Many believe the best course of action for the Bears in the 2023 NFL Draft is to trade back.
This is a more than valid argument to make. Considering how many needs they have on their roster, along with the massive haul that moving out of the No. 1 or 2 spot would give them, it would be smart for a team that isn’t looking into Round 1 quarterback options to move back. This takes advantage of the need for quarterbacks elsewhere around the league and could see the Bears maximize their return as the bidding war for prospects like Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Will Levis picks up.
If the Bears end up with the No. 2 overall pick — the position they are currently slated at — the consensus top two prospects at that spot are Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. and Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Many consider them to be the best non-quarterback prospects in the 2023 draft, myself included. Even with Carter struggling in the CFB semifinal against Ohio State and Anderson having occasional issues against Kansas State this past week, the sum of positives is much larger than the drawbacks with both prospects.
That said, it might end up being better for the Bears to trade back and stock up on draft picks. If they do so, though, who could they target?
For my money, the best prospect from a need, positional value and schematic fit perspective in a trade-back scenario might be Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson.
Weight: 275 pounds
Wilson finished the 2022 season with 61 tackles, 7 sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. Over his last two seasons for the Red Raiders, he has had 14 sacks and 27.5 tackles for a loss. Of his 7 total sacks this year, none of them were unblocked. He had a pressure rate of 16.7%. It’s worth noting that, of the 126 FBS players to rush the passer at least 200 times, Wilson tied for the second-best pressure rate of the bunch. Only UCLA’s Laiatu Latu had a better percentage, while Mohamed Kamara from Colorado State tied the mark.
Here’s where Wilson ranks among qualified FBS edge rushers in advanced statistics:
- 0.100 points saved per rush (T-3rd)
- 0.064 points above average per play (3rd)
- 23.32 total points saved (4th)
- 15.07 total points above average (2nd)
Though he did not appear in the FBS or Power 5 database against the run, he placed in the top 25 among all Big 12 run defenders in both points saved per play and points above average per play, regardless of position.
The advanced analytics show that, prior to his season ending due to his requiring surgery on a foot injury in November, Wilson was one of the most efficient edge rushers in college football. What does the tape say?
Tyree Wilson is basically if you build an NFL defensive end in a lab.
He is, simply put, a freak athlete. He has a super lengthy frame, with DraftTek speculating that he has a 95th percentile arm length measurement of 35 1⁄2 inches. That arm length helps Wilson out at the point of attack, as his massive wingspan allows him to lock out offensive linemen from his frame easily. His size gives him unique versatility, as he’s strong enough to kick inside in certain situations. Texas Tech took advantage of that, as they’d move him around the defensive line in alignments like 3-tech, 4-tech and 4i.
Wilson has impressive first-step quickness for his size. His speed off the ball allows him to regularly beat offensive tackles on passing downs with just that athleticism alone. Being a taller defender, it can be tougher for him to get low, but he has shown some flashes of impressive flexibility when he gets his pad level right. At the very least, he’s a fluid athlete who has experience dropping back into coverage on the flat and doing so at a high level for his size. His development as a technician in 2022 has been impressive; I’ve watched multiple games of his tape from this season and the last, and he seems a lot more confident with how he uses his hands to shed blocks and get into the backfield.
Wilson isn’t a finished product, even with his improvements as a technician in 2022.
The big issue I’ve noticed with Wilson is his pad level. He regularly shoots upright coming off the ball, and he has a high center of gravity that can see him struggle with leverage at the point of contact sometimes. His flexibility on outside speed rushes isn’t bad, but he doesn’t have the truly great bend while turning the corner that top edge-rushing prospects like Will Anderson, Felix Anudike-Uzomah and Jared Verse have.
A big issue with Wilson’s game was his lack of a plan as a pass-rusher, but he has improved considerably in terms of the effectiveness of his hands. He can still work on his power game in his upper body, as he relies a lot on his pure explosiveness in his lower half a lot, but his hand usage noticeably improved from his 2021 to 2022 tape.
Fit with the Bears
I have been on the record in my scouting report on Will Anderson saying that I don’t think Anderson is the best scheme fit for the Bears, even though that wouldn’t prevent me from drafting a player of his caliber.
I don’t have those scheme fit concerns with Wilson. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus likes athleticism and length in his football players, which are two traits Wilson has in spades. His 6-foot-6, 275-pound frame is equipped with incredible arm length and a muscular build, which projects him very well as a base 4-3 defensive end with his hand in the dirt. His flashes of dominance as an interior defensive lineman at Texas Tech indicate he should have no problem in that type of scheme, despite playing in a base 3-4 in college.
Wilson has the physical attributes an NFL coach would love to work with. He’s a little rough around the edges, but the upside is arguably right up there with any defender in the 2023 draft class. He’s a top-10 pick in the making.