The Chicago Bears entered NFL Draft weekend with six picks and countless needs. And while they didn’t plug every hole, making 11 picks during the draft helped first-year GM Ryan Poles chip away at his roster-building challenge. We’ll meet the Bears’ 11 draft picks, get to know a bit about their past, and where they project to go moving forward.
BRAXTON JONES (ROUND 5, PICK 168)
• Position: Offensive lineman
• College: Southern Utah
• Height, weight, hand size, arm length: 6-5, 310 pounds, 10 1/4″ hands, 35 7/8″ arms
NEED TO KNOW
• Accomplishments: First-team All-Big Sky (2020, 2021), Third-team All-Big Sky (2019)
• Position ranking: 13 (ESPN), 14th (WalterFootball.com)
• The Athletic’s consensus ranking based on 82 big boards: 134th overall, 12th offensive tackle
RELATIVE ATHLETIC SCORE
Relative Athletic Score grades player measurements on a 0-10 scale and compares them to their contemporaries. It is a unique way to give some of these prospects some more depth and perspective.
Braxton Jones was drafted with pick 168 of round 5 in the 2022 draft class. He scored a 8.44 RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 191 out of 1218 OT from 1987 to 2022. https://t.co/BkCAxM0RrC #RAS #Bears pic.twitter.com/EmjrTAhMym
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 30, 2022
THREE STRENGTHS (FROM NFL.COM’s DRAFT PROFILE)
• “Enticing overall size and length.” … Jones has what is traditionally seen as good size for an offensive tackle. Not just in terms of size and weight, but those arms measuring 35 3/8″ are ideal.
• “Outside hand is firm.” … This just sounds like the kind of trait a worthwhile offensive lineman possesses.
• “Drives through play-side hand to secure move block.” … Aren’t offensive line descriptors fun?
THREE WEAKNESSES (FROM NFL.COM’S DRAFT PROFILE)
• “Inaccurate hand placement in run game.” … New OL Coach Chris Morgan has some work to do with the Day 3 pick
• “Can’t generate lower-body anger as drive blocker.” … The best offensive linemen are angry blockers, so I’d like to see Jones develop an edge at some point.
• “Needs to eliminate his outside-in pass-setting approach.” … Another area where perhaps coaching can play a key role.
NFL.COM COMPARISON: Yodny Cajuste
WHERE HE FITS
Reserve offensive lineman who might be best suited using his rookie season in essentially a redshirt developmental role. But, ultimately, a swing tackle with the potential to be a starter if development hits the highest percentiles.
There is an argument to be made that Ryan Pace’s best draft was his 2016 haul. What’s notable about that haul — and relevant to our conversation regarding Braxton Jones — is that the Bears took a volume approach to Day 3. Chicago chose Deon Bush and Deiondre’ Hall in Round 4, then came back to select DeAndre Houston-Carson in Round 6. Getting multiple bites at the apple by drafting drafting a position of need sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The result of triple-dipping at the position was the Bears getting two core special teams players who showed they can start in a pinch. I imagine that is the hope with the Bears’ volume approach in 2022.
Fast forward to the present, where Ryan Poles’ first draft saw him take multiple swings at a position group needing help by drafting four offensive linemen. The idea here is obviously to take as many chances as you can to see if your coaching staff can develop a young player into a useful pice of this Bears roster puzzle. For this team, Braxton Jones could very well be to the offensive line what someone like Bush or Houston-Carson was to the secondary. Being a Day 3 pick means Jones will start with humble beginnings. But as was the case with Bush and Houston-Carson, there will be ample opportunity for Jones to prove himself worthy of more reps if he is up to his tasks as a rookie.
If Jones needs inspiration, all he has to do is look at Charles Leno Jr.’s path with this same franchise. Leno was a seventh-round pick in 2014 after a collegiate career at Boise State where he performed at a high level against his contemporaries at a non-power conference school. What began with Leno playing 29 offensive snaps in six games (one start) as a rookie would eventually take Leno on a journey in which he grew into a six-year starter at left tackle, 2018 Pro Bowler, and a player who missed one offensive snap between 2016 and 2020.
This isn’t to say Jones is the next Leno. But the pick is giving me Leno vibes. The Bears’ selection of a player with desirable size and traits to be a long-term fixture at left tackle is a calculated gamble, but the juice could be worth the squeeze. Moreover, it is the type of risk this team needs to be taking right now. Throw stuff at the wall, see what sticks. Put the onus on your coaches and show then you’re a believer in their teaching methodology by handing them a clay mold and see what they can build with it.
Volume plays in late rounds give better odds of paying out than taking one swing at a time. Chicago parlaying this pick into a starting offensive tackle is a long shot, but it is one that pans that has a history of panning out from time to time.