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The Ryan Poles Decision Weighing Down Bears Rebuild

By Gene Chamberlain,


Analysis: Bears GM had the right idea but didn't follow through on it, and now the Bears could be caught in a draft pinch.

One really must wonder now whether Bears GM Ryan Poles regrets trading that first pick of Round 2 for Chase Claypool.

This is nothing against Claypool, who could very well turn out to be a fine addition to the Bears offense. His first attempt at this last season didn't work out but extenuating circumstances of a mid-season trade and not being on the field with Justin Fields enough due to injuries are legitimate reasons to believe something more could still be accomplished this season.

Poles obviously didn't know at the time it would be the first pick in Round 2, just that it could be relatively early. The Bears were 3-5 then and their defense appeared unable to stop anyone when it mattered even with Roquan Smith in the lineup. Then he was traded and the roof collapsed. They lost 10 straight.

Having back that first pick of Round 2 could mean so much to the Bears at this moment because of how their draft situation has developed with the trade for DJ Moore. It's the key to their draft at the moment.

With Moore acquired in the trade down from No. 1, the need for Claypool wouldn't have been as great. They could always have targeted a receiver to complement Darnell Mooney and Moore. DJ Chark and Odell Beckham Jr. are still unsigned 10 days after the negotiating period.

Those players would have cost more but it would have only been for a year on a short-term deal until they could add a younger threat in the draft. They had the money for the one-year quick fix, anyway.

The receiver situation isn't the point, though. The defensive line is.

Defensive Tackles Surging

They're currently looking at a draft situation where the best available and one of their top needs could be offensive tackle.

Paris Johnson Jr. wowed everyone at his pro day. Peter Skoronski looks like a guy who will get it done, even if a team decides to play him at guard because of his shorter arms. What's wrong with guard anyway? Nothing. Quenton Nelson is a dominant blocker playing guard, has made five straight Pro Bowls. Skoronski could be that sort of player.

Anyway, the Bears taking an offensive lineman would be fine and help out Justin Fields except for their pressing need at edge rusher and at defensive tackle, the three technique.

There's always Round 2, right?

They have two second-round picks and a third right at the start of Round 3.

The problem is the two defensive tackles who could be real fits for the Bears in this draft had combines so good they went shooting up mock drafts across the land.

Neither Pittsburgh's Calijah Kancey nor Northwestern's Adetomiwa Adebawore were being talked about before the Senior Bowl as an early second-round pick but now both are being mock-drafted into the first round.

Pro Football Focus' latest mock had Kancey going at No. 29 to the Steelers and Adebawore to the Eagles at No. 30 in Round 1 after they lost Javon Hargrave in free agency.

Mel Kiper's latest mock for ESPN had Adebawore going at No. 26 to Dallas and Kancey to the Eagles at No. 30.'s Daniel Jeremiah hasn't quite caught the Adebawore fever yet but has Kancey shooting all the way up to 18th and being taken by the Lions.

The obvious attraction is their speed near the ball and quarterback. Kancey ran 4.69 and Adebawore 4.49, times you might expect from linebackers.

If you're thinking Round 2 for the defensive tackle after the tackle in Round 1 for the Bears, the crop just isn't deep enough for an impact player with special skills after those two. NFL Draft Bible rates Wisconsin's Keeanu Benton as next best at defensive tackle after Kancey and according to their big board the Bears would even have trouble pulling him in with their 53rd pick. They have Benton rated 47th, and this is a player scouting analyst Lance Zierlein said has: "Very limited tackle window and will primarily be an A-gap finisher; slow-moving train once inside pocket as a rusher."

The Bears had assistant director of college scouting Breck Ackley on hand at Wisconsin pro day Thursday, looking at Benton among others.

Take an Edge First

The biggest problem they had on defense last year was they had no defense. They couldn't stop the run and they couldn't rush the passer. The three technique is only part of the improvement they need.

When you had six sacks total from four defensive ends last year and two of those guys are gone, yeah, you better draft defensive ends.

Picking No. 8 could let them take one of the better edge rushers, although Alabama's Will Anderson Jr. would be gone by then. In that case, they don't get the right tackle who can dominate from Day 1.

They could always get an edge rusher in Round 2, right? projected the Bears getting edge Felix Anudike-Uzomah at No. 53, the Kansas State pass rusher. He's definitely not a household word, although NFL Draft Bible calls him the seventh-best edge rusher in the draft. In Trevor Sikkema's PFF mock, he said the Bears wouldn't even get a chance at Anudike-Uzomah and would need to settle for Derick Hall from Auburn, a player NFLDB says is the 14th best edge player.

The names aren't as important as the fact all of these are players well down draft boards in ability compared to Bears options in early Round 1 like Texas Tech's Tyree Wilson, Iowa's Alex Van Ness and Clemson's Myles Murphy.

The Lesson Learned

None of this is to diminish the abilities of the players they'd need to get in Round 2, it's just to point out they're settling for someone far lower in ability on defense by taking a tackle first.

Meanwhile, what if they take an edge player first?

Tackle Jaeyln Duncan of Maryland could be there in Round 2 for the Bears at No. 53. No one has talked much about him since he had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl.

The bottom line is they are forced into trading off and taking a player graded by many as lower because they don't have the 32nd pick in the draft like they would have if Poles had kept his pick.

They lost all the games after the made the trade last year, anyway.

So unless Claypool turns into the next DK Metcalf, it would appear Poles made a trade that cost them the chance to really address two key needs.

Nor is the point here to label Poles a bad GM who doesn't have the right idea of how to build a team. Rather, it's just the opposite.

Poles is the one who told everyone this team must be built through the draft. He's always talking about being patient, and after free agency's first signings he stressed the rebuild doesn't all come in one year.

Yet, he was the one whose judgment was to give up the draft pick and take the quick-fix receiver when they could have found one comparable in free agency or next year's draft, or even this year's draft even if it was only for a year.

The lesson learned for Poles as he goes forward is very simple: Stick to your guns. Covet draft picks. Use free agency judiciously. Avoid trades for players and take picks instead.

The trade he made for DJ Moore was the good kind of deal because it was made for the draft picks and the receiver was only player involved. He could have just as easily have been a third first-round pick.

Poles was more right about how to build this team than even he apparently believed. His inability to follow his own doctrine, in this case, is what could make that rebuild take a little longer.

Now they might need to give up one of those second-round picks to move up into late Round 1 or early Round 2 in order to get the second player they really need in this draft.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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