talent as a small-schooler with plus athleticism, raw strength and starting potential.
Along the interior, the most notable names are near first-round locks Tyler Linderbaum and Kenyon Green, the former being a refined Iowa center, and the latter a versatile Texas A&M monster. Though there’s a considerable drop-off after those two, there are still a handful of starting-caliber guards and center. Dohnovan West has proven capable of excelling as both a guard and a center, and while Darian Kinnard has dominated at Kentucky at tackle, his NFL projection likely fits best as a guard. Jarrett Patterson and Ricky Stromberg are two rock-solid centers with limited athletic ceilings but high floors at the next level, too.
The interior offensive line will likely be more of a focus for the Bears, seeing as though they drafted Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom as offensive tackles this past class. There’s a chance one or both of them don’t develop into starters — Borom was a fifth-round pick for a reason — but given James Daniels’ impending free agency and Sam Mustipher’s struggles this year, the interior could be a priority for Chicago in both free agency and the draft.
In such a pass-heavy NFL, cornerbacks have become increasingly important in recent years. Luckily for teams across the league, the 2022 draft appears to be loaded with talented players at the position.
Derek Stingley Jr., Kaiir Elam and Andrew Booth Jr. all figure to be first-round locks, which Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner could realistically find a home on Day 1 come April, too. Though Stingley is still the consensus CB1 in the class, the gap has narrowed significantly over the course of the last few months.
The Bears will likely target a cornerback who projects best as a field-side corner to best complement Jaylon Johnson, and there are plenty of corners who fit that bill this year. Trent McDuffie is a seamless scheme fit in a Sean Desai system and brings impressive athletic tools and a quick processor in zone coverage. Garrett Williams is a smaller, yet scrappy defender with a very high football IQ. Tre’Vius Hodges-Tomlinson is a personal favorite whose high-motored mentality should appease tape grinders everywhere. Keep an eye on Cam Hart as a potential riser up boards, as while he projects best on the boundary, he’s a freakishly long corner with athleticism and ball skills.
Though Johnson has put together a good season overall as the Bears’ lead cornerback, they have struggled significantly otherwise at the position. Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley have both allowed completions on over 70 percent of passes thrown their way, the former of whom allowing a passer rating of 146.0 that marks the third-worst rating for a cornerback in the NFL. The Bears need some new cornerbacks, and luckily for them, they should be able to find plenty in the 2022 draft.
The obvious headliner at safety is Kyle Hamilton — who could be the first safety drafted in the top-5 since Eric Berry in 2010 — but the 2022 class features numerous prospects at the position who could make an impact in the pros.
Brandon Joseph is another player who could end up going Round 1, but should he fall into the second round, the Bears would be wise to target a defensive back as intelligent, aggressive and fluid as he is. Versatility is a calling card for many safeties in this class, as the likes of Daxton Hill, Verone McKinley III and Bubba Bolden all have experience excelling in numerous alignments for their respective defenses, though the latter has two season-ending injuries and a 28-month suspension to his name.
If the Bears want a better tackler at safety, they could look to target a player like Jaquan Brisker, Demani Richardson or Isaiah Pola-Mao, all of whom still possessing ideal athleticism for the back end, too. Jalen Catalon is another intriguing Day 2 prospect as a small, yet feisty and athletic safety with shades of Antoine Winfield Jr. in his game.
Eddie Jackson has fared very well in shutting down opportunities for opposing teams in coverage, but when he’s targeted, he allows completions more often than not, doesn’t turn the ball over at a high rate anymore and is a liability in the run game. Add that to Tashaun Gipson’s struggles and no safety besides Jackson being signed beyond this year, and it would be wise of the Bears to do their homework on some safeties this offseason.