The Bears have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. For now.
After the absolute miracle that was the Texans’ closing drive against the Colts on Sunday, the Bears finished with the worst record in the NFL and are now in possession of the most valuable selection in the draft: the top one. It also took a loss against the Vikings at home to close out the season at 3-14, a game which I attended and normally would write an article about involving my day-after thoughts.
However, it feels like clinching the No. 1 pick is a much more important topic than a loss that was headlined by the quarterback tandem of Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle rotating in the starting lineup. If you read my day-after notes over the course of the regular season, I want to thank you — they truly are a great way for me to write out my observations and really let them stick in my brain, and I hope they’ve been helpful to you, too.
That said, I’m a fan of the Bears’ draft season above all else. It’s my favorite time of the year, and seeing as though I am Windy City Gridiron’s citizen draft boy, what more fitting way to close out the year than with a brand-new mock draft now that their draft positioning is in tact?
I’ll be breaking down plenty of options the Bears can pursue in the 2023 draft, but until Ryan Poles pays me personally to do so in order to inflate the trade value of the No. 1 pick, I will not be considering quarterback as an option. I will, however, be looking at various trade options, and that’s what I’ll be doing in my first of many mock drafts over the offseason.
Without further ado, this is my 10,000th 2023 Bears mock draft but my first mock draft of the 2023 NFL offseason.
Colts get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 1)
Bears get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 4), 2023 second-round pick (No. 35), 2023 fourth-round pick (No. 99), 2024 first-round pick, 2024 second-round pick
Note: PFF’s mock draft simulator does not include compensatory picks yet. Tankathon has the aforementioned fourth-round pick at No. 106 when including projected picks.
Round 1 (via Colts): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Trading out of the top 3 and down to No. 4 in real life likely means that one of Will Anderson or Jalen Carter come off the board before the Bears pick, and in this case, Anderson was the one who went No. 3 to the Cardinals. Taking one fo the best interior defenders to enter the draft in quite some time isn’t a bad consolation prize, though!
Carter, as I’ve discussed at length several times, is a freak athlete at defensive tackle with great burst in a vacuum, impressive mobility rare speed in the open field. The raw power he possesses and the ability to take over a game as a 3-technique is exactly what the Bears’ defense calls for at the position. Some may be scared by Carter’s down game against Ohio State in the Peach Bowl, but the tape as a whole shows a dominant player with All-Pro potential in the NFL.
Round 2 (via Colts): Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
The Bears may be tempted to follow the Jaguars’ path and pay some veteran wide receivers this offseason. While I think it’s possible they add some guys, I wouldn’t make too many pricy, long-term signings there given the weak free agent class and the contracts of Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool expiring next year. I’d love for them to draft a receiver early in whatever path they take in free agency.
Downs isn’t a very big receiver, but with the likes of Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown on the Bears’ roster, they wouldn’t need a super tall weapon at wide receiver. More importantly, he’s an explosive athlete with great collegiate production. He has a diverse arsenal of releases off the line of scrimmage, great burst out of his breaks and a sharp understanding of how to exploit soft spots in zone coverage. He also dropped just 2.0% of the 120 targets thrown his way this year, giving him one of the best drop percentages in all of collegiate football.
Round 2 (via Ravens): John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota
I don’t give a hoot that Schmitz is 24 years old. Get him on my football team in Round 2 by any means necessary.
I strive for originality in my mock drafts, and I know I’ve mocked Schmitz to the Bears before, but I just can’t help it. He’s a polished, coordinated, intelligent and strong interior offensive lineman who projects as a Day 1 upgrade and an immediate impact player at center. His age and positional value might not make him the sexiest prospect compared to top offensive tackles in the class, but Chicago needs an offensive line, and Schmitz would be a great step in the right direction.
Round 3: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
You’re telling me the Bears can get another Barrington native on their roster who fits a position of need? Where do I sign up?
Van Ness, like Cole Kmet, grew up close to the Bears’ home base, but that’s hardly what makes him a draft target for them this year. Over his last two seasons at Iowa, he has totaled 13 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss. He’s a versatile defender who has taken plenty of reps as far inside as a 3-technique defensive tackle but plays best as an edge rusher with his ahnd in the dirt. He’s quick off the ball and absurdly powerful, and his 6-foot-5, 269-pound frame is perfect for the NFL level. He’s still developing as a technician, but his combination of size, speed, power and flexibility make him well worth an early-round selection.
Round 4: Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
There’s no such thing as too much offensive line talent, and while I expect Braxton Jones to start at one tackle spot and a free agent to occupy the other, I love the Eagles’ approach of stockpiling as many talented linemen as humanly possible.
One phrase describes Bergeron in my mind: anchor strength. He’s a nasty blocker with a thick lower body and the power in his legs to keep churning and blow defenders off the ball. He’s a solid athlete in a vacuum, and his grip strength allows him to dominate the point of attack. I think Bergeron would be an absolute steal in Round 4, and while I wouldn’t have him off the board any later than early Round 3, the simulator had him going that late, so I took advantage.
Round 4 (via Colts): Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
After getting 4 interceptions and two pick-sixes as a freshman at LSU in 2020, one may have expected more ball production from Ricks in his final two seasons in college. However, his 2022 season was better than many give him credit for.
On 21 targets, Ricks allowed a completion percentage of just 33.3% and a passer rating of only 49.1 this year. He’s a bigger cornerback at 6-foot-2 and 196 pounds with fluid hips, good route recognition in zone coverage and impressive deep speed. His long arms give him a large catch radius and make it easier for him to break up passes in coverage. Injuries have been a recurring issue for him, but when healthy, he has serious NFL starting tools.
Round 4 (via Ravens): Tyjae Spears, RB, Tulane
It remains to be seen what the Bears do at the running back position, and that conversation starts with whether they bring back David Montgomery or not.
Regardless, it’s never a bad idea to take a shot on a back on Day 3 when the hit rate is so high. Spears dominated USC with 205 rushing yards and 4 touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl, but he had been on the draft radar long before then. He’s an explosive runner with great acceleration, good agility out in space, upside as a pass-catcher and good tempo variance out of the backfield. Plus, the last running back the Bears drafted from Tulane turned out pretty well, right?
Round 5: Dorian Williams, LB, Tulane
Two Tulane draft picks? Don’t mind if I do! I wouldn’t expect the Bears to invest heavily at linebacker this offseason, but they could use another face or two in there to battle for snaps.
Williams isn’t the biggest linebacker out there, but he has long arms and plenty of athletic ability. He projects well as a WILL linebacker, where he played this year at Tulane, but he could also play some SAM if need be. His flexibility, high motor, fluidity in the open field and pad level as a tackler indicates he could develop into a serviceable starter at the next level and a potential upgrade over what the Bears have now.
Round 5 (from Ravens via Patriots): Habakkuk Baldonado, EDGE, Pittsburgh
With the Bears coaching at the East-West Shrine Bowl, it would make sense if they took advantage of the opportunity and selected at least one of the players they’ll be coaching in Vegas this year.
Baldonado fits the Eberflus bill in that he’s long and explosive. He showcases very good finesse in his hands as a pass-rusher, particularly in his two-hand shuck. His long arms allow him to lock blockers out from inside his frame, and he plays with a high motor on a consistent basis. His production fell from 9 sacks in 2021 to 2 sacks in 2022, but when he’s playing at his best, he’s a player who can make an impact on a game.
Round 7: Brent Laing, OG, Minnesota Duluth
My mock drafts exist for two reasons: to inform you all about intriguing draft prospects for the upcoming class, and to add new players to the NFL Mock Draft Database and make life as hard as possible for Denny.
Another Shrine Bowl participant, Laing is a versatile offensive lineman with starting experience as both a guard and a tackle. The first thing you notice about him is that he’s extremely athletic with great burst off the line of scrimmage, impressive mobility in pass protection and coordination at the point of contact. He’s a Division II lineman who isn’t super big and can struggle with anchor strength, but the tools are there to make Laing a flier worth taking late.