The 2023 NFL trade deadline has come and gone. Jaylon Johnson stayed put in Chicago, the Bears are down a 2024 second-round pick, and Montez Sweat is the newest addition to their defensive line.
Now that we’ve past the halfway point in the season, it’s becoming apparent which teams will be fighting for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, and which teams will be fighting for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft. Unfortunately for Chicago Bears fans, their team falls in the latter category. Luckily for said fans, though, the Bears have a realistic chance to end up with two top-5 picks when it’s all said and done.
With the Panthers at 1-7 and the Bears at 2-7, Chicago currently holds the Nos. 2 and 3 selections in the 2024 draft. The Cardinals are the only team picking ahead of them as of this writing, and with Kyler Murray soon returning and the Panthers possessing the strength of schedule tiebreaker over Arizona, the first pick isn’t out of reach.
For the time being, however, let’s assume the Bears stay put with the second and third picks. What could their draft strategy look like? Let’s take a look in my latest Bears 2024 7-round mock draft.
Falcons get: QB Justin Fields
Bears get: 2024 second-round pick (No. 52), 2025 conditional third-round pick, QB Taylor Heinicke
I didn’t want to include a trade in this mock draft, but if you’re drafting a quarterback early, trading Justin Fields would be a foregone conclusion.
If the Bears end up with a top-two pick, it would be surprising to see them pass on a quarterback this year. Given Poles’ preference to form the roster in his own imagine — as well as Fields’ inconsistency to this point — a trade seems like the most likely scenario, barring a turnaround once the QB gets back from injury. Using the trade value proposed by The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, we find a new landing spot for Fields in Atlanta.
Do the Bears truly need Heinicke here when they already have Tyson Bagent? Maybe not, but there’s no such things as too much quarterback depth. That’s what this trade proposal offers, so we’re rolling with it.
Seahawks get: 2024 fifth-round pick (No. 141)
Bears get: 2024 sixth-round pick (No. 161), 2024 seventh-round pick (No. 203), 2025 sixth-round pick
As of this writing, the Bears don’t have selections in Rounds 6 or 7 due to past trades for Jakeem Grant and N’Keal Harry, respectfully. With the chance to stock up on a couple more current and future picks, the Bears move down on Day 3. I could’ve included more trade-downs in this mock draft given Ryan Poles’ penchant towards accumulating draft capital, but I’ll stick with only one for now.
Round 1 (via Panthers): Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina
If the Bears end up picking in the top-two, I feel confident they’ll end up taking a quarterback.
Maye has a lot of the tools NFL teams drool over when doing evaluations of quarterbacks coming out of the draft. He’s a big-armed quarterback with a strong sense of timing, a big frame, toughness in the pocket and above-average athleticism. I still think Caleb Williams goes No. 1 overall, but if the Bears pick at No. 2, Maye isn’t too far behind. He’s arguably the safer pick than Williams and still possesses Pro Bowl upside.
Round 1: Marvin Harrison Jr., WR, Ohio State
The Bears will require the Giants and Patriots to win some more games in order for the current projected draft order to take place. Even if they do pick third, there’s a chance they try to trade back. With the top-two quarterbacks off the board, however, the price for this spot decreases. Therefore, they stand pat and take one of the best wide receiver prospects of the 21st century.
Harrison’s hype has reached tremendous heights in the draft community, especially among Bears fans. He’s the real deal, though: he has size, speed, strength, a high route-running IQ, elite ball skills and tremendous hands. As enticing as it would be to trade down and accumulate even more picks, you’re going to need blue-chip talent on your roster at some point. MHJ is exactly that.
Round 2 (via Falcons, projected trade): Michael Hall Jr., DT, Ohio State
I knew I wanted to focus on the trenches here, but the mid-to-late Round 2 value at edge rusher isn’t all that great in this draft. Having addressed center in free agency (hypothetically. A man can dream), I decided to further boost the interior defensive line with another young talent.
Hall is an explosive 3-technique who arguably isn’t being talked about as much as a freak athlete from a blue-blood program should be. His first step is lightning quick, and he’s a dynamic athlete in space as a backside defender. He has a sharp understanding of how to stack and shed blocks against the run, as well as lock out blockers from his frame despite being shorter at 6-foot-2 and 290 pounds. Though he’s dealt with sporadic injuries during his time at Ohio State, he’s a difference-maker with elite athleticism who has a more than respectable 7.6% pressure rate on passing downs as of this writing.
Round 3: Princely Umanmielen, EDGE, Florida
Even assuming the Bears use their abundance of cap space to sign another edge rusher to pair with Montez Sweat, it wouldn’t hurt to stock up on some more pass-rushers.
Umanmielen is a long-armed pass rusher with a lean, muscular frame that has done a good job of adding weight without sacrificing his speed. That’s especially a good thing, seeing as though he’s quick off the snap and has the flexibility needed to rip and dip on the outside to generate pressure on the quarterback. He has 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss through 9 games with a 13.2% pressure rate. His pass-rushing plan needs work, and his power is still just average. However, an athletic and lengthy edge rusher like Umanmielen offers solid starting upside at the NFL level.
Round 4: Christian Haynes, OG, UConn
When I’m the general manager of the Bears running a two-person power trip atop the organization (iykyk), I will make it a priority to continually add talent to the offensive line. You have your starting five linemen in this scenario, but there’s no such thing as too much depth.
Last year, he was the first Huskie to earn All-American recognition since 2010. He’s an athletic blocker with good mobility blocking on the move, and he also brings a nasty edge with good anchor strength and accurate strikes. His pad level and weight distribution can be issues for him, but the speed and nastiness combination should entice teams.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Tykee Smith, S, Georgia
It seems like a genuine possibility the Bears move on from Eddie Jackson this offseason. Even if they don’t do so, they still need better depth at the position, so expect safety to be a sneaky position of need for their defense.
A five-year starter in college between his time at West Virginia and Georgia, Smith has quietly been a key cog in Georgia’s consistently dominant defense. He can play up high, underneath, out of the box or in the slot, giving him the versatility defensive coordinators will have fun with in the NFL. He’s a smart safety who processes route concepts quickly and accurately, and he’s a fluid mover with good range in coverage. Smith is a smaller safety, measuring at roughly 5-foot-10. Though he won’t wow you with elite size, length or speed, he’s a sound defender with versatility to spare.
Round 6 (via Seahawks, projected trade): Tory Taylor, P, Iowa
As of this writing, Trenton Gill is last in the NFL in net punting yardage, 28th in punts downed inside the 20-yard line and tied for 25th in yards per punt. Out of full-time starting punters, he has the second-shortest season-best punt at 58 yards. It’s not a sexy need, but the Bears could use a better punter to pin opposing offenses back in their own territory.
Were it not for his turning 27 years old as a rookie, Taylor would be in consideration for an early Day 3 grade on my board. He’s a big punter at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds with an absolute cannon for a leg. He’s versatile from a delivery perspective, as he can punt Australian rugby style or from a pro-style approach. The Aussie led college football with 38 punts inside the 20-yard line in 2022, and he currently leads the nation with 24 punts inside the 20, with just three touchbacks on 61 attempts. He’s a tremendous punter with vastly improved accuracy and an elite leg that would fare well in Chicago.
Round 7 (via Seahawks, projected trade): Jalyx Hunt, EDGE, Houston Christian
With my newly-acquired seventh-round pick, I decided to bet on physical tools with an athletic freak who’s flown under the radar on Draft Twitter.
Hunt is certainly on NFL radars, seeing as though he was recently invited to the East-West Shrine Bowl. The 6-foot-4, 248-pound edge rusher is a converted safety who moves like a defensive back, yet he has great length and a frame that continues to get stronger each year. Upon his transfer from Cornell, he had 7 sacks and 11.5 tackles for a loss for Houston Christian (formerly Houston Baptist) in 2022. His flexibility, first-step quickness, agility and high motor make him a player worth drafting so you don’t have to battle for him as an undrafted free agent. Though still a work in progress in terms of play strength and technique shedding blocks, his tools give him immediate special teams value and long-term rotational pass-rushing upside.
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