Preparing for the NFL Draft is a yearlong activity, and while the Bears just finished the 2022 draft a few weeks ago, it’s never too early to look towards the future.
If anything, this year is as good of a year to prepare for the draft 11 months in advance as any. The Bears are on track to have selections in each of the first three rounds for the first time since 2016, and while the same thing was said before they traded up for Justin Fields in 2020, it’s unlikely the new regime will be moving up significantly in the draft anytime soon.
Barring something unforeseen, it appears unlikely the Bears will be in the playoffs at the end of the 2022 season. I used the NFL Mock Draft Database draft simulator for the mock, which has the Bears picking at selections Nos. 8, 40 and 72. While there’s obviously a chance they do either better or worse than their projected selection, I decided to stick with what the simulator had for me.
Since I haven’t watched enough of the 2023 class to put together a full 7-round mock draft yet — and the only late-round prospects I’ve watched to this point are players I expected to declare for 2022’s draft.
Round 1: Kayshon Boutte, WR, LSU
6-foot, 190 pounds
Given his popularity as an early Bears target, I find it worth mentioning that Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba was off the board by the time the Bears were on the clock. That said, Kayshon Boutte is a dynamic receiver in his own right who could end up being the top weapon taken off the board next year, anyway.
Boutte was dominant in just 6 games in 2021, having caught 38 passes for 509 yards and 9 touchdowns. He excels after the catch, showcasing very good breakaway speed and toughness as a ball carrier. His speed release against press off the line of scrimmage is impressive, and he showcases both very good fluidity across the middle of the field and deep speed needed to thrive as a vertical threat. Boutte is a bonafide playmaker who should put together a strong 2022 campaign.
Round 2: Habakkuk Baldonado, EDGE, Pittsburgh
6-foot-5, 260 pounds
The Bears have two intriguing young edge rushers in Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson, and in an ideal world, Robinson develops into the heir apparent to Robert Quinn. That is banking a lot on a fifth-round rookie, though, and value like this in Round 2 could prove to be too good to pass up.
Habakkuk Baldonado is newer to playing football in America, as he played in Italy before coming over to the United States in his senior year of high school. He has a pro-ready frame with good length and a powerful frame, and he plays with a red-hot motor on a down-by-down basis. The quickness in his hands stands out on tape, as such moves like his arm-over, speed chop and two-hand shuck showcase the finesse he rushes the passer with. Though his ability to convert speed to power and maintain optimal pad level can improve, the ceiling with him is certainly worth a selection this high.
Round 3: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
6-foot-5, 309 pounds
Teven Jenkins and Larry Borom both showed promise in 2021, and the Bears also drafted Braxton Jones who could develop into a solid tackle, among the four offensive linemen they drafted this year. However, when I saw Anton Harrison still available in Round 3, I went with the approach of simply adding good offensive linemen and figuring out the rest later.
There isn’t a blue-chip offensive lineman in the 2022 class, but Harrison is a gifted prospect who could rise into first-round consideration. He is an athletic blocker with very nice burst off the snap and lateral mobility needed to excel in pass protection. He has a strong enough anchor that allows him to neutralize power rushes, and though his pad level is a work in progress, he shows flashes of flexibility in his lower half. Though he was available for me in Round 3 in the simulation, Harrison is a player whose tools indicate he could rise up boards sooner rather than later.