After trading down three times in the fifth round to acquire additional draft picks, the Bears on Saturday selected Southern Utah tackle Braxton Jones at No. 168.
Jones, 23, appeared in 34 games over five seasons for the Thunderbirds. The 6-7, 310-pounder was named first-team all-Big Sky each of the last two years, starting all six games during Southern Utah's 2021 spring season and all 11 last fall.
"What I love about Braxton is how they talked about him at the school," said Bears area scout David Williams. "His head coach at the time, Demario Warren, his offensive line coach, they highlighted his football intelligence. He was a two-time team captain. Sitting down and talking to him, he's very relatable. He's a nice kid. He's not going to come in here thinking he's got a big ego that he's made it. He's just looking for that next step to grow. He's got those type of intangibles that we're really excited about."
Jones revealed during a video call that he spoke with the Bears twice during the pre-draft process, but they were interested in arranging a third meeting.
"I talked to the Bears at the Senior Bowl and at the Combine like everyone else does," Jones said. "But the Bears called my agent earlier this week—which was a surprise—and they asked for a private workout here in Salt Lake."
Jones obliged, going out to dinner with assistant line coach Austin King Sunday night before spending 30-45 minutes working out for King Monday morning.
"It was just kind of simple drills, not very taxing or anything, nothing crazy," Jones said. "Simple, inside-zone drills, wide-zone drills, a little bit of flexibility. And then we did some pass pro stuff and then just kind of tested my reaction time.
"I think they just needed to see me actually move and be able to move in space. My athleticism, maybe they weren't totally sold on it yet. For me to come out there on slight short notice and just do my thing, I think they saw that in me. Having dinner with coach King as well went well, and just being able to talk and talk ball, too."
Jones is confident that he's ready to contend for a starting job with the Bears.
"I feel like I'm fairly ready, honestly, to definitely compete," he said. "That's my thing I do is compete all day. Obviously, there might be a little bit of tweaks and some technique that I need to fix immediately and strength things as well, but that will come quickly.
"I'm excited to be able to come in and make an impact, and I think I'm a guy who's going to be able to develop well and make an impact in his first year. I'm very coachable, and I'm just ready to learn and get better."
Williams agrees that Jones could be in the mix for a starting job as a rookie.
"He has the talent to compete for a position, for sure," Williams said. "He's got the bend, he's got the footwork, he has the pre-requisite length and frame that you look for in a tackle. He's played left tackle but has some versatility in what he can do."
Williams considers Jones' strengths to be his broad frame and long arms.
"He's got 35-inch arms and just having a moldable frame and also his bend, his lower body, his footwork, his bend, I think those translate pretty well.
"From spring to the fall, I thought you saw a jump in his body composition. I thought he really, really dropped his body-fat percentage. His weight was consistent, but it was more just functional weight for his movement. I thought he got tested early on in the year against San Jose State Week 1 and Arizona State Week 2. That was important for us to see. There were a lot of scouts at that Arizona State game."
The Bears were also impressed with how well Jones fared at the Senior Bowl.
"That Senior Bowl was huge for him," Williams said. "Some of those small-school prospects I've scouted over the years, they never really know until they get to the East-West Shrine, the NFLPA, especially the Senior Bowl, the Combine. So for him to exist in that and not just exist but compete and be one of the better linemen there, I thought that was a really good sign for his future."
With the 168th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the Bears select Southern Utah offensive lineman Braxton Jones.