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Chicago Bears May Scouting Report
Richard Fung

New Bears GM Ryan Poles used the 2022 NFL Draft to try to fill as many holes as he could after trading down multiple times, but he left many scratching their heads about why he didn’t do more to address the team’s biggest need. And now, some post-draft news and notes:



On May 1st, the Bears released QB Nick Foles after being unable to trade him. Earlier this month, the Bears signed QB Nathan Peterman to a one-year deal. He’ll be the third-stringer. By all accounts, QB Justin Fields has looked good in OTAs, but everyone looks good in OTAs, right? New OC Luke Getsy’s offense looks like it will have Fields on the move a lot and taking deep shots downfield, so it sounds good, but we’ll see.



In the sixth round, the Bears selected Baylor RB Trestan Ebner. Ebner (5-11 215) brings versatility to the table as the first Baylor player in school history to rack up over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving in his career. He also excelled as a return man with three career kickoff return TDs and one punt return TD, and he was voted all-Big 12 as a return specialist last season. If he makes the team, Ebner would be in the mix as a returner and might get occasional snaps as a third down back who can line up out wide or in the slot as a receiver.


Wide receiver

When the second round started on Day 2 of the draft, most everyone expected the Bears to select a receiver with one of their two second-rounders. Bears fans were immediately dealt a blow when the hated Packers traded up (as I suspected they would) to take North Dakota State’s Christian Watson (the receiver many Bears fans wanted) with the second pick of the round. When the 39th overall pick finally went on the clock, there were still plenty of quality receivers on the board, but Poles decided to select Washington CB Kyler Gordon. When the Bears went on the clock at #48 overall, Georgia’s George Pickens, Cincy’s Alec Pierce, and Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore were all still available, and I was convinced that one of them would be the selection (I was hoping for Pierce or Pickens). Instead, Poles doubled down on the secondary and selected Penn State S Jaquan Brisker. Pickens, Pierce, and Moore were promptly selected back-to-back-to-back a few picks later.


The selections of Gordon and Brisker make sense because they’re both good players by all accounts and are projected to step right in and start in what was an awful secondary last season. More on them later. But what about the glaring need at receiver? By the time the Bears’ third-rounder came around at #71 overall, there wasn’t much left at wideout, but South Florida’s Jalen Tolbert was still there. After the exhaustive research I did on receivers for my report last month, of course Poles went off the board and selected one I did not cover, Tennessee WR Velus Jones Jr. Like everyone else, I said, "Who?" After I saw a few of his highlights on the draft coverage on NFL Network, I did remember seeing him a time or two during his college career at Tennessee, but that was it. As you can imagine, I was not particularly happy with the pick. A 25-year-old rookie with one season of legitimate college production and a limited route tree? Sounds like a reach to me.


So why was Poles so enamored with Jones? Poles didn’t want to make a direct comparison to Deebo Samuel, but when you watch some of Jones’ highlights, you can kinda see it if you look hard enough and have a glass half-full. Velus has blazing speed (4.31 40), and he’s solidly built at 6-0 204, which along with his contact balance and physical mentality help him break more tackles than the average receiver. He’s built like a tailback, and he runs like one. That size/speed/power combo also helps him as a returner (he was named SEC Co-Special teams Player of the Year last season). As a receiver, he put up a career-best 62-807-7 line in 2021, which isn’t particularly impressive on the surface. However, as ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said after the pick, it could also mean that he’s an ascending talent who has started to figure it out. This regime, from Poles to new HC Matt Eberflus to Getsy, targeted Jones with the idea that he can be the Bears’ version of Deebo, a guy who can rack up the YAC on quick throws like slants and score from anywhere on the field.


From a fantasy perspective, it’s hard to predict what Jones is capable of. He has the potential to be Deebo-lite, but he also has the potential to be Cordarrelle Patterson or Percy Harvin, players who are/were better return men than offensive weapons (though the Falcons seemed to unlock Patterson’s potential last season). Jones has a good head on his shoulders and was impressive at rookie minicamp as the coaching staff tries him both inside and outside. Given the lack of quality depth in the receivers room, he should get opportunities. Time will tell if the Bears made a big reach with this pick or if they found a diamond in the rough, but Jones looks like he’ll be a fun player to watch this season.


On May 12th, the team signed WR Dante Pettis and WR Tajae Sharpe to one-year deals, but they’re likely depth signings more than anything. This regime seems to feel better about this receiving corps than everyone else. It looks like WR Darnell Mooney will have to be the #1 in this bunch this season, and then with what will presumably be a top-ten pick next year and loads of salary cap space, the team will try to give Fields some proper weapons then.


Tight end

On May 11th, the Bears claimed TE Rysen John off waivers and waived TE Jesper Horsted with a failed physical designation.


Offensive line

In the fifth round, the Bears selected Southern Utah T Braxton Jones. In the sixth round, the team selected San Diego State T Zachary Thomas and Illinois C Doug Kramer. In the seventh round, Chicago selected Southern University OL Ja’Tyre Carter. Given where they were selected, it’s hard to say anything more than "they could be in the mix" for O-line depth, particularly at the vacant right guard spot. The fact that the Bears waited until the fifth round to address the line could be a vote of confidence for the team’s two second-year tackles T Teven Jenkins and T Larry Borom. Jenkins has lined up on the right with Borom on the left during OTAs. Jenkins is probably better on the right since that’s where he mainly played in college. Most media types seem to be assuming that this O-line is going to be awful because of the inexperience at tackle, but let’s see these guys actually play first. Jenkins only got a cup of coffee last season because of back surgery.


Defense/Special teams

I know that many Bears fans were upset that the team didn’t take a receiver in the second round, and sure, not selecting Pickens/Pierce/Moore may haunt them eventually. But it looks like Chicago got two very good players in Gordon and Brisker. Gordon brings great athleticism and ball skills, and Brisker has solid instincts and is a big hitter. Both have been impressive during OTAs. The secondary looks a heck of a lot better right now. In the fifth round, the Bears selected Miami (OH) DE Dominique Robinson. At 6-5 253, Robinson is an intriguing prospect as a former wide receiver who brings great athleticism and was impressive at the Senior Bowl. In the seventh round, Chicago selected Cal S Elijah Hicks and NC State P Trenton Gill.


Some fans have been wondering why DE Robert Quinn is still a Bear since this team is rebuilding and DE Khalil Mack was already traded months ago. The answer is pretty simple: if he’s traded before June 1st, the Bears would get $4.4 million in cap savings but add $12.7 million in dead cap space. If Quinn is traded after June 1st, that would free up $12.9 million in cap space with a dead cap hit of only $4.2 million. If Poles gets a good enough offer after June 1st, whether it’s close to the start of the regular season or at the trade deadline, he’ll probably make the trade.


More to come next month!



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