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Edge Options for the Bears in the First Round

Greg Gabriel runs through some first-round defensive end options for the Bears after laying out an early free agency plan for Chicago.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 05 Texas Tech at TCU Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2023 NFL Draft is still five months away, but with the Chicago Bears presently sitting with a 3 -8 record, we can be fairly certain that they will have a high pick in the opening round.

If the season were to end today, the Bears would pick third but with six games remaining, who knows what the final position will be. Still, some obvious needs need to be taken care of next spring.

I have seen various Mock Drafts recently, and for the most part, they are all over the place as to who the Bears may choose. Having spent the better part of my adult life working in front offices in the NFL, I know not to put much stock into Mocks this early. They are clickbait more than anything else, and one of the reasons is that we don't know who will actually be in the Draft.

Underclassmen have until mid-January to declare for the Draft, and until we find out who those players are, it can be very difficult to try and guess what each club will do. The other "event" that plays into how players get selected in the Draft is veteran free agency which will begin mid-March.

What a club does in free agency directly impacts how a club drafts, as both are the main areas that clubs can use to fill needs.

Most clubs will bring in their scouts in early December, go through their reports, and eliminate players they feel aren't a fit or can't help them. By the time those December meetings are over, the prospect list will be cut by at least half. Scouts and decision-makers will concentrate on who is left on their prospect lists until February, when they will again eliminate more players. This is usually right after the Combine when medical results and character evaluations are available. Every year there will be players who a club really likes that get eliminated because of medical or character concerns.

When clubs prepare for free agency and the Draft, they try to find out the strengths and weaknesses of each area. In other words, if a club feels fairly certain they can fill an offensive line need in free agency, then they can look to other need positions in the Draft.

In March, there will be some quality right tackles available in free agency. Yes, clubs can try and re-sign them, or they can place the franchise tag on them, so it will be early March before we know who is available.

Today, some interesting right tackle names are San Francisco tackle Mike McGlinchey and Cleveland right tackle Jack Conklin and Green Bay lineman Elgton Jenkins. Jenkins is very interesting because he can play multiple positions, but he has also had a number of injuries. All three of these players are still in their 20s, so they would be wise signings.

If the Bears can get a solid right tackle under contract, then I feel the next need they will attack in free agency is defensive tackle. It doesn't matter if the player is a 3-tech or the off-set nose because the Bears need to upgrade all across the defensive line. The best tackle on the Bears roster is Justin Jones, who plays the 3T, but he can easily play the other DT position.

Free agency potentially has some very good players available that would immediately upgrade the Bears' DLine. The names at the top of the list are Philadephia's Javon Hargrave, Washington's Da'Ron Payne and Denver's Dre'Mont Jones. All of those players are 3-techs, and all will cost the Bears quite a bit of money to sign them. While Hargrave is perhaps the most talented, he is also the oldest, as he will be 30 next season. The others are quite a bit younger. My favorite would be Payne if he comes available.

If the Bears do sign an offensive and defensive tackle in free agency, then in my mind, the next most important need is a pass rusher. The Draft offers some interesting players who can come in and contribute as a pass rusher their rookie years.

The first Is Alabama Edge Will Anderson. Anderson is a bit undersized at 6'4”, 245 pounds, but he has the frame to play at 250+ easily. In 2021 he dominated as a pass rusher getting 17.5 sacks. This year, opponents have concentrated on blocking him, and his sack production has dropped to eight, but there is no question he will make an immediate impact once he gets to the League. If the Bears have any chance of selecting Anderson, they would have to be picking in the top three positions.

A name many of you may not have heard much about but is a hot name among NFL scouts is Texas Tech Tyree Wilson. Wilson is a freak athlete who stands about 6'6”, 275, and scouts swear he will run in the 4.5s. Wilson has long arms and natural pass rush ability, but he is still raw as he often drops into coverage (I have no idea why). Wilson's upside is rare, as few have his freakish natural traits. He will probably go in the 10 – 15 area of the first round. Wilson has 7.0 sacks this year on limited pass rush attempts.

Clemson DE Myles Murphy is highly coveted. At 6'5”, 275, he is very athletic with bend, strength, and a burst. He only has 5.5 sacks on the year, but he also has 9.0 tackles for loss. Murphy plays hard down after down, and while he may not be a dominant sack artist, he would upgrade Chicago’s edge corps.

A name that was hot going into the season is Notre Dame's Isaiah Foskey. Foskey is in scout's minds because he had a slow start but has come on recently with 6.5 sacks in his last five games and a total of 9.5 sacks on the year. Foskey isn't a high first-round type but a guy a team would think about if they traded down into the 20s.

One last edge rusher who will more than likely be a first-round consideration is Georgia's Nolan Smith. Smith had a season-ending pec injury in game eight. Smith lacks size had about 6'3 – 240 but has room to grow and is very athletic and fast. Playing in Georgia's rotation-heavy defense, he doesn't put up numbers like some others, but the scouts know who he is.