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Ranking Bears' 2022 rookies by potential Year 1 impact – Chicago Bears Wire

The Chicago Bears roster has undergone significant changes this offseason under new general manager Ryan Poles, who is building the roster his way. But perhaps his biggest contribution so far is his 2022 NFL draft class (and undrafted free agent class).
The Bears have a number of talented players who are primed to be significant contributors as rookies, including their top selections cornerback Kyler Gordon, safety Jaquan Brisker and wide receiver Velus Jones Jr. But there are some other surprise players who could carve out some nice roles for themselves this season.
Ahead of training camp, we’re ranking the top Bears rookies by their projected impact in 2022.
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Likely Year 1 Role: Reserves
The Bears drafted four offensive linemen on Day 3 of the NFL draft. While fifth-round selection Braxton Jones is a candidate for the starting left tackle job, Zachary Thomas, Doug Kramer and Ja’Tyre Carter aren’t expected to be significant contributors in Year 1. They’re all competing for roster spots as rookies, where the expectation is they’ll make the cut for the final 53. Thomas and Kramer saw some reps with the starters during mandatory minicamp in place of respective starters Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick, an indication they’re competing for backup jobs at left guard and center.
AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo
Likely Year 1 Role: Reserve/special teams contributor
Seventh-round safety Elijah Hicks was the third defensive back selected in the NFL draft. Hicks fell in the draft after breaking his foot ahead of the East-West Shrine Game, and he was limited during the offseason as he continues to get back to 100 percent. Assuming Hicks is healthy, he won’t factor into the starting equation this season, which Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker will occupy. But Hicks has the potential to develop into an impactful free safety down the line. When it comes to locking down reserve roles on a roster, special teams is a huge factor. Hicks will have to impress more than DeAndre Houston-Carson and Dane Cruikshank, safeties who are core special teamers.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Likely Year 1 Role: Reserve/special teams contributor
It was shocking that linebacker Jack Sanborn went undrafted, but the Bears landed a top undrafted free agent with potential to develop into a solid linebacker down the line. There’s not much in terms of depth behind linebackers Roquan Smith and Nicholas Morrow, which gives Sanborn a good chance to make the 53-man roster. Sanborn was a solid downhill linebacker at Wisconsin, and he thrived in the backfield with 16 tackles-for-loss and five sacks last year. But like with Hicks, the key will likely come down to special teams contributions. If Sanborn can prove himself on special teams, he has a great chance to make the final roster and see some reps at linebacker as a rookie.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Likely Year 1 Role: Reserve/special teams contributor
The Bears selected running back Trestan Ebner in the sixth-round, where he has the chance to carve out a role for himself on this roster. Ebner is one of the more intriguing rookies given his versatility on offense, especially as a receiver, and as a return specialist. Given the holes at kick and punt returner, Ebner figures to factor into the equation. He’ll likely compete with free-agent addition Darrynton Evans for that third running back spot behind David Montgomery and Khalil Herbert. But Ebner’s main contributions figure to be on special teams.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Likely Year 1 Role: Reserve/special teams contributor
The Bears are no strangers to drafting a developmental edge rusher in the fifth round, as evidenced by an ascending Trevis Gipson. Dominique Robinson has the potential to become another, especially as Gipson himself noted that Robinson is ahead of where he was a rookie. Robinson is a converted wide receiver, and he’s only been playing defensive end for two years. He has potential to develop into an impact edge rusher for this team down the line. When looking to the 2022 season, Robinson will be part of a defensive line rotation where he’ll see some valuable reps. But he’s not in contention for the starting role opposite Robert Quinn. Robinson will also likely find a role on special teams.
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Likely Year 1 Role: Starter in Week 1
For the first time in a while, the Bears special teams are going to look different. Following the departure of Pat O’Donnell in free agency, Chicago turned to the draft to select Trenton Gill in the seventh round. Gill has a strong leg and has the ability to flip the field. He joins a special teams unit that features mainstays Patrick Scales and Cairo Santos. The Bears will have a new holder this season in Gill, but he’s good at it. Following the release of Ryan Winslow, Gill is now slated to be the team’s starting punter in Week 1.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Likely Year 1 Role: Likely starter in Week 1
There was some shock when offensive tackle Braxton Jones dropped to the fifth round, where the Bears jumped at the chance to select him. There was no denying Jones had the ability to develop into a starter down the line, but it looks like that’s happened sooner than many believed. Jones saw starting reps at left tackle during the final week of organized team activities and mandatory minicamp, an indication the coaching staff has been impressed. Now, Jones is a contender for the starting left tackle job, as the team continues to look at different offensive line combinations.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Likely Year 1 Role: Starter in Week 1
Wide receiver was a huge need for the Bears this offseason, and they drafted just one in Velus Jones Jr. in the third round. Given Darnell Mooney is the only proven commodity at receiver, Jones has a chance to carve out a nice role for himself in Luke Getsy’s offense. Jones figures to serve as Chicago’s WR3 behind Mooney and free-agent addition Byron Pringle. It didn’t took Jones long to impress with his speed and run-after-the-catch ability, which even has Mooney raving about his potential be a legit playmaker in this offense.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Likely Year 1 Role: Starter in Week 1
When all is said and done, safety Jaquan Brisker might wind up being a steal for the Bears in the second round. The team addressed a huge need in the secondary with the addition of Brisker, who is expected to start immediately as a rookie opposite Eddie Jackson. Brisker’s biggest strength is his versatility, as he has experience at strong safety, free safety and in the slot. But he projects as a strong safety for Chicago, which should benefit Jackson greatly. Brisker is a physical safety with a nose for the football, something he’s already flashed during the offseason program.
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Likely Year 1 Role: Starter in Week 1
Cornerback was the defense’s biggest weakness last season, and they addressed it with the addition of Kyler Gordon with their first selection in the second round. Gordon is a versatile cornerback with experience playing on the outside or in the slot. But defensive coordinator Alan Williams said they’re starting him on the outside, where he’s expected to start immediately opposite Jaylon Johnson. Gordon impressed during the offseason program, where he also had a knack for creating turnovers, something this defense needs. Gordon missed the final week of OTAs and mandatory minicamp with a minor, undisclosed injury. But he’s expected to return for training camp, where he all but has that starting job locked down.
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