If Twitter is good for anything, it’s a great source for giving me ideas of what to write about. I read what many fans say and often think, “If they only knew why.” So today’s column is about why the Chicago Bears chose to select two defensive backs in the second round over a wide receiver.
One thing I know for certain, having been in situations like that several times in my career, no decision is made that isn’t extensively thought out and discussed.
Going into the NFL Draft last April, almost every Bears fan felt they would draft a wide receiver with one of those two second-round picks. Obviously, they didn’t, having selected corner Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquon Brisker. It wasn’t until the third round that the Bears finally took a wide receiver.
So why did this happen that happen?
First, no fan knows how the Bears Draft Board was lined up. Clubs spend a good part of April setting up their Draft Board from top to bottom, and it’s imperative that a team follow their board. When a club doesn’t do that and drafts for need, it will end up haunting them down the road.
The Bears may have gone into the Draft thinking they would select a receiver with one of those second picks, but that isn’t how the Draft fell. Were there good receivers on the board when the Bears selected Gordon? Of course, but we don’t know where those receivers were lined up on their board compared to Gordon. A team cannot take a lower-rated player when they are on the clock. Let me explain how that works.
When a Board is lined up, it’s according to grade, and there may be a group of players with the same grade. As an example, I’ll spotlight the grading system the Bears used when I was the Scouting Director.
At the top of the second round, we usually looked at players we had rated with an (A 6.7) grade. If there are four or five players with the same grade, then we can take a player at a need position because we are not dropping down in value to make the selection, if that is what we choose to do. If there was perhaps a player still on the board with an (A 6.8), there is not even a discussion; that player has to be selected as he is rated a level higher than the other prospects.
Following the Draft, the Bears said that they had Gordon rated as a top-round talent, so I would think that his grade was higher than any of the receivers remaining on their board. It’s really that simple.
When the Bears went to make their second selection later in the second round, there is no doubt that the same situation happened. Now there could be some differences, and again I’ll explain.
When going through the exercise of putting a Board together, each player is talked about thoroughly. As I said above, if the grades are the same, a club can take a need player if they choose. The difference is this. While lining up the board, and when there are players with the same grade, they are stacked according to preference or priority; in other words, if there is Players A, B, and C there, it was discussed during the Draft meeting who they would take first second or third of that group. On Draft Day, that discussion would have been held again.
Besides discussion, they will also look at the strength of the board at certain positions. In the Bears' case, the secondary was an obvious need based on how poorly the group played in 2021. Yes, wide receiver was a need also, but the way the board was set up, there was much more depth at wide receiver than at safety or corner. It was a known fact that a club could select a receiver who would contribute as late as the bottom of the third round or top of the fourth. The secondary did not have the depth of the wide receiver position in the 2022 Draft.
On Draft Day, the General Manager has final say on who is selected, but he won’t force a pick, and the Head Coach and Scouting Director are all going to be on the same page with making the pick. There is no question in my mind that Ryan Poles, Matt Eberflus, and Ian Cunningham were all in agreement.
Some critics say that Poles didn’t do enough to help Justin Fields. I don’t totally agree with that because nothing helps a quarterback more than a strong defense. If your opponent has difficulty scoring, that makes a quarterback's job that much easier.
Poles also brought in four wide receivers via free agency and trade. Granted, not all of those moves have worked out as hoped, but we still have ten games to go this season. I was a big fan of the Byron Pringle signing, having watched him extensively while he was with Kansas City. Pringle was very durable at KC but has been injured for much of his short time here. There is still plenty of time for him to contribute this season.
The same holds true for N’Keal Harry. Harry got hurt in pre-season and is just now rounding back into shape. He played over 40 snaps Monday night, and I’m sure we will see him used more in the passing game as the season progresses.
Last, I understand how fans get discouraged because the moves they were hoping the Bears would make did not happen. I can assure you that there is a plan in place. This new regime has the time and patience to carry that plan through. Now the Bears need the fan base to jump on board.