This is a Braxton Jones Appreciation Post
Chicago Bears left tackle Braxton Jones was a unicorn of sorts.
A fifth-round pick (168th overall) in 2022, Jones went from Day 3 pick to a 17-game starter who didn’t miss a single snap for the Chicago Bears. With a strong performance backed by Pro Football Focus’ data and a spot on the PFWA’s all-rookie team on his résumé, no wonder The Athletic’s 2022 draft re-do has Jones going in the first round with the 19th overall pick.
And here’s why the 168th player taken last year would go in the top-20 if it were to go down again this year:
Jones, per Pro Football Focus, was the best run-blocking rookie tackle in the NFL last season. A fifth-round pick (No. 168) by Ryan Poles and the Bears, Jones — with an assist from Chicago O-line coach Chris Morgan — was able to leap through his roller-coaster phase and let his terrific athleticism take over. As a 17-game starter with room to grow, he’s another player who looks like a steal.
The Athletic subtly paying Jones a high compliment is a nice way to wrap up a Friday.
The compliments don’t get much better than being seen as a first-round caliber player in a re-draft less than 365 days after going as a fifth-round pick. That simple acknowledgment truly puts into perspective how far Jones has come as a player in just one season. Think about it. At this time last year, Jones wasn’t even on our radar. Heck, he wasn’t even a member of the Bears.
It’s been a journey for Jones to get here. Even when he joined the team as a fifth-round pick, we saw him as a developmental project. Someone whose path to starting could look similar to Charles Leno Jr. when he was a seventh-rounder in 2014. And even with that path laid out in front of us, Jones *STILL* surpassed those expectations. Yep in mind that Leno played six games (made one start) as a rookie. And that was as an extra tackle in a jumbo front on the first snap of the game. Jones made 17 starts … at left tackle … as a rookie … while not missing a single snap. That is impressive as heck. So let’s take a moment to let that sink in and appreciate some stability coming to a position that didn’t have it at this time last year.
OK, so Jones might be switching positions in 2023, but that isn’t a knock on him. If the Bears think they can upgrade at left tackle with a fresh body from the draft and upgrade the other tackle spot by sliding Jones to the other side, then Chicago’s offensive line will be better for it. Isn’t that what we ultimately want at the end of the day? Jones could still end up as Chicago’s long-term left tackle. That would be just fine with me, by the way. Especially if he builds on his rookie year and stays on an upward trajectory.
I’ll admit re-drafts make me roll my eyes. But sometimes they are fun to look back on given time and space. And even then, sometimes it isn’t good for the soul to look back. Frankly, the Jones blurb helps me feel better about the state of the offensive line. It almost makes me want to check out more re-drafts.
In the end, Jones was a late-round steal. One that GM Ryan Poles and his staff should be proud of when looking back. And, hey, maybe it should give Bears fans hope that they can do it again in 13 days when the 2023 NFL Draft begins.