The No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft is a genuine possibility for the Bears.
Granted, they don’t hold their own destiny in the “race” for the top spot. The Texans still have the worst record in the NFL, and it will take both the Bears losing out and the Texans winning at least one of their two remaining games for the first pick to flip to Chicago.
That said, the Texans beating the Titans on Saturday moved the Bears within just half of a game of the No. 1 pick. Houston has the 7-8 Jaguars — a team on the rise but one they beat in October — and the 4-10-1 Colts — a team they tied in Week 1 that is falling off a cliff — remaining on their schedule.
Obviously, the Texans will have the worse record in each of their remaining matchups. However, a win over a team still in the playoff hunt in Tennessee, along with their tight losses to the Cowboys and Chiefs, makes it seem like Houston is picking up some momentum. Neither the Jaguars nor the Colts have been playing as well as the Cowboys or Chiefs this year, indicating both matchups are games the Texans could win.
This scenario also assumes the Bears lose against both of their remaining two opponents: the Lions and Vikings. Minnesota could end up sitting some of their starters if they have nothing to play for, and Detroit is coming off of a puzzling loss to the Panthers this past week. It’s far from a guarantee that the Bears end up with the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but after the Texans’ win and Chicago’s eighth loss in a row, it’s now a situation worth discussing.
I used PFF’s mock draft simulator because it allows me to edit the draft order. Though the season hasn’t ended yet, I changed the draft order to give the Bears the No. 1 overall pick. To determine the rest of the order, I used my own predictions for how the rest of the year will play out, which I sorted out through Playoff Predictors.
Without further ado, let’s begin.
Colts get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 1), 2023 fifth-round pick (No. 128)
Bears get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 4), 2023 second-round pick (No. 35), 2024 first-round pick, 2025 second-round pick
Round 1 (via Colts): Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
The three picks ahead of me were Bryce Young to the Colts, Will Levis to the Texans and Jalen Carter to the Seahawks. To me, this was a perfect scenario — one that might not happen in real life, but one that would be extremely beneficial to the Bears. Not only was I able to acquire a massive haul from a Colts team desperate to jump the Texans and get a quarterback, but I was also able to stay in the top 5 and land one of Will Anderson or Carter.
If you haven’t read my in-depth profile of Anderson, I highly suggest you do so. He’s the best pass-rusher in the 2023 draft, and he would be a massive upgrade to the Bears’ defensive line.
Let’s face it: the #Bears probably won’t be great this year.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) April 12, 2022
But if that means they’ll have a chance at drafting Alabama EDGE Will Anderson in 2023? I’d be totally fine with that. pic.twitter.com/mwM3DIUfvi
Round 2 (via Colts): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
A Bears secondary of Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Devon Witherspoon, Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker would be an incredibly tough group to stop.
For those unfamiliar with Witherspoon’s game, I highly recommend turning on some of his tape when you get the chance. He has tremendous ball skills, showcasing very good ball-tracking abilities on the deep ball and the willingness to compete at the catch point. He has fluid hips and does a good job of staying inside a receiver’s hip pocket, and he’s also a scrappy cornerback who isn’t afraid of contact as a tackler or in man coverage. Illinois had arguably the best secondary in college football this year, and Witherspoon was the anchor of that unit.
If the #Bears draft a CB early this year, I want it to be Devon Witherspoon from Illinois.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) December 15, 2022
• 3 INT, 14 PBU this year
• 92.0 PFF coverage grade, best in FBS
• 29.8% completions allowed, 1.0 QBR against
• Makes hits like this pic.twitter.com/yza0A3vJFu
Round 2: John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
I’ve made my affinity for John Michael Schmitz known on Twitter, especially over the last month or so. With the very real possibility that the Bears have to replace two starters along just their interior offensive line this offseason, I made it a priority to snag a starter in this mock draft.
Schmitz was a three-year starter at Minnesota who excelled against tough Big Ten competition. He consistently wins with leverage, generating good bend in his knees, ideal pad level and getting his weight underneath him. He’s a strong blocker with a mean streak when he locks up with opposing defenders, and he’s an intelligent center who makes good decisions regardless of zone or power assignments. Schmitz is also a solid athlete who’s quite coordinated and can roll his hips well through contact. Positional value and his age (24 on Draft Day) might see him fall a bit, but he’s a first-round talent off of pure talent alone and should be able to contribute immediately in the NFL.
The 2023 draft has a deep class of centers, but I think John Michael Schmitz from Minnesota is clearly the best of the bunch.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) December 26, 2022
If the #Bears don’t sign a center in FA, Schmitz is a Round 2 guy I really want. Intelligent, coordinated, nasty & athletic. He’s a Day 1 impact player. pic.twitter.com/RGdGQFG4fO
Round 3: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
As Greg Gabriel recently pointed out, the Bears are on track to have their coaching staff at the Shrine Bowl. If they get that opportunity, the odds are strong they end up drafting at least one of the players they’ll have the chance to get a hands-on look at. They have a big-bodied receiver in Chase Claypool and a speedy receiver in Darnell Mooney, but I opted for Shrine Bowl invitee Zay Flowers here.
He’s skinnier than I’d like — he’s listed at 172 pounds — but he’s a super well-rounded receiver who doesn’t really have many glaring weaknesses other than his frame. He’s a sure-handed pass-catcher who’s explosive coming out of his breaks, has very good deep speed, is agile after the catch and has very good ball skills. For a smaller receiver, he does a good job of climbing the ladder and has the pure ball-tracking ability and body control needed to make difficult grabs. Flowers projects best as a high-end WR3 to mid-tier WR2, and if he hits the latter, you have an intriguing and lowkey deep group of weapons in Chicago.
Outside of size, I struggle to find a true weakness with Zay Flowers. Even the stuff he's just decent at (physicality, diversity of releases), he isn't truly bad at. Very good athlete, strong hands, nice agility after the catch. Rock solid Day 2 WR target.— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) December 22, 2022
Round 4: Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
Matthew Bergeron is generally projected around a third-round pick — and I do have an early Round 3 grade on him at the moment — but if he’s available in the start of Round 4, that would be a potential steal for the Bears.
Bergeron is a gifted lineman with three full years of starting experience, having played at both tackle spots. He is a strong lineman with great grip strength in his upper body and the raw power in his anchor to hold up defenders at the point of attack. He offers nice short-area burst and has the initial explosiveness in his first step that sees him succeed in a variety of pass sets. Though he isn’t the lengthiest tackle out there and can occasionally mess up from a technical perspective, the potential is there for Bergeron to grow into a starting role in the NFL.
Syracuse OT 60 Matthew Bergeron has been a really fun study this morning. Has 1950+ career snaps at LT and 550+ career snaps at RT. Gave up a career high 5 sacks this year but there's A LOT to work with in his game. Watch the feet and snatch-trap attempt vs. Foskey pic.twitter.com/nhFzoCQhlA— Russell Brown (@RussNFLDraft) December 25, 2022
Round 5 (via Patriots): Kenny McIntosh, RB, Georgia
Whether or not the Bears re-sign David Montgomery or make another move at running back in free agency, many teams have found quality contributors at the position on Day 3 of the draft, Chicago included.
After being an afterthought in loaded Georgia backfields in his first three seasons, Kenny McIntosh took a solid next step in 2022, scoring 10 touchdowns on the ground and rushing for 709 yards on 136 attempts — 5.2 yards per carry. He’s a powerful running back with a bigger frame at 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, very good contact balance and a determined style of running in between the tackle. He is also an experienced pass-catcher with nice hands and good route-running ability for his size. Don’t sleep on McIntosh’s agility, either; he’s looked quicker and more elusive in 2022 than he did in years past.
*Insert Chris Berman WHOOP*— Brooks Austin (@BrooksAustinBA) November 8, 2022
Kenny McIntosh, phew pic.twitter.com/DI6VoBfdAb
Round 7: Dallas Daniels, WR, Jackson State
I cheated here to include a player who isn’t in PFF’s simulator, but Dallas Daniels is another Shrine Bowl weapon whose physical tools could get him drafted this year.
He’s a lanky weapon at 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds who consistently got open during his tenures at both Jackson State and Western Illinois. Daniels is a coordinated weapon with great body control in the air that allows him to make difficult catches look routine. He understands the subtleties of route running, showcasing good burst out of his breaks, albeit with a more limited route tree. His deep speed allows him to stretch the field with raw athleticism, too. Being a small-school receiver without a stellar season from a production perspective could limit his draft stock, but Daniels is a gifted athlete with plenty of NFL-caliber tools to work with.