It’s safe to say the Bears made a splash on Friday.
Chicago traded out of the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, moving down to No. 9 in a trade with the Panthers. Among multiple future draft picks, the Bears acquired star wide receiver DJ Moore and a second-round pick this year, specifically the No. 62 overall pick Carolina acquired by trading away running back Christian McCaffrey.
Still armed with the most cap space in the NFL and plenty of draft flexibility, the Bears’ potential options in this year’s draft are seemingly endless. They still have plenty of needs — many of which will presumably be filled in free agency — but such a massive trade puts Chicago in an extremely favorable position.
With the trade confirmed, let’s run a mock draft using the simulation at NFL Mock Draft Database and try to predict what the Bears will do now in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Round 1 (via Panthers): Peter Skoronski, OL, Northwestern
Trading for a WR1 gives the Bears so much wiggle room in Round 1. They could still take Jaxon Smith-Njigba here, but I’m going with an offensive lineman with Pro Bowl potential very early in his NFL career.
I’m assuming the Bears will sign a top free agent at offensive tackle; Mike McGlinchey stands out, but Kaleb McGary, Jawaan Taylor or (less likely) Orlando Brown are all possibilities. With Paris Johnson Jr. gone and none of Will Anderson, Jalen Carter or Tyree Wilson free, I’m taking the best player available on my board. Skoronski gives you a high-floor, high-ceiling offensive lineman with great technique and athleticism. Slot him at tackle or guard? That’s for the Bears to decide. Either way, it’s an immediate and massive upgrade.
Round 2 (via Ravens): Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn
I’m also anticipating the Bears sign one defensive tackle and one edge rusher, but that won’t be enough to overhaul the defensive line, thus explaining these next two picks.
Hall measured and tested very well at the Combine, tallying a 4.57 40-yard dash with a 1.58 10-yard split with 34.5-inch arms. He’s an explosive pass-rusher with a high motor and very good raw power. Once he adds a few more moves to his game, he could be a genuine terror at the next level.
Round 2 (from 49ers via Panthers): Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
Of all the defensive tackles in the 2023 draft, Benton is the one I’m most convinced is at least a solid starter at the next level. Yes, that includes Jalen Carter (after the legal issues took place).
Benton is a well-rounded 1-technique defensive tackle with a powerful frame and long arms. He uses his hands with ideal diversity and activity to get into opposing backfields, he showcases solid short-area quickness, and he’s a stout gap-stuffer in the run game. You get him alongside Javon Hargrave or Dre’Mont Jones with Justin Jones in the rotation, and it’s game over for opposing offenses.
Round 3: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
Even though Bobby Okereke has been tabbed as a potential target for the Bears, their flexibility gives them the chance to go for pure value, scheme fit and athletic upside. Campbell fits all of those traits to a T.
I couldn’t find a wide receiver or cornerback I adored here, making my job that much easier. Campbell is a supremely gifted athlete with great size and very good functional athleticism. He’s a tad raw but offers fantastic value moving around in space across the middle of the field. I like him as a MIKE but could see him thrive at either SAM or WILL, as well.
Round 4: Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
If all goes well, the Bears secure all five of their key secondary spots after this pick.
Bennett is one of my guys in this class. He has good length and absurd athleticism, which he showed at the Combine with a 4.30 40-yard dash and a 9.58 RAS. Not only is he quite athletic, but he shows good route recognition and plays with a physical edge at the catch point. There isn’t nearly enough buzz on him as there should be, and I’d love for the Bears to be the team to grab a potential steal.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton
Tools. For. Days.
Iosivas is one of the tallest, fastest and physically gifted wide receivers in the 2023 draft. You ideally see him pushing Equanimeous St. Brown for reps and backing up Chase Claypool to start off as a rookie. He’ll need some time to develop as a route runner, but after having watched him for a considerable amount of time and having gotten to know him, I firmly believe he has what it takes to grow into a special talent.
Round 5: Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma
Assuming the Bears don’t re-sign David Montgomery, they could very well be in the market for a running back this offseason, whether it be through free agency or the draft.
Gray is a guy who’s been on my radar since his time at Tennessee in 2019 and 2020. He’s a smaller back but offers very good speed and agility, along with a willingness to battle through contact. Considering he’s a shade under 5-foot-10 and just 204 pounds, he runs with better balance than you’d expect, even if he won’t dominate as a short-yardage back. He’s also a solid pass-catcher with good ball skills, to boot.
Round 5 (from Patriots via Ravens): YaYa Diaby, EDGE, Louisville
I love me some toolsy edge rushers on Day 3, and perhaps nobody fits that bill better than Diaby.
Diaby ran an absurd 4.51 40-yard dash with a blazing 1.56 10-yard split at the Combine at 263 pounds, and he has a deep arsenal of pass-rushing tools at his disposal. Technique in terms of his body control will need to improve, but he’s a lengthy and physically gifted prospect who could develop into a quality pass-rusher down the line.
Round 7: McClendon Curtis, OG, Chattanooga
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a shot on a toolsy small-school offensive lineman in the seventh round.
Curtis has 35-inch arms — that’s 93rd percentile for a guard — blocks with a mean streak and has very good body control for someone who’s 6-foot-6 and 324 pounds. He seems tailor-made for what the Bears are trying to establish along their offensive line.
Round 7 (compensatory pick): Kemari Averett, TE, Bethune-Cookman
With the second-to-last pick in the entire 2023 NFL Draft, we’re taking a shot on one of the most physically imposing small-schoolers in this class.
Averett is a former Louisville player who measured at 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds with a wingspan that’s nearly 6-foot-10. He’s certainly raw as a route runner and blocker, but he has tremendous raw size and very good body control. His ball skills are put on full display when you turn on his tape; some of the catches he makes in his highlights alone are worth taking a late Day 3 flier on so you don’t risk having to fight for him as an undrafted free agent.