Former Bears All-Pro Criticizes Chicago’s 1st-Round Draft Strategy

Rome Odunze, Bears

Getty Wide receiver Rome Odunze of the Chicago Bears.

It is hard to argue that the Chicago Bears didn’t have an excellent night in the first round of the NFL draft by criticizing the two players they landed. The only potentially legitimate way is to be critical of the position(s) the franchise didn’t address.

That was the path that former Bears All-Pro offensive lineman Olin Kreutz chose when he took issue with the team’s decision not to select a left tackle with so many talented ones still on the board at pick No. 9.

Braxton Jones emerged as one of the winners from the #Bears Round 1 bonanza.

‘I like (Rome) Odunze. He’s awesome. But I don’t know how you don’t take the left tackle with the problems they’ve had.’

Exploring the flip side of things with @Olin_Kreutz.

“I like [Rome] Odunze. He’s awesome,” Kreutz told Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune on Friday, April 26. “But I don’t know how you don’t take the left tackle with the problems they’ve had.”

Braxton Jones Among ‘Winners’ After Bears Finish 1st Round of NFL Draft

Braxton Jones RT Swap

GettyLeft tackle Braxton Jones of the Chicago Bears.

Biggs referred to current left tackle Braxton Jones as among the “winners” of Chicago’s first round, as he will now presumably remain in his position for the third consecutive season, barring some unforeseen development.

The Bears selected the now 25-year-old Jones in the fifth round (No. 168 overall) out of Southern Utah in the 2022 draft. Jones has started all 28 games he has played in his career at left tackle, including 17 as a rookie. He missed six contests due to injury last season.

While Kreutz was critical of Chicago due to their decision not to draft a replacement for Jones, it is hard to argue that has hasn’t been a bargain at the position. While Jones may never be elite, he was an above-average player in 2023 based on advanced metrics.

Pro Football Focus (PFF) ranked Jones the 35th-best offensive tackle in the NFL last season out of 81 players who saw enough snaps to qualify at the position. He surrendered just 2 sacks and was responsible for 9 penalties across 724 snaps played (715 at left tackle), according to PFF. However, Jones did allow 32 total pressures, though his pass-blocking grade was his highest among all categories.

The only offensive lineman on Chicago’s roster last year who ranked higher at his position was guard Teven Jenkins.

Jones is entering the third season of a four-year rookie deal that pays him just shy of $4 million total. Coupled with his performance, Jones unquestionably represents value at one of the most expensive spots on rosters across the league.

Bears Dubbed Winners of NFL Draft After Landing Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze

Rome Odunze, Bears

GettyWide receiver Rome Odunze of the Chicago Bears.

Along with the offensive line, the Bears also chose to forego an upgrade on the edge of the defense, despite multiple quality pass rushers available with the 9th overall pick. That said, most national draft analysts dubbed the organization among the big winners of the draft’s opening night.

“How could the Bears not be in the ‘winners’ section? … [Caleb] Williams will be an upgrade on Justin Fields as a passer from day one. He’s so smooth, so savvy, so talented. And he has playmakers around him,” Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN wrote. “Then the Bears landed Odunze, the No. 4 player on my board, at No. 9, to add to their explosive offense. … They nailed these early picks.”

And Kiper was far from the only writer with effusive praise for Chicago.

“It was impossible to name just one winner here, so I’m handing out Ws to everyone involved in the Bears’ first round,” Steven Ruiz of The Ringer wrote. “The Bears, as an organization, are obviously the big winners of the night.”

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