The Chicago Bears added a wide receiver on day two of the 2022 NFL Draft with the selection of Tennessee’s do-it-all weapon, Velus Jones Jr. It was expected that General Manager Ryan Poles would pull the trigger on a pass-catcher early in the draft and while Jones is, in theory, that guy, questions remain whether he was the correct choice for the Bears.
Chicago’s current wide receiver depth chart includes Darnell Mooney and a bunch of players with a lot to prove. Free-agent signings Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown and David Moore are far from sure things. None of them have been regular starters in the NFL, yet all three are in the mix to play a significant role for Offensive Coordinator Luke Getsy in 2022.
Naturally, the pressure’s on Poles to upgrade the wide receiver room in this draft. He had an opportunity to snag one of the year’s top wideout prospects in the second round – at both No. 39 and 48 – but chose instead to select Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon and Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker. Both players are quality prospects and both will likely start as rookies this fall. But here are the wide receivers who were undrafted and available to the Bears at the time: George Pickens (Georgia), Alec Pierce (Cincinnati) and Skyy Moore (Western Michigan).
Pickens, Pierce and Moore all had higher pre-draft grades from The Draft Network than Jones, and TDN wasn’t alone in that assessment. Jones was almost universally considered an early-day-three prospect; not a top-75 pick. It’s safe to say the soon-to-be 25-year-old was a surprise choice, but it doesn’t mean he was the wrong pick, or that Poles applied the wrong strategy to his first three picks as Chicago’s general manager.
The first thing that jumps out about Jones’ game is speed. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and his field speed is just as electric. Jones’ skill set has been compared to Deebo Samuel and while that’s a bit rich for my taste, it doesn’t take long to see why he reminds analysts of the 49ers superstar.
Jones isn’t just a fast guy. He’s a well-built 6-foot and 204 pounds. His compact frame and play strength helps him break tackles and flip the field, something the Bears don’t have on the roster. At least, none of the players Chicago signed in free agency have proven they can do it consistently.
Yes, Jones is an older rookie. He’ll be 28 years old before he hits unrestricted free agency. But at a time when wide receiver contracts are out of control, the odds of keeping one beyond their first contract have worsened. The Bears can take advantage of Jones’ prime years on a rookie deal. Seems like an overall win for the team.
Had the Bears decided to take one of the bigger-named wide receivers in the second round, it would have been at the expense of either Gordon or Brisker. Perhaps both players would’ve been drafted before Chicago picked again at No. 48. Then what? Poles would be getting criticized for not addressing the secondary or allocating resources to the defense.
Now, with two starters added in the secondary and a wide receiver who will make plays right away as a rookie, the Bears’ strategic approach to wait until the third round for a pass-catcher is aging well.