Hub Arkush: Still work to be done, but 2023 draft shows Bears have solid rebuilding plan

Lack of edge rushers remains a concern

Chicago Bears head coach Matt Eberflus (left) talks with general manager Ryan Poles before an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Jan. 8, 2023, in Chicago.

There is really no one grade we can give the Bears for their 2023 draft class except an incomplete.

There is absolutely no meaningful evidence on a pro football field to confirm that the Bears have either succeeded or failed with any of the 10 players they drafted. There won’t be until at least halfway though the ‘23 season when we’ve seen these young men play and can actually evaluate and grade their performances.

In fact, that is true of all 32 NFL teams across the country with fans impatient and beyond anxious to see their favorite teams improved.

There are, however, meaningful questions we can ask and observable decisions to parse in order to determine whether or not the Bears have a good plan. Are they sticking to it and executing it effectively to give them the best chance to turn this draft into the success Bears fans are hoping for?

I can tell you I like what I’ve seen so far.

Listening to general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus since the 2022 season ended, it is obvious they understand a complete rebuild is required and that it can’t be done properly in one offseason or completed, most likely, in less than at least three.

Poles appears committed to focusing on drafting players who are the best athletes and have the best size, strength and speed.

One thing that is true about every one of the 10 players the Bears picked last weekend is that each and every one graded very high in all four of those areas. Also, every one of them was a very good college player but an unfinished product with substantial room to grow with the right coaching and the necessary work ethic.

Check the scouting reports of all 10 players and you’ll find a full list of workaholics.

Lastly, not the only other requirement but one of the most important to Eberflus is what he calls the HITS principle. If you study the scouting reports of all their picks, what you’ll notice is, regardless of position, every one seeks out and appears to love contact.

Here is something else I really like about what Poles has done so far: For the past three months it feels like we’ve heard nothing except this draft has to be about acquiring players to make Justin Fields a better quarterback. Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with getting Fields help, but it’s not how you run a draft, and Poles didn’t.

Right tackle Darnell Wright (10th overall pick), running back Roschon Johnson (115th) and wide receiver Tyler Scott (133rd) could provide Fields some real help, but seven of the 10 players the Bears drafted are defensive players. They are unlikely to have anything to do with improving the performance of Fields but, hopefully, will have a huge impact on improving the second-worst run defense in the league after allowing 2,674 yards on the ground.

I know, we’re almost done, and I still haven’t given you a word about how good the 10 newest Bears are going to be and how much they’ll improve the team this year.

Here are a few educated guesses.

All winter and spring you’ve been hearing the Bears had to improve the offensive line, but most folks you were listening to were looking in the wrong direction. Almost every analyst you read had them taking a left tackle when they still have Braxton Jones, who was a first-team All-Rookie performer last season in spite of being drafted in the fifth round and is only going to get better this year.

Wright was somewhere between third and sixth among tackles on most draft boards, but he is the best pure right-tackle prospect in this draft and an excellent choice at No. 10. He is massive, athletic and truly nasty on the field, and he fits the Bears’ greatest need on offense. I love the pick.

Defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson, both second-round picks, very well could be starters before the season ends. Johnson is a 219-pound beast in short-yardage situations and an excellent blocker and receiver who will contribute early. And Scott now is the fastest player on the team.

We won’t know until the end of the 2024 season how the Bears did in this draft, and I can’t ignore my disappointment they couldn’t find a single edge rusher – their roster’s clear greatest need.

I can, however, tell you they have an extremely solid plan, and they executed it very impressively in this draft.

Hub Arkush is the senior Bears analyst for Shaw Media and

Hub Arkush

Hub Arkush

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