Many draft analysts predict that the Chicago Bears will go with a combination of wide receiver/offensive lineman with their first pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Ryan Poles may pull a surprise, however, and go with a tight end with a huge upside.
The 2022 NFL Draft is just three weeks away. Teams like the Chicago Bears are finalizing their big boards searching for prospects who can either help change their fortunes or help continue their groove.
In this draft, the Bears have general manager Ryan Poles running his first draft as the person in charge. He did a very good job with the Kansas City Chiefs but that was when someone else had the final decision. Now he has the final decision.
The Bears have a load of roster spots to fill this offseason. There are more holes in the roster than in a sinking boat. However, the biggest needs that most draft experts agree on are at wide receiver and offensive line.
Poles wants to improve the offensive line so he could put the franchise quarterback, Justin Fields, in a position to succeed. On the same token, he wants to give him targets to throw to so he can make big plays. Other than Darnell Mooney and possibly Byron Pringle, there isn’t much of a receivers corps.
I think Poles will definitely go with an offensive lineman early. He is a former lineman and understands the importance of protecting the quarterback. Also, he understands how previous general managers came in and talked about the line but did nothing to improve the unit. Poles cannot come in with the same act.
Wide receiver is an interesting thing. This draft is loaded with wide receivers. Poles can trade one or two of the picks, acquire more, and get a lineman early and a receiver later.
Where does Poles go then? He can answer the problem with the secondary by going after either a cornerback or safety.
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Remember, though, we don’t know what Poles’ tendencies are. This is the first one he’s running. He could still add a prospect who helps with the receiving, just not a wide receiver.
In comes tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo. He played at Maryland so he’s a Big Ten guy.
Okonkwo opened eyes and turned heads at the NFL Combine. He ran a 4.52-40, which was the fastest in the tight ends group. His time was also faster than 11 wide receivers! Furthermore, he had the second-best vertical leap of all tight ends with 35.5 inches.
The Bears only have Cole Kmet and Jesper Horsted as their tight ends so that is also a big need. Okonkwo could give Chicago a very good unit. Kmet progressed nicely despite playing in a subpar offense. Horsted is a dependable backup who earned Fields’ trust last season.
Okonkwo wasn’t used much by Maryland. He only had 77 career receptions and 52 of them came in 2021. Also, 447 of his 717 career receiving yards came in 2021.
Boy did he make his presence felt at the Combine, though. The impression was so good that he’s racing up teams’ boards, including the Chicago Bears. In fact, Chicago visited with him this week, so he could be on their radar.
Okonkwo is 6-foot-2 and weighs 242 pounds so he has size as well. Add in his athleticism and you have yourself a very good tight end prospect.
Okonkwo gives Fields not only a good red-zone target but also a dependable target in the middle of the field. He’ll take the hit and hold onto the ball and gain some more yards. With his speed, he can break big runs after making the catch and breaking a tackle. Imagine a tight end with breakaway speed.
We talked about Poles wanting players who are tough and resilient. That describes Okonkwo. He missed the 2020 season because of myocarditis but came back in 2021 to have an incredible season. He was the second-leading receiver and tied for the most receiving touchdowns on the team with five.
There are some pressing needs for the Chicago Bears. They might not be able to resist the skills Okonkwo gives them. Without knowing what Poles’ tendencies are, don’t be surprised if he goes with the tight end earlier than most people thought.
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