Shaw Local is counting down the top 25 most important Bears for the 2022 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That’s subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can’t play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
For example, Justin Fields might not be the best player on the Bears in 2022 (or maybe he will be), but he certainly is among the most important.
No. 11 Kyler Gordon
NFL experience: Rookie
Last year’s ranking: N/A
Looking back: Speculation ran wild ahead of the 2022 NFL draft. Would first-year Bears general manager Ryan Poles select a wide receiver with the 39th overall pick, the team’s highest selection? Or an offensive lineman? A defensive tackle? Early on the second day of the draft, he answered the question by selecting cornerback Kyler Gordon out of Washington. Poles later admitted that not in his wildest dreams did he think Gordon would fall to the Bears at No. 39.
Poles recalled a week or two earlier when the Bears front office did a mock draft and Gordon dropped to 39. Poles told his staff to pretend like Gordon wasn’t there.
“We kind of laughed it off and it was like, ‘There’s no way,’” Poles said.
The Bears now find themselves with one of the best cornerbacks in college football. Gordon had two interceptions, seven passes defended and 36 combined tackles last season at Washington, all while teams did their best to avoid throwing near him.
Looking forward: With Gordon and 2020 second-round pick Jaylon Johnson, the Bears have a promising duo at boundary corner. Gordon should slide right into the starting lineup opposite Johnson. While he can play the slot, his focus as a rookie will be playing outside. Having two potentially game-changing corners will make all the difference for this defense. Teams will likely still try to avoid throwing toward Johnson, meaning they’ll attack the rookie. That means there will be opportunities to make plays on the ball.
“He has good ball skills,” defensive backs coach James Rowe said. “And he finds himself in good position enough to be able to look back and locate the quarterback and locate the ball.”
With the addition of Gordon and fellow second-round pick Jaquan Brisker, head coach Matt Eberflus should feel confident about the direction his secondary is trending.
In case you missed it: Previous installments of the top 25
- No. 25: Equanimeous St. Brown
- No. 24: Sam Mustipher
- No. 23: Khalil Herbert
- No. 22: Al-Quadin Muhammad
- No. 21: Cody Whitehair
- No. 20: Khari Blasingame
- No. 19: Justin Jones
- No. 18: Thomas Graham Jr.
- No. 17: Trevis Gipson
- No. 16: Byron Pringle
- No. 15: Nicholas Morrow
- No. 14: Velus Jones Jr.
- No. 13: Teven Jenkins
- No. 12: Jaquan Brisker