The completion of the Chicago Bears’ 2022 draft class marks a key moment in the franchise’s history, as it consists of the first tangible imprints that new hires Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus have had on the franchise.
Though it is obviously far too early to pass judgment on the players themselves, there is still a variety of substance in the duo’s approach for us to draw some early conclusions.
With that said, here are a handful of early impressions from the first draft class of the new era.
Poles favors best player available
The most important conclusion of them all is Ryan Poles’ draft approach.
With the Bears’ needs obviously being on the offensive side of the ball first, Poles’ selecting two defensive backs with his first two picks demonstrated his commitment to the best player available approach, which - as the name suggests - involves drafting the best player on the board regardless of need.
Will it prove brutal in the short-term? Probably. But the Bears are not going to be successful in the short-term. So the correct and best approach is the one that Poles is following. Take the best player available, and over time, all position groups will be filled out with elite talent.
Though some believe that will leave much to be desired offensively, that couldn’t be further from the truth, in large part due to my second conclusion.
Poles believes Justin Fields’ biggest benefit will be Coaching
With all the talk about the lack of talent surrounding Justin Fields, one message became far more clear than the rest: Ryan Poles doesn’t view the Bears’ current offensive talent in the same manner that the fans do. For all we know, Poles might view Darnell Mooney as a #1 receiver. Personally, I don’t, and the majority of fans likely agree with my thinking, but Poles’ perspective wouldn’t be so outrageous to the point where it would massively burden Justin Fields.
If that is the case, he was likely looking for a solid #2 receiver to complement Mooney. That guy would be Velus Jones Jr., who - at the very least - has the speed to do so.
But in prioritizing defense, Poles also made another message clear: he believes Justin Fields’ development will primarily come due to coaching.
Obviously, in this stage of a quarterback’s career, it would be foolish to hinder his development with lack of pieces around him. But in Poles’ eyes, he views the upgrade from Matt Nagy to Luke Getsy as a play-caller as being great enough to take the Bears from the worst offense in football to league average.
Honestly, I think he is right. When watching the Bears last year, I didn’t look at the offensive line and think it was downright atrocious. They were more than capable of holding their own, particularly under center. They just required some help from their play-caller to put themselves in position to succeed. Getsy’s wide zone running scheme with derived outside zone and bootleg concepts meshes well with the Bears’ offensive line strengths.
Now, if Getsy can add just a little bit of creativity to his receiving sets, that will limit the Bears’ lack of receiver talent.
In totality, all of these things will aid Justin Fields tremendously and far more than any second-round receiver could.
Poles plans to play a defensive style of football… at least for now
It pains me to say this, but doubling down on defense in the draft leads me to believe that Ryan Poles plans on winning games via a good running game, great defense, and playing the field position game.
As much as I just praised Luke Getsy’s presumptive scheme and how much it will benefit Justin Fields (and as a result, the Bears’ offense), I still feel that - at absolute best - the Bears will be league average offensively. So yet again, us fans will be subjected to a Bears’ team that is stuck playing in the past while the rest of the league continues to evolve.
But that should change in the future. Like I mentioned, Poles prioritizing defense now likely means that he’ll prioritize offense once he gets that boatload of cap space and a first round pick back next offseason, at which point he will really be able to add talent to the offense.
For this year, though, I’d expect more 17-14 games. Hopefully this year, it won’t be nearly as exhausting and soul-sucking.
Bears fans, I understand why many of you are frustrated with Poles’ apparent mindset. We got a new shiny toy in Justin Fields that flashed some big-time talent last season, and you want to build upon that talent by putting him in the best possible situation for success. That’s perfectly understandable!
But reaching for offensive talent just to help a young quarterback thrive is not always the best approach. After all, last time we did that, our offense looked like one of the worst in the league. Now, that was largely due to Matt Nagy’s horrific scheme, but it does not discount the fact that Anthony Miller and Adam Shaheen were busts and that Allen Robinson did little to turn Mitchell Trubisky into the franchise quarterback we hoped he would become.
With that said, take solace in the fact that - if nothing else - Poles has analyzed the Bears’ past shortcomings and appears to be righting their respective wrongs. Will it pay off in the long-run? Who knows. But right now, it looks to be a path untraveled, and one that could lead to glory.