Improved Bears, Tired Broadcast: Reflections on the 2023 NFL Draft

| May 1st, 2023

It wasn’t a particularly interesting draft for the Bears, content-wise. They had lots of picks, and lots of needs. They used those picks to address those needs. Simple as that.

But we’ll start with our club.

  • The Bears clearly have two elements required to be a successful franchise: an identity and a plan. They want to be fast and athletic (who doesn’t?) but they also want to be tough. They drafted a whole bunch of tough guys this weekend. Ryan Poles is not going to be swayed by popular perception. He stands pat, he trusts his evaluations, he makes his picks. It’s refreshing to see.
  • As of now, the offensive line looks to be Braxton Jones – Teven Jenkins – Cody Whitehair – Nate Davis – Darnell Wright. Thoughts on this:
    • While many, including myself, wanted to see the Bears select a center, it is quite understandable that they didn’t see the position as a priority. Offensive lines need SOME veteran leadership and outside of Whitehair, the average age on the rest of this line is 24.
    • The offensive line was poor last year, outside of Jones and Jenkins. Ryan Poles has replaced the other three positions.
    • Lucas Patrick and Larry Borom can now fill their appropriate roles, with the former as swing depth inside and the latter as swing depth outside.
  • The Bears were manhandled in the middle of their defensive line throughout the 2022 season. Look at the size they have added inside:
    • Andrew Billings is 6’1, 311
    • Rasheem Green is 6’4, 279
    • Demarcus Walker is 6’4, 280
    • Gervon Dexter is 6’6, 312
    • Zacch Pickens is 6’4, 300
  • There is no reason to get overexcited about day three selections, but running backs tend to be the exception. And the Bears are wild about Roschon Johnson. Don’t be surprised if they give this kid an opportunity to be their starting running back.
  • Tyler Scott is a speed addition, protection for Velus Jones’ struggles in 2022. Does this mean Velus’ roster spot is tenuous? It might. If Scott shows he can steal those jet sweeps and go routes, while also contributing on specials, Velus could find himself looking for a home this summer.
  • The Bears are improved on both lines, hypothetically. If the hypothesis becomes fact, they’ll be playing meaningful football in December.

As for the rest of the league…

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Amateur Analysis Has Clouded, Confused the Draft (and Everything Else)

| April 24th, 2023

It is called Letterboxd, and I was unaware of it until very recently. Letterboxd is a website/app that enables individuals to catalogue all the films they have seen and review each. And as movie critic bylines are disappearing in newspapers around the country, and reliable sources for movie opinions with them, Letterboxd is actually starting to assert some influence in the industry. Without these critics, and reliable box office reports, studios are looking to Letterboxd to crowdsource film response.

But Letterboxd is truly a product of the social media era, a period that has intellectually enriched the intellectually impoverished. All you need is a viable email address and suddenly you have the right to dispute Adam Jahns’ reporting on Twitter, criticize Steve Martin’s banjo playing on Facebook and take umbrage with Paige Spiranac’s commercial viability on Instagram. You’ve never had a source in the NFL. You’ve never owned a banjo. You’re broke. But these platforms provide you equitable status, even though that status is entirely unearned. If HacksawRidgeFan232 wants to criticize Rear Window on Letterboxd, who’s to stop him?

A very similar thing is happening with regards to the NFL Draft.

Yes, there are some very talented evaluators working out there in the Draft Industrial Complex. Dane Brugler’s “The Beast” is a marvel of craftmanship and a testament to Brugler’s passion and diligence. Robert K. Schmitz isn’t working for a major outlet, but it’s only a matter of time. He’s sort of the anti-Beast, establishing with short Twitter videos a pointedly economic methodology for presenting prospects. And Lance Zierlein is a personal favorite. He’s created what essentially serves as a Draftopedia Brittanica, a resource at NFL.com that I wear out in the month of April.

When it comes to evaluations, these individuals do yeoman’s work. But when it comes to the establishment of draft value, their opinions don’t really hold water.

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Who the “Experts” Have the Bears Taking at Nine (With My Prediction!)

| April 21st, 2023

There is no question that Ryan Poles prefers not to make a selection at nine. But operating under the assumption he’ll have no other choice, here is a survey of who folks out there believe he’ll take.

  • Peter Schrager at NFL.com: Christian Gonzalez. “This strong, smart, speedy corner out of Oregon (via Colorado) is a gamer. The Bears have so many needs, and snagging a top cover man with the ninth overall choice makes them better tomorrow.”
  • Charles McDonald, Yahoo: Peter Skoronski.
  • Mel Kiper, ESPN: Peter Skoronski. “I’ve gone back and forth on which offensive lineman the Bears will take here, but Skoronski is the best on my board (No. 8 overall), even though I like him a little more as a guard…Chicago needs a right tackle, which is why I projected Darnell Wright here in my two-round mock. I’d be confident in Skoronski’s ability to learn the position.”
  • Ryan Wilson, CBS: Paris Johnson Jr. “… since this draft class is deeper at EDGE than OT, Chicago takes Paris Johnson Jr. here. He played LT last season at Ohio State and was the RG during the ’21 season. Protecting Justin Fields is Priority No. 1, and they can circle back at pick No. 53 (or even 61) to get that pass rusher.”
  • Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA Today: Paris Johnson Jr.
  • Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger, PFF: Paris Johnson Jr. “Unless Jalen Carter is still on the board, the Bears should pivot back to offense with their first pick and reunite Fields with tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who allowed a 4.4% pressure rate on true pass sets in 2022, good for 20th in the FBS despite it being his first year starting at left tackle. Johnson played right tackle in 2021, which is where Chicago has its biggest hole along the offensive line. The Bears also deploy the popularized outside-zone-based rushing attack, and Johnson’s 85.5 run-blocking grade on outside-zone runs in 2022 ranked sixth among FBS tackles.”
  • WalterFootball: Darnell Wright. “Darnell Wright didn’t allow a single sack to Hendon Hooker last year.” (Side note: Don’t click that link unless you want to ruin your phone/computer. WalterFootball is the reason I’ll never let ads overwhelm this site. What’s the point? He’s rendered his site unnavigable for a few bucks.)
  • Justin Melo, Draft Network: TRADE! Darnell Wright (at 17 overall).
  • Ryan McCrystal, Sharp Football Analysis: Broderick Jones.
  • Unattributed, Tankathon: Paris Johnson Jr.
  • Danny Kelly, The Ringer: Jalen Carter. “Carter’s slight fall stops at no. 9, giving the Bears a high-upside building block for their interior defensive line. The former Georgia star brings three-down potential as a pocket-collapsing pass rusher and difference-making run defender.”
  • Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News (which I was thrilled to find out still exists): Peter Skoronski. “Skoronski, who had a great Combine from his running through his smooth positional drills, can deliver as their immediate starting left tackle with his smooth quickness and athleticism on the edge.”
  • Seth Trachtman, YardBarker: Paris Johnson Jr.

So, it seems there is a general consensus around the world of the Draft Industrial Complex that the Bears are going to find a starter for their offensive line with this pick.  I agree. The Bears showed us the team they want to be on offense in 2022. They want to maul opponents with their rushing attack and utilizing the passing game off that run. But when the run game wasn’t dominant, the passing game was nonexistent. That’s because they couldn’t protect their quarterback on obvious passing downs.

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