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2023 Bears mock draft: Trading back in Round 1

Trading back in Round 1? Not going offense with that pick? What are you thinking?!?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 05 Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game - Clemson at Georgia Tech Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Whether you’re a hardcore NFL Draft fan or not, it’s always fun to read a mock draft of your favorite team.

The Bears sit at a favorable 2-1 as of this writing. They have a relatively easy schedule in the next few weeks, and while there have certainly been concerns with the team — especially on offense — they have a serious opportunity to stack up some early-season wins.

That said, Chicago is clearly a work in progress, and it shouldn’t be expected that they’ll be legitimate competitors to make a playoff run this year. This mock draft isn’t to say, “this season is over, and there’s nothing left to look forward to”. Rather, it’s a chance to break down college prospects and see what needs the Bears have on their roster currently.

I’m not going to give up on Justin Fields yet. I used Pro Football Network’s mock draft simulator, which had the Bears picking fifth using Super Bowl odds. As you’ll soon see, I had the chance to take a high-level quarterback and move on from Fields after Year 2, but I’m choosing to use this offseason to build a much better team around him. You can certainly disagree — and I’ll admit, I get the concern around him at this point — but for now, that’s the strategy I’m going with.

Here’s a 7-round look at my latest 2023 Bears mock draft.


Bears receive: 2023 first-round pick (No. 10), 2023 second-round pick (No. 41), 2024 first-round pick

Commanders receive: 2023 first-round pick (No. 5)

The first four players off the board were Jalen Carter, Will Anderson, C.J. Stroud and Kayshon Boutte. Washington predictably traded up ahead to secure Bryce Young, with the Lions sitting at No. 7 as a team that could realistically take the Alabama quarterback before the Commanders were to pick at No. 10. Trading back made me miss out on both Jordan Addison and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but I loved the trade-back value too much to pass this deal up. Not only is another top-50 pick intriguing, but I don’t expect the Commanders to make the playoffs next year. That likely makes their 2024 first-round pick very valuable.

Round 1 (via Commanders, projected trade): Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson

Missing out on the top-three receivers in this class stinks. There’s nobody else at the position I’d consider at No. 10, which forces the Bears to look elsewhere. I strongly considered two offensive tackles in Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. I would certainly be happy with either of those players, but I stuck with my board and took the best current value in my rankings of the group.

It might not be the sexiest pick, but I wouldn’t be shocked at all if this is the draft that Matt Eberflus gets his 3-technique defensive tackle in. Bryan Bresee’s ability to battle through adversity has been nothing short of remarkable. He suffered a torn ACL in 2021 and lost his 15-year-old sister, Ella, to brain cancer this year, but he has maintained a determined mindset and an admirable resilience. That shows on the field, too; Bresee is a high-motored player with fantastic speed, power and hand usage along the interior. The 6-foot-5, 300-pounder has long arms and plenty of range as a tackler, and he looks the part of a bonafide playmaker at 3-tech in the NFL.

Round 2: Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina

You have to do something at wide receiver if you’re the Bears, and it certainly doesn’t hurt that a potential first-round pick falls right into my lap to start Day 2.

Josh Downs dominated to the tune of 101 catches, 1,335 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2021, and he has scored 4 touchdowns in the two games he has played so far this year. He’s one of the most dynamic receivers in the nation, as he has very good burst off the snap and impressive long speed as a vertical threat. He is a refined route runner with a diverse release package who disguises route concepts well and explodes out of his breaks. Though he isn’t the big-bodied receiver at 5-foot-10 whom many Bears fans want in this offense, he has high-end WR2 potential and could develop into a very valuable complementary piece.

Round 2 (via Commanders, projected trade): Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma

Acquiring another early second-round pick opens up opportunities for the Bears to package for a star player (Tee Higgins, anyone?). I’ll pursue those options in later mocks, but we’ll keep our picks for now and stock up on cheap, young talent.

Anton Harrison has been one of the best pass protectors in the Big 12 over the last few years. His athletic profile fits perfectly with what Ryan Poles has prioritized up front; he has good lateral quickness, nice initial burst off the snap and great acceleration working as a wide-zone blocker. He has long arms and uses his hands well to lock out defenders from his frame, and he has shown legitimate flexibility in his lower half when he gets his technique right. Larry Borom has struggled a bit at right tackle this year, and if Poles wants to look elsewhere at the position, Harrison could be a high-upside addition to the offensive line.

Round 3: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

The Bears have two talented, young edge rushers in Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson, but I found the value here too intriguing to pass up.

Tyree Wilson has been rising up draft boards in recent weeks. If he keeps playing the way he has — 3 sacks, 6 tackles for a loss and 27 total tackles in four games — he might not even be available after the top 50. He’s a physically-gifted edge rusher at 6-foot-6 and 275 pounds with a pro-ready frame that dominates the collegiate opposition. Wilson’s short-area burst is great for his size, as is his flexibility as an outside speed rusher. His massive frame gives him serious play strength, and he’s even able to drop back into coverage. Bears fans often tout the “best player available” approach; this is exactly that.

Round 4: Kris Abrams-Draine, CB, Missouri

Kyler Gordon’s struggles in the slot have been well documented. He is much better suited as a field-side corner, so that — combined with the pure value of this pick — makes a nickel defender like Kris Abrams-Draine a realistic target for the Bears.

A converted wide receiver, Abrams-Draine has only been a full-time cornerback for two seasons. He broke out in 2021 with 3 interceptions and 7 pass deflections for Missouri, and he has carried that high level of play to the 2022 season. He has 3 breakups through his first four games, and he has showed considerable improvement as a tackler compared to last year. In coverage, his fluidity, speed and ball skills allow him to make plays that few defensive backs can make on a regular basis. His 5-foot-11, 177-pound frame could be cause for concern, but his rapid development gives him plenty of developmental upside.

Round 5: Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State

Does this pick fill the biggest need on the Bears’ roster? Far from it. Teams can have plenty of success drafting backs on Day 3, though, and Deuce Vaughn might be my favorite player to watch in college football right now.

Vaughn put up a tremendous 1,404 rushing yards and 18 rushing touchdowns with 6.0 yards per carry in 2021. This season, he has 468 rushing yards through four games and has hit pay dirt on the ground three times. Here’s my brief breakdown from my Week 4 college football preview:

The comparisons to Darren Sproles seem unoriginal — two small, athletic backs from Kansas State — but they check out. Vaughn is a pint-sized spark plug with elite agility, good vision and value as a pass-catcher.

A 5-foot-6, 172-pound frame will hurt his draft stock. However, his athleticism, slippery running style, precision as a route runner and motor as a runner should allow him to carve out a niche for himself in the NFL. Regardless of whether or not the Bears re-sign David Montgomery, Vaughn is someone you want on your football team.

Round 7: McClendon Curtis, OG, Chattanooga

They don’t have a Cole Strange-level prospect this year, but Chattanooga has some intriguing trench talents on both sides of the ball. Among them is the physically-gifted McClendon Curtis.

Curtis will be a four-year starter by the time the 2022 season ends, and NFL teams have surely noticed him after watching Strange last year. He’s a 6-foot-6, 328-pound behemoth with good length and overwhelming power at the point of attack. He generates very good leg drive at the right guard position and has a strong anchor in pass protection. Considering his size, he is very coordinated and shows very good footwork and balance when blocking on the move. He’s quite raw in terms of hand placement and weight distribution, but he’s a prospect the Bears would be wise to consider on Day 3 this year.