The Chicago Bears were in a strange spot in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Chicago didn’t have a first-round pick, and they didn’t want to give up future draft assets to move up in this year’s draft.
At the same time, the Bears badly needed another playmaker for quarterback Justin Fields.
Chicago waited until the third round to find that playmaker, selecting Tennessee Vols wide receiver Velus Jones with the No. 71 overall pick.
Jones is an extremely interesting selection for the Bears. He wasn’t very productive for his first four years in college (he started his college career at USC, before transferring to Tennessee ahead of the 2020 season).
The Alabama native, however, had a breakout season in 2021. Jones caught 62 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns. He was able to break out this past season thanks to playing under new Vols head coach Josh Heupel, an offensive mastermind who knows how to get the most out of his playmakers (Jones’ previous college coach, Jeremy Pruitt, was a disaster when it came to being a head coach and looking over an offense).
In Jones, the Bears are getting a speedy wide receiver (4.31 in the 40-yard dash) who can stretch the field. He’s also surprisingly effective in the red zone.
ESPN’s Todd McShay is a big fan of the pick for the Bears. In fact, he said the selection of Jones in the third round was his favorite pick for Chicago in this year’s draft.
I love Jones’ upside. He’s a tad under 6-foot and is still refining his route running, but look at his speed and contact balance. He is a threat any time the ball is in his hands, with instincts and elusiveness in the open field and the breakaway speed to take the top off the defense. Jones’ 4.31 in the 40 ranked fourth among all participants at the combine and second among receivers, and he’s built like a running back.
Chicago can get the ball in his hands on quick slants and let him pick up extra yards. They can target him on deep shots. They can get him involved on sweeps. And they can use him in the return game, where he averaged 24.4 yards per kickoff return and 15.1 per punt return during his college career.
Without a first-rounder, Chicago had to get creative, and the upside here is immense.
Jones fell in the draft because of his age (he turns 25 later this month) and his lack of production during his first few years in college.
If you take away those two concerns, it’s possible the Bears got a first-round talent in the third round of the draft.
You can’t ask for a better value pick if you’re a Chicago fan.
Featured image via USA TODAY Sports