With the ferocity of Eddie Munson shredding along to “Master of Puppets”, I unleash upon you all a 2023 mock draft in July.
What’s the point of a Bears mock draft this early in the year? Was this whole article written to make that one Stranger Things reference and put out publicly that I enjoyed Season 4 and think the Duffer brothers have the possibility to conclude several intriguing storylines in Season 5?
In addition to binging Netflix among other activities, I’ve also been preparing for the 2023 draft this summer. These way-too-early draft articles aren’t for everybody, but they’re for somebody out there, damn it, and I’m gonna attack that niche the best I can.
I’ve done a 3-round Bears mock draft for the 2023 class already, but with many more weeks spent digging into some prospects, I’ve decided to unleash my first 7-round mock of the new draft.
Fitting into the long-term vision the Bears seem to have, I was able to trade Robert Quinn to the Chiefs for a 2023 third-round pick, which is the No. 94 pick in the simulation. I used the PFF mock draft simulator to gauge the value of Quinn’s trade, but to get a full 7-round mock, I used NFL Mock Draft Database’s simulator, save for my own inclusions for the final two picks.
Here’s my first 7-round mock draft for the Bears in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Round 1: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
I’m not just making this pick because Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Justin Fields played at Ohio State together. In fact, the actual overlap in terms of in-game reps with the two is limited. However, the 6-foot, 198-pound weapon is an extremely talented wide receiver who would fill a major need for the Bears’ offense.
Here’s my breakdown of him from when I analyzed him as a potential 2023 Round 1 target:
It’s very early in the 2023 draft process, but Smith-Njigba is my current WR1 in this class. He finished this past season with 95 receptions, 1,606 yards and 9 touchdowns while fighting for catches with the likes of Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jeremy Ruckert. He’s an explosive threat with good deep speed and sharp movements coming out of his breaks. His football IQ shows up in spades on tape, as he does a great job of exploiting soft spots in zone coverage and excels his adjusting his footwork to attack leverage points through his stems. Smith-Njigba is a pro-ready weapon who should translate well to the NFL level.
Wherever you line up Smith-Njigba at the next level, he should be able to create plenty of separation against NFL cornerbacks. He has the potential to crack 1,000 yards right out of the gate, which would be much welcomed in Chicago.
Round 2: Jaquelin Roy, DL, LSU
Matt Eberflus places a lot of value into the 3-technique defensive tackle, so it would make sense for the Bears to consider using significant draft capital at the position.
Roy has had 50 pass-rushing pressures since 2020, which leads all SEC defensive tackles in that time frame. Though he had just 1.5 sacks last year, his presence in opposing backfields was apparent all season long for LSU’s defense in 2021. He has solid length with a 6-foot-4, 297-pound frame, but it’s his quickness that really stands out on tape. Not only is he extremely quick off the snap, but his hands also showcase top-notch speed and finesse as a pass-rusher. Moves like two-hand shucks and swipes allow him to get past interior blockers with ease, and when he gets his weight underneath him, he has shown promise as a run defender, too.
His pad level and sack production will need to get better in 2022, but Roy has all the tools needed to project as a textbook Eberflus 3-tech. He would be a valuable asset as the Bears’ defense transitions to a new system.
Round 3: Andre Carter II, EDGE, Army
Fun fact: the Bears haven’t drafted a player from Army since 1958. There also hasn’t been an Army player drafted into the NFL since 2008. Why not break two streaks in one fell swoop?
Andre Carter II exploded in 2021 with 14.5 sacks and 17 tackles for a loss. He’s a physical specimen at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, possessing undeniable length and sheer size off the edge. For a bigger defensive end, he truly has impressive acceleration off the ball and the straight-line speed needed to serve as an effective backside run defender. He has a few nice pass-rushing moves like his two-hand shuck and swipe, as well as his arm-over. If he does fall this far like he did in the simulation, it will likely be because his issues in terms of pad level and outside bend hurt his draft stock.
The Bears have two intriguing young edge rushers in Trevis Gipson and fifth-round rookie Dominique Robinson, but both — particularly the latter, being a rookie and all — still have to prove themselves as starting talents. By adding Carter, they add another edge rusher in the mold of a lengthy physical specimen who can generate some serious pressure outside.
Round 3 (via Chiefs): Javion Cohen, OG, Alabama
Does anybody know what the Bears have in store at right guard this year? I sure don’t. While they brought in a few late-round picks who could develop into competition along the interior going forward, they might still be looking for interior offensive line help in the 2023 draft.
Ryan Poles wants athletic offensive linemen, and Javion Cohen more than fits that bill. He shines in wide-zone concepts and offers both good quickness off the ball and lateral mobility when blocking in space. He’s an effective pass protector who does a good job of keeping his head on a swivel and pouncing on a twisting edge rusher or a delayed blitz, and his footwork and base are both admirable, as well. He isn’t a hulking lineman by prospective NFL player standards at 6-foot-4 and 305 pounds, but he has enough of an anchor needed to win with recovery strength at the point of attack.
Cohen could stand to make the location of his strikes more consistent, and his center of gravity can be a bit too high at times, thus affecting his balance blocking on the move. With some technical refinements, though, he would project as a potential piece for the Bears’ offensive line going forward.
Round 4: Dontay Demus Jr., WR, Maryland
The Bears would have a young trio locked up in Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Darnell Mooney and Velus Jones Jr. in this hypothetical universe. While all bring something special to the table, none of them have the imposing height-speed combination that many of the ‘X’ wide receivers Luke Getsy worked with in Green Bay possessed.
I was a bit surprised to see Dontay Demus Jr. — a 6-foot-3, 217-pound receiver with 16.7 yards per catch in his Maryland career heading into 2022 — available on Day 3. That said, I pounced on the opportunity to add someone with his skill set. His size is obvious, and it shows on tape with his large catch radius and ability to extend himself and make tough catches. He also has very good deep speed, and for a taller receiver, he does a good job of sinking his hips coming into his breaks and making defenders miss after the catch.
Demus doesn’t always play up to his listed size, and he can still improve as a route-running technician. His upside is apparent, however, and bringing him into the Bears’ wide receiver room would give Justin Fields another gifted weapon to throw to.
Round 5: Cody Mauch, OT, North Dakota State
Do me a quick favor: look up “Cody Mauch” on Google Images. You’re welcome. I’m not just picking him here because of his flowing red hair or lack of front teeth, both of which making him an all-time offensive line aesthetic; Mauch can flat-out play.
He will be a three-year starter by the time the 2022 season concludes, and having entered North Dakota State as a tight end, he has shown fantastic development in his collegiate career. He has good situational awareness in pass protection, and his ability to roll his hips through contact is plenty polished. Mauch’s tight end background is obvious watching him move, as the 6-foot-6, 303-pounder is a nimble giant who changes direction well and has great burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s also a nasty SOB with the play strength and the determination to drive defenders into the dirt.
Being an FCS offensive lineman who’s newer to the position, Mauch could face a bit of a learning curve, particularly in terms of his hand placement and his ability to keep his weight underneath him. He’ll require some development, but he has serious potential and would be a great addition to a Bears’ offensive line that could use a guy like him to fit their current philosophy.
Round 7: B.J. Thompson, EDGE/LB, Stephen F. Austin
I wanted to draft an off-back linebacker for the Bears, and while I technically still didn’t do so in this mock, I found a potential SAM convert who can also rush the passer very well.
B.J. Thompson had the second-most sacks on Baylor in 2018 before transferring to Stephen F. Austin, where he has tallied 15.5 sacks in his 22 games with the team thus far. He’s a lanky defender at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds with arms that exceed 35 inches in length. His first step is tremendous, as he often uses pure speed off the snap to penetrate opposing backfields. Thompson is a fluid athlete with loose hips who can change direction well in space and turn the corner as a pass-rusher, and his high-energy style of play gives him plenty of range as a tackler. He also offers value in coverage, having dropped back in covering the flat and even defending in man out of the slot.
Thompson is obviously a skinny defender who will need to fill out a little bit at the next level, and that lankier frame can see him struggle with setting the edge against the run and rushing with power against the pass. Wherever you project him, he’s an enticing small-school talent with length and speed, and that’s the type of player you take a shot on late on Day 3.