Deciding whether a player is a steal or not before playing a down feels like an exercise in futility. Yet it will happen every year, whether experts like it or not. That is what makes the NFL draft so much fun. There have been positive vibes around the Chicago Bears since April over what GM Ryan Poles accomplished. While his overall class didn’t get high marks, many feel he did some really encouraging work in the later rounds. Nobody has gotten more buzz in the past month than Braxton Jones.

He arrived as a lowly 5th round pick out of Southern Utah. Most fans had never heard of him before. That is natural. He didn’t emerge on anybody’s radar until the Senior Bowl. A strong week there was followed by a good performance at the scouting combine the next month. That was enough to ensure he got drafted, yet people aren’t sure what his ceiling is. Then Jones shocked everybody when the Bears promoted him to the starting left tackle spot in OTAs. It is little wonder Bleacher Report listed him as one of the seven early steals of the draft.

“Finding a left tackle who can start as a rookie is hard enough in Round 1. Finding one in Round 5 is nearly impossible.

Yet Braxton Jones is starting to make it look like a possibility for the Chicago Bears…

…Jones was at the Senior Bowl, where he got to make an impression against FBS competition. Coming up from the FCS level, he continues to impress.

If he can provide decent protection for second-year quarterback Justin Fields as a fifth-round pick, he will be one of the best values in the entire draft.”

Braxton Jones has the ability to go far.

Physical talent isn’t his problem. He has a 6’5 frame at 305 lbs with 35-inch arms. He’s also an athletic with quick, fluidic feet. Those are the hallmarks of an NFL left tackle. The big question is whether he can learn to handle professional edge rushers with their considerable power and diverse hand-fighting technique. Many prospects from smaller schools never manage to handle that transition.

One reason the Bears became intrigued was his performance at the Senior Bowl. He went toe-to-toe with some of the best players in the country coming out of college and looked like he belonged. Braxton Jones will have learning moments like every young player. However, if he maintains the necessary mental fortitude and expands his game, the team may have their left tackle of the future.

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