In case you haven’t heard by now, the Bears are currently on track to have the No. 3 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
For much of the 2022 offseason, the general expectation was that Chicago would take an offense-heavy approach in the 2023 draft. Though things have shifted a bit into a priority towards the defensive line, there’s still a possibility the Bears use their first-round pick on the offensive side of the ball. After all, the offense certainly isn’t a finished product.
Regardless of where the Bears end up picking, there are plenty of talented offensive prospects on track to hit the 2023 draft. Whether it’s in the top 5 or outside of the top 15 as a trade-back option, here are 6 offensive prospects the Bears would be wise to consider.
Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
A three-year starter in the Big Ten who’s right in the Bears’ backyard, Peter Skoronski seems like a first-round lock.
Skoronski has held his own against some of the nation’s best edge rushers on a yearly basis. He is a good athlete with polished footwork, nice lateral agility, good burst coming off the line of scrimmage and an acute understanding of how to adjust his set points in certain situations. He has the raw strength needed to overwhelm a defender at the point of attack, and his hand placement is precise. His situational awareness and overall football IQ are both very high, and he has shown great coordination when he rolls his hips through contact, maintaining his balance while sealing off running lanes for his teammates in the ground game.
The big issue with Skoronski is a lack of significant size and length, and unless his arm length measures long enough to meet the 33-inch threshold typically held for offensive tackles. He might be kicked inside to guard if not, but regardless of where he plays, he’s a true technician with Day 1 impact potential.
Olu Fashanu, OT, Penn State
No offensive lineman has seen his draft stock rise in the 2022 season quite like Penn State left tackle Olu Fashanu.
From a physical perspective, Fashanu has all of the tools to develop into an All-Pro offensive tackle. He’s lengthy at 6-foot-6 and 308 pounds, and he has long limbs which allows him to lock out defenders from his frame. He has a strong anchor that makes it very tough for opposing edge rushers to push the pocket against him, and when he lands his strikes properly, his grip strength is fantastic. Fashanu is also a fantastic athlete with elite burst coming off the line of scrimmage, and he’s also super coordinated in his movements climbing to the second level.
Fashanu can stand to work on the bend in his knees and getting his pads lower on a down-by-down basis, and he’s only a one-year starter in college. However, the upside he possesses is as strong as any offensive lineman in the nation right now. If developed properly, he could be a superstar in the NFL.
Jordan Addison, WR, USC
No matter the circumstances, Jordan Addison has proven to be a productive weapon at the collegiate level.
As of this writing, Addison has a combined 211 receptions, 3,024 yards and 29 touchdowns over the three seasons he has spent with either Pittsburgh or USC. The 2021 Biletnikoff Award winner has great deep speed, giving him the raw ability to get open on vertical route concepts using purely his athleticism. His burst coming out of his breaks is impressive, and that lateral agility combines with a creative mindset to make him a valuable weapon after the catch. In addition to his quickness, Addison also has a strong understanding of how to blend route concepts, how to attack blind spots through his stems and how to exploit soft spots of an opposing defense’s zone coverage.
Is Addison skinny at 6-foot-0 and 175 pounds? Certainly. Does he lack the trademark physicality that traditionalists might want in their “WR1” prototype? Sure. That said, he’s an explosive athlete who knows how to get open, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him become a reliable security blanket quickly in the pros.
Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
From a pure size and speed perspective, perhaps no wide receiver in college football right now is as physically gifted as Quentin Johnston.
Though his production truly blossomed in 2022, Johnston’s upside was obvious when watching his tape back in 2021. He’s a 6-foot-4, 201-pound weapon along the boundary with great ball skills and body control to go up and attack above the rim. His penchant for making difficult catches look routine has seen him dominate defensive backs at the catch point. Not only is he a big receiver, but he’s also a speedy weapon who can separate vertically and outrun defenders as a breakaway ball-carrier. His sheer size and athleticism makes him a nightmare to stop after the catch, too.
Johnston isn’t a super polished route runner, so you’re betting heavily on physical tools when you take him in the first round. If you’re going to take a wide receiver early, though, you won’t find one with as much long-term game-breaking potential as him.
Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
These last two prospects overlapped briefly with Justin Fields at Ohio State in 2020, but they were both backups. That won’t stop some people from running with that storyline, though!
Still, Paris Johnson Jr. is a gifted athlete with the potential to dominate at the next level. He’s a big-bodied offensive tackle at 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds, and he uses that length and sheer bulk to lock out defenders from his chest and shut them down with his grip strength. Don’t let his size fool you, though; Johnson can flat out move. He’s a great athlete with impressive burst in his first step, good coordination upon contact and the mobility needed to take on speed rushes in pass protection.
Being a taller lineman, Johnson can struggle with pad level and bending at the knees to keep his weight underneath him. This can also prevent him from truly maximizing the raw power in his frame. He’ll need some polishing, but the physical upside is there for him to become a great NFL player.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Though Jaxon Smith-Njigba has fallen out of favor with some draft analysts because of how his 2022 season has played out, there’s no denying his 2021 campaign was phenomenal.
In case you’re either not a college football fan or have been living under a rock, Smith-Njigba exploded onto the scene in 2021 with 95 receptions, 1,606 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns. If you haven’t already, check out his Rose Bowl performance from last year. It will blow your mind. He’s a polished technician with quick feet coming in and out of his breaks, while also seamlessly adjusting his stems to attack leverage points against man coverage. He has very good ball skills, fluid hips across the middle of the field, and good ball-carrier vision after the catch.
With all of this in mind, though, Smith-Njigba’s 2022 season has essentially been nonexistent. He has missed all but 3 games this year with nagging hamstring injuries, and even when he’s played, he’s made little impact on the game. This should be enough to drop him down boards across the NFL, but as a target later in Round 1, it’s worth taking a shot on a player who destroyed the FBS just a year ago.