It isn’t unusual to predict that an NFL team’s first pick in a particular draft class will become that season’s most impactful rookie. It comes with the territory. First-round picks carry lofty expectations, and if they aren’t the best rookie on their team, they’ve either struggled in their debut season or a later-round pick has stolen the show.
For a team like the Chicago Bears that didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, attention turns to the second-rounder — or, second-rounders — to be the premier performer.
The Athletic predicted every team’s most impactful rookie for the upcoming season, and for the Bears, it was a logical choice: second-round pick, Kyler Gordon.
“Gordon didn’t allow a touchdown in 18 starts at Washington,” Adam Jahns wrote. “He also didn’t commit a penalty in two seasons. For all that and even more, the Bears are getting an immediate upgrade to pair with Johnson in their secondary. Coach Matt Eberflus will make Gordon earn that starting spot, but it shouldn’t take him long to beat out Kindle Vildor and Duke Shelley.”
It’s been difficult to understand why the Bears have received so much criticism for their decision to draft Gordon (and Jaquan Brisker) in the second round. NFL Draft analysts are dinging Chicago’s 2022 draft grade because of General Manager Ryan Poles’ choice to draft a cornerback over a wide receiver, but as Jahns noted, the Bears are getting an immediate upgrade at a critical position.
Before the NFL Draft, the Bears’ starting cornerback opposite Jaylon Johnson was Thomas Graham Jr. Perhaps it would’ve been Kindle Vildor. Duke Shelley? Yep, he was in the mix too. And while Graham has upside, none of the pre-draft contenders come close to what Gordon’s skill set provides.
So, yeah, Gordon is ‘the one.’
As for the rest of the NFC North, The Athletic’s team of writers predicted Aidan Hutchinson will be the Detroit Lions’ most impactful first-year guy, Devonte Wyatt in Green Bay, and the Vikings will get big returns from third-round linebacker, Channing Tindall.