LAKE FOREST – In his first draft in charge of the team, new Bears general manager Ryan Poles kept the focus at defensive back early on.
The Bears selected Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon with the 39th overall pick and took Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker with the 48th overall pick. The Bears definitely needed help in the secondary, but it was somewhat of a surprise to see them use both their second-round picks on defensive backs.
With their third-round pick, the Bears took Tennessee wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. with the 71st overall pick.
“Anytime you hit that trifecta of these players improving different areas of your organization, you’re excited about that,” Poles said.
Bears select Gordon with 39th overall pick
Gordon was disappointed in his 4.52 40-yard dash time at the NFL Scouting Combine, but it may have allowed him to slip down to the Bears at No. 39.
“When we watched him on tape and he ran that time, the 4.52, we kind of got a little excited,” Bears scout Francis Saint Paul said Friday at Halas Hall. “We were like, ‘Uh oh, we may have a chance now.’”
Gordon was the sixth cornerback taken in the draft and the second in Friday’s second round. Gordon believes his tape says more than his 40 time.
“In football, you’re constantly moving all the time, so I’m not really worried about the speed,” Gordon said. “You see it on the tape.”
He grew up participating in competitive dance and martial arts, which he believes helped him with his body control. At 5-foot-11, 194 pounds, Gordon isn’t the biggest of defensive backs, but he possesses the athletic traits that NFL scouts drool over.
Gordon was primarily an outside cornerback in college, but he did line up in the slot at times. He had a breakout season as a redshirt junior in 2021, when he started 12 games and totaled 46 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defended. His performance earned him first-team All-Pac 12 honors.
The Bears could potentially now pair Gordon with 2020 second-round pick Jaylon Johnson in the starting cornerback spots. Cornerbacks Kindle Vildor and Thomas Graham Jr. saw playing time last season, but neither is a sure thing for a starting job. Adding Gordon to the mix gives the team a solid stable of young cornerbacks.
Gordon will go down as the first player Poles ever drafted. The Bears didn’t have a first-round pick Thursday night. In all his pre-draft preparation, Poles assumed Gordon wouldn’t be available when the 39th pick came around. He was pleasantly surprised Friday.
“There was actually one time we ran it through [a simulation] and he was there and we said just ignore him,” Poles said. “Just act like it’s not there. So, when it actually happened it was a really cool moment.”
Bears take Brisker with 48th overall pick
At safety, Brisker also fills a need for the Bears, who must find a starting safety to play alongside veteran Eddie Jackson. Though the team signed free agent Dane Cruikshank, Cruikshank is not a guaranteed starter. Brisker should compete for a starting spot.
Brisker was a two-year starter at Penn State and a second-team All-American last season. In three years at Penn State, he had five interceptions and 19 passes defended. A Pittsburgh native, he played two years at Lackawanna Community College (Pennsylvania) before transferring to Penn State.
“Me going through junior college helped me a lot,” Brisker said. “It just helped me be more mature, it helped me see where I’m at.”
It eventually landed him at Penn State, his dream school.
Bears scout Chris Prescott said Brisker “brings the physical side of the game that we like.” Prescott said Brisker really impressed the Bears when he visited the facility. Brisker felt an instant connection with Bears safeties coach Andre Curtis.
“We watched film and there’s a lot of things that he corrected me on,” Brisker said. “I learned so fast. I’m like, he could be my coach. We had a great conversation. It’s crazy.”
Now, he is Brisker’s coach.
“One of those attributes you look for in players is can he make big plays in big moments?” Poles said. “And he showed that over and over in his career.”
Bears draft Jones at 71 overall
Jones was the first offensive player the Bears selected this year. He was a significant part of the Tennessee offense last season and was the SEC co-special teams player of the year (along with Alabama’s Jameson Williams). He led the SEC in kick return yards in both 2020 and 2021.
As a receiver, Jones caught 62 passes for 807 yards and seven touchdowns in 2021. He played two years at Tennessee after transferring from USC. Earlier in his career, he was never heavily involved in USC’s offense, but he was a second-team All-Pac 12 kick returner in 2019.
The Bears needed a receiver badly in this draft. Jones is not super tall at 5-foot-11, but at 204 pounds, he’s thick for his height. He ran a 4.31 40-yard dash at the combine. He will give quarterback Justin Fields more speed to throw the football to.
He joins a wide receiver group that includes Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown and Byron Pringle, among others.
“You can do different things with him,” Poles said. “You can put him in different areas. Backfield. Slot. Run cool plays with him. Misdirections. And again, that’s a pain for a defense. Not only on game day, but to prepare for.”
A lot of NFL teams asked him about his age – he turns 25 on May 11. Jones said he’s not concerned about “the age thing” because his injury history is clean and he knows he can play. He’s also pumped to play alongside Fields.
“A great leader,” Jones said of Fields. “Seeing what he’s accomplished throughout his career – he doesn’t have a ceiling on him. A true talent, and I just can’t wait to receive balls from him.”