The Chicago Bears operate like a team that plans to do most of their heavy lifting in the upcoming draft. GM Ryan Poles made that clear from the outset. Even with no 1st round pick, he feels it is essential to establish that mindset from the jump. While not a bad idea, it is a challenging one. Thus far, the team’s work on the offensive side of the ball has underwhelmed in the eyes of many, especially at the wide receiver position.
Justin Fields needs weapons if he’s going to take a step forward in 2022. Outside of Darnell Mooney, the best they’ve managed thus far is Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown. Pringle had a solid season for Kansas City last year but was their # 4 option on offense at best. St. Brown never took off on offense across four seasons in Green Bay and settled into more of a special teams role by the end of his tenure.
Not an inspiring start.
With the lack of action in free agency, the conclusions are easy to draw. Poles hopes to infuse the position come draft time. Not a bad idea. Wide receiver is always a deep position, yielding productive pass-catchers outside the 1st round every year. However, there are rumblings this could be a greater challenge later this month. According to ESPN draft insider Matt Miller, a run is expected to start on receiver early in the top 20. It could be a record-breaking one, given the layout of the board.
“One more note on how the first round could play out: Multiple sources expect four wide receivers to be drafted in the top 20. That’s great news for Drake London, Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams. It is not great news for teams drafting in the 20s that need wideouts. New England (No. 21), Green Bay (Nos. 22 & 28), Dallas (No. 24), Buffalo (No. 25), Tennessee (No. 26), Kansas City (Nos. 29 & 30) and Detroit (No. 32) all have a legitimate need and have been connected to the position in Round 1. Could we see a record eight wide receivers selected in Round 1? ”
Were that to happen, it would set the tone for the remainder of the draft for the Bears. It would become unlikely Poles reaches for a receiver with either of his 2nd round picks. That means a heavier focus on the offensive line, defensive line, and secondary. While an understandable pivot, it would undoubtedly frustrate plenty of fans that felt he should’ve been more aggressive on the veteran receiver market to help Fields.
Chicago Bears must hope the 2022 class depth endures.
Now it isn’t a guarantee eight receivers will actually go in the 1st round. History says at least one or two receiver-needy teams will end up going with a different position. Still, the last time such a run happened at the position was in 2004, when seven players went between picks # 3 and # 31. After that, six more receivers went in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Only two of them, Devery Henderson and Bernard Berrian were any good. Not a single Pro Bowler was selected outside the 1st round that year.
So the Chicago Bears might need a bit of luck if they’re going to have decent options later in this draft. Otherwise, they’ll have to hope an improved offensive line is enough to help Fields take that next step. The wide receiver position will become about 2023 when they have way more money to spend and are back in the 1st round. Another reminder that the draft doesn’t always break the way you hope.
It will be on Poles to handle such issues.
Just don’t expect anything aggressive out of the new GM. He won’t be trading up into the 1st round because of such a possibility. He isn’t in a position to do so with only six picks and has plenty of other needy roster spots to fill.
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