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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
Alyssa Barbieri

Bears rookie draft class ranked among best by ESPN

Bears GM Ryan Poles’ first rookie class played key roles during the 2022 season. Headlined by second-round selections Kyler Gordon and Jaquan Brisker, Poles found some impact players who could develop into foundational pieces down the line.

Chicago’s best draft picks were Brisker, Gordon and fifth-round left tackle Braxton Jones. All three started from Day 1 and played a key role at their respective positions. Brisker was easily Poles’ best draft pick of the bunch, leading the team with four sacks and had the second-most tackles (104). He also served as the perfect complement to Eddie Jackson, who thrived in his return to free safety.

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Gordon had a rough start to his rookie season, but he improved as the season went on. He played both outside and in the slot, which is a lot to ask from a rookie. Jones was one of the highest-graded rookies by PFF, and he was the only Bears player to play every snap during the 2022 season.

ESPN ranked all 32 rookie draft classes following the 2022 season, and it’s not a surprise to see Chicago land inside the top-10 at No. 8. After all, Chicago saw significant impacts from rookies last season.

The Bears used two second-round picks on defensive backs in the 2022 draft, and those were their major rookie contributors. But the Bears also had a lot of minor contributions from useful rookies, with six different players falling between three and 10 total points on the season.

The Seahawks, Jets, Chiefs, Titans, Texans, Jaguars and Lions ranked just ahead of Chicago.

But the Bears saw contributions outside of just draft picks. Chicago had several undrafted rookies who saw significant playing time, including most notably linebacker Jack Sanborn.

Sanborn stepped in as a starter following Roquan Smith’s departure, and Sanborn established himself as a potential long-term starter. Cornerbacks Jaylon Jones and Josh Blackwell also got their opportunities when injuries hit the secondary.

No one relied on rookies more than the Bears.

“We lead the league in rookie snaps by almost 1,000,” Poles said. “That’s going to pay off for us in the long run. Those guys if they’re starters, the game is going to slow down for them. If they end up being rotational players or backup, when their number is called, they’re going to have game experience and be able to be successful through that.”

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