Hub Arkush: Bears go defense on Day 2. Just not the route most expected

Florida defensive lineman Gervon Dexter runs a drill at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, March 2, 2023. The Chicago Bears addressed their shaky defense in the second round of the NFL draft, taking Dexter with the No. 53 pick and Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson three spots later after trading up with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I have never covered a team or met a general manager or top scout who didn’t love the players they drafted with every pick they made – at least for three or four months.

If they didn’t think they were the best options, they wouldn’t have taken them, right?

On Friday, Bears general manager Ryan Poles made three Day 2 selections: Florida defensive tackle Grevon Dexter (53rd) overall, Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (56th) and South Carolina defensive tackle Zacch Pickens (64th). The Bears gave up the 61st pick and a fifth-round choice to Jacksonville in order to move up and draft Stevenson.

It is quite possible that all turn out to be excellent choices.

But, the facts for the moment are none of the team’s newest players are top prospects. None were rated higher or even as high as they were taken on most boards. And, while all have some promising skills and talents, none are finished products and all will be developmental prospects.

Even more concerning, the Bears have now added veteran free agent defensive linemen DeMarcus Walker, Andrew Billings and Rasheem Green with only Walker showing promise to compete for a starting defensive tackle position. Meanwhile, two of their three draft picks Friday were also defensive tackles but neither is ready to start right away.

Another issue: neither are likely to be edge rushers, which is clearly the Bears’ greatest need.

It doesn’t make any of these draft picks bad moves, and I have reported repeatedly this is not a one-year rebuild.

It is concerning to have such a significant need for pass rush and not have addressed it at all heading into the final day of the draft while adding five defensive tackles so far this offseason.

There is good news, too. The Bears’ second greatest need was on the defensive line at tackle. They’ve clearly invested heavily to fix that.

When the Bears chose to pass on Jalen Carter on Thursday, they passed on the best 3-technique in this draft, but I fully understand the concerns that came with Carter.

By using their first Day 2 pick on Dexter they got an accomplished 3-technique with outstanding size at 6-foot-6, 310 pounds, the kind of size, athleticism and coordination head coach Matt Eberflus cherishes in his 3-technique. Dexter’s first step, however, is still underdeveloped, and he is not yet a great pass rusher. He does play the run very well, he can find a place to line up in almost any scheme and his best football is still in front of him.

Stevenson may be the best prospect of the three, potentially ready to start immediately at cornerback or safety. He is 6-0, 210 pounds, has explosive athleticism, is tough and nasty and plays with great physicality and confidence. The only negative on his scouting report is his aggressiveness does cause him to occasionally lose focus on technique and make mistakes in coverage.

With coaching and effort, which he already displays on every down, he could be a special defensive back.

Pickens will need the most work. He has excellent quickness and strength, a solid first step, strong ability and balance and plenty of tools to develop, but he needs coaching and a lot of work on technique.

All of the additions have interesting tools to develop and excellent size, but none are yet anywhere near finished projects.

And, there is a decision that could end up haunting the Bears for the next few years.

Coming into day two my favorite prospect on the board was USC edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu, a first-team All-American last season at USC. He isn’t a finished prospect either, but he can absolutely sack the quarterback. To my great surprise, he was still available when the Bears took Dexter at 53, and was taken by the L.A. Chargers with the very next pick.

Bears fans have to hope that’s not a decision they are talking and thinking about for years to come.

Drafting one developmental prospect after another on day two of the draft is a risky proposition at best, but Poles has earned some trust for now.

The Bears did not have a bad night Friday. It’s just far too early to know or say that they had a good one.

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush was the Senior Bears Analyst for Shaw Local News Network and