Grading 2022 Bears Rookies at End of Season

The Chicago Bears’s 2022 campaign has not necessarily gone the way the fans or players would’ve liked to in terms of winning. Most of the year has been dedicated to watching Justin Fields develop and prove himself as a quarterback, and prove himself has he. Fields has established himself as a dual-threat quarterback, and additional skill position players and offensive linemen would certainly help him out as the Bears currently will enter the offseason with the 2nd overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Ryan Poles sure has a lot of work to do in order to help build around Fields. Certainly, if it weren’t for Poles drafting how he did this year, the Bears wouldn’t be half of what they are without them. Let’s take a look at the Bears 2022 rookie draft class.
Kyler Gordon – CB – Washington – Rd. 2 Pk. 39
The Bears filled an obvious need for a day-one starter at the cornerback position after being thin at the position in recent years. For being a higher-drafted rookie and playing on of the “less-talented” teams in the NFL, Gordon has lived up to the hype for the Chicago Bears so far. After Week 15’s loss to the Eagles, Gordon has tallied up 59 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Those are good numbers for a first-year player playing on a defense that has traded away its two best players halfway through the season. As long as Gordon can stay healthy, I see no reason as to why he cannot be a starting cornerback for the Bears for a long time. Grade: B
Jaquan Brisker – S – Penn State – Rd. 2 Pk. 48
Similar to Kyler Gordon, the Bears filled in a much-needed vacancy at the safety position by drafting and starting Jaquan Brisker. Brisker came into Chicago with high expectations and certainly has shown why he should’ve been taken earlier. Some might consider him a first-round talent as long as he continues playing how he has been. So far in 2022, Brisker has recorded 78 combined tackles, 3 sacks and an interception; solid numbers again for a first-year player in a below-average defense. Aside from his high level of play, Brisker has also proven to be a young and vocal leader in the locker room, qualities that Eddie Jackson surely could have helped develop. Brisker, like Gordon, can become a dominant safety for the Bears for a long time assuming he stays healthy. Grade: A-
Velus Jones Jr. – WR – Tennessee – Rd. 3 Pk. 71
Despite being drafted one year after quarterback Justin Fields, Bears rookie WR Velus Jones Jr. is almost 2 full years older than his quarterback. That made many analysts concerned about how long Jones Jr. would play for and if his age was a factor. The perks, Jones Jr. is fast. A natural-born speedster, Jones Jr. was deemed to have been able to go on day 3 of the draft, but was instead drafted on the second night. Nonetheless, Jones Jr. has gotten some action, and he has been below average at best. So far in his 2022 campaign, Jones Jr. has recorded only 4 catches for 27 yards and a score. For being a WR that was taken so early, those numbers do not match the expectation given. And it’s not even that Jones Jr. hasn’t had the prettiest numbers, the main problem with his play has been fumbling the ball on 3 separate occasions when the game seems to be on the line. All 3 of those fumbles were lost and really demoralizing. His 2022 play has not been one to get excited about. Assuming he doesn’t get cut early, Jones Jr. will have a lot to prove next year if he wants to live up to the hype of an NFL WR. Grade: D+
Braxton Jones – OT- Southern Utah – Rd. 5 Pk. 168
Braxton Jones was drafted to help add depth to an abysmal Bears offensive line. The Bears would not like Justin Fields to get sacked so frequently, so addressing the position was a no-brainer. Many analysts, myself included, thought Jones would play so snaps if another player got hurt or if “garbage time” occurred. No one thought that he would be a day-one starter. But kudos to Jones, who, after being named a late-round, rookie starter against the pass rush of Nick Bosa and the 49ers, held his ground and has done so time and time again. The Bears certainly found a cheap and reliable offensive lineman, and his future in Chicago will be as bright as he makes it. Grade: A
Dominique Robinson – DE- Miami (OH) – Rd. 5 Pk. 174
Robinson has played with a positive attitude all season and is a really personable teammate to be around in the locker room. Starting 5 games and playing in all 14 so far, Robinson has been effective in what he has been asked to do totaling 28 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 2 pass deflections. Robinson has been ready when his number has been called, and it’s proof of his hard work on and off the field. If Robinson continues to do well when asked, his role could increase on this football team in the coming years and could become a true Monster of the Midway. Grade: B-
Trestan Ebner – RB- Baylor – Rd. 6 Pk. 203
Ebner started the year as RB3 behind dynamic duo David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert, but when Khalil Herbert was placed on IR, Ebner’s role was quick to increase. Although he has limited action this year, the time in which he has played has been about average this year. For Ebner, it’s still too early to tell what his role will be moving forward depending on what Montgomery’s future with the Bears looks like. Ebner seems to be living up to the hype of a backup running back right now based on stats, but, again, it is still too early to tell. Grade: C
Elijah Hicks – S- California – Rd. 7 Pk. 254
Similar to Ebner, Hicks has only played in a small sampling of minutes, so it’s challenging to grade him, but there are still notes to make regarding Hicks. Hicks has 14 total tackles in 6 games this year. He was most prominent in this year’s game against the Jets where the Bears secondary got razor-thin and his number was called a lot where he totaled 6 tackles. Again, it is too early to tell too much about the California alum, but so far, Hicks has made some plays, and blown other coverages. Grade: C-
Trenton Gill – P- NC State – Rd. 7 Pk. 255
Trenton Gill has looked to be a reliable punter for the Bears after being 1 of 4 punters drafted this past year. Averaging 46.3 with a long of 62 and 14 have landed inside the 20, Gill’s statistics have been in the lower half of the league. It’s still early in his career, so the stats should be taken with light consideration as a 2nd full season should be enough to fully evaluate him. He had a blocked punt against the Dolphins that some might argue was the difference maker in that loss. Gill, like Pat O’Donnell, is reliable, and if his statistics improve, he could be punting the ball away for a long time Grade: B
Jack Sanborn – LB – Wisconsin – UDFA
Jack Sanborn has filled in the shoes of Roquan Smith almost just as well statistically, but for a lot less money. Had Roquan Smith not been traded, it’s very likely I would not be writing this as Sanborn would not have had any playing time. But Smith was traded, increasing the need to fill the vacancy of the All-Pro Linebacker. Insert Wisconsin undrafted rookie free agent Jack Sanborn. Sanborn has started 6 games and played in all 14, tallying up 64 tackles, 2 sacks, and an almost interception that was taken away from a penalty against the Lions. Nonetheless, the Bears found a cheap and reliable, but probably also, temporary fix for Roquan Smith. Sanborn has showed up and played his heart out so far, and if he continues to do so, there is no doubt that he can be a member of the Bears for a while. Of course, though, we will see what the offseason brings. Grade: A
Jaylon Jones – CB- Ole Miss- UDFA
Another UDFA the Bears brought in that ended up playing meaningful minutes. Jones has limited action this year, and is still adapting to the style of an NFL-type game. Right now , Jones is playing mostly due to a lack of players in the secondary. It’s tough to tell right now, but Jones’s future with the Bears could be short as he was brought on to help fill in vacancies when needed. If he shows up and plays at an extreme level the remaining 3 games, he might be evaluated with more praise. But for now, Jones is here simply to help the Bears finish out the season. In that time, he has played average for the most part with 33 tackles this season. Grade: C
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