What’s the very first thing that comes to mind when you’re asked about Bears rookie general manager Ryan Poles’ first draft?
For me, it was “not what I expected”.
Let’s start with our annual Rite of Spring/NFL warning: You can’t rate this draft until at least the end of the 2023 season and possibly even into 2024.
What kind of NFL players cornerback Kyler Gordon, safety Jaquan Brisker and wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. will be is a work in progress. No more no less.
So where ‘not what I expected’ begins is with the Poles making picks at 39, 48 and 71.
He had indicated a few days before the draft that he hoped to be able to trade as much as possible to acquire more picks.
In a draft that set records for most trades in the first round and a second round that started with three of six picks ahead of the traded Bears, the Poles were either unable or unwilling to play, let’s make a deal.
Then everyone assumed that unless he had huge reach, the Poles would meet his two biggest needs at wide receiver and on the offensive line.
Except for the fact that he made a huge reach for Jones at 71, he did neither.
There are needs everywhere in this football team.
They include safety, where there was no starter to associate with Eddie Jackson, and cornerback, where there was decent competition for the spots across from Jaylon Johnson, but none exciting.
So Gordon and Brisker seem like awesome additions.
But with Priority 1A clearly improving the supporting cast around Justin Fields, the Bears will now go to Day 3 of the draft after doing little or nothing here or in free agency to improve that pursuit.
But if that’s what it takes for a successful rebuild…there was also good news.
The best way to build a championship team is to sign the best player available with every pick you make, and in the case of Gordon and Brisker, it’s entirely possible the Poles did just that.
Francis St. Paul, the Bears Region scout who has done the most work on Gordon, thinks he can be a plug-and-play starter.
“Probably the confidence he has, you will need that confidence to play in this position.
“The movement skill is ready for the NFL, to play inside and outside. But he has to come out and show it.
“How is Coach (Matt) Eberflus, he’s not just going to give it to him. He’s going to have to come out and show it. I think he will.”
When asked what he would like Bears Nation to know about him, Gordon replied, “I’m definitely going to bring a lot of energy. I want you to know that when I come to Soldier Field and I’m there , I just want it to be live and poppin’.
“I just want them to know that I bring the energy and I want them to match it.”
The kid definitely has a Pro Bowl cap and will most likely have the chance to start climbing towards it immediately.
The same goes for Brisker, who regional scout Chris Prescott told us should be really complimentary to Jackson and is tough, versatile and physical with great ball skills, and should arrive ready. for the NFL.
More importantly, nearly every team and analyst I spoke to ahead of the draft shared the Bears’ upside ratings of both players.
Jones, however, is another story. His 4.31 40-yard sprint speed along with his 6-1, 205-pound frame are unique and he won an SEC Special Teams Player of the Year award, but he’s a 25-year-old rookie. and raw as they come.
Think Cordarrelle Patterson, but he’s a long way from getting there, and that’s still a lot more for special teams than Fields.
The downside heading into Day 3 – the receiver and offensive line are still in dire need and the Bears still don’t have a fourth- or seventh-round pick.
But the upside is that they now have one of the youngest and most promising secondaries in the NFL.
All in all, not a bad night’s work, but not quite what we expected and many were hoping for.