The Bears shook up the entirety of the 2023 NFL Draft on Friday.
Their decision to trade out of the No. 1 pick, sending it to the Panthers in exchange for a massive haul of draft picks and wide receiver DJ Moore, likely altered the way that not only Chicago attacks the draft, but several other teams, as well.
Among their large haul of draft picks was a 2023 second-round pick: the No. 62 overall selection. Carolina originally acquired the pick from the 49ers in their Christian McCaffrey trade, but they sent the pick over to Chicago to sweeten the pot.
After the trade, the Bears have three picks in the span of 12 selections. They hold the No. 53 pick from their trade of Roquan Smith to the Ravens, the No. 62 pick from Friday’s trade, and the No. 64 pick as their own third-round selection. Keep in mind that the forfeit of Miami’s first-round pick means that there are only 31 first-round picks, making the second round start at pick No. 32, the third round at No. 64, so on and so forth.
The Bears may choose to trade a pick or two out of this range — whether that be by trading up or trading further down to acquire even more picks — but the odds are strong they’ll pick in the range of picks No. 53 through 64 at least once, if not multiple times.
This fringe Round 2/Round 3 range is very interesting to me, so I decided to look at some potential targets for the Bears in that span. While we won’t know who falls there until the weekend of the draft, I used my own grades and the consensus big board from NFL Mock Draft Database to help influence my decisions.
Players I don’t think fall
- Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
- Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas
- Will McDonald IV, Iowa State
- Keion White, EDGE, Georgia Tech
- Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
- Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
- Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina
- Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL/EDGE, Northwestern
Players from my updated Bears mock draft
I won’t cover these 3 prospects in this article, because I already selected all of them for the Bears in the mock draft I published after the draft. Feel free to read my mock draft for breakdowns on each player; however, they are as follows:
- Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn
- Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
- Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
I’ll get out in front of it to say the best value the Bears have in this range is, coincidentally, at their biggest needs of offensive and defensive line.
I expect them to sign an edge rusher, but if they choose to look towards the draft for the other starting defensive end, they’ll have plenty of options. Zach Harrison from Ohio State is a physical specimen who’s a tad raw but has the sheer length and incredible explosiveness that could make him enticing in Rounds 2-3. LSU’s BJ Ojulari is another edge rusher worth considering, and while he doesn’t have elite pure size, he has long arms and wins well with speed and bend turning the corner. There’s also the productive Isaiah Foskey out of Notre Dame, who had 20.5 sacks in his last two seasons and wouldn’t count against top-30 visits for the Bears to bring in.
The value at defensive tackle falls off a bit later in Round 2, but there isn’t a total absence of talent there. Gervon Dexter out of Florida tested very well athletically at the Combine and projects well as a 3-technique in a 4-3 system like Chicago’s, even if his arms aren’t super long. Michigan’s Mazi Smith stands out as a possible addition as a 1-technique; he’s incredibly strong against the run and has plenty of untapped potential if he can maximize his athleticism with a better plan of attack. I almost included Siaki Ika from Baylor here, but I don’t think he’s a tremendous scheme fit.
A lot of what the Bears do with their offensive line in the draft will depend on what they do in free agency. I expect them to add at least two starters this offseason at right tackle and center, and one could argue that Cody Whitehair is worth replacing at left guard at this stage. Hell, if the value’s good enough for a certain prospect, you could take another offensive tackle and have him push Braxton Jones for a starting spot, though I feel confident Jones starts in 2023.
There’s tremendous value at the center position in the Bears’ range of Day 2 picks. My top center is John Michael Schmitz from Minnesota, and while he grades much better than a late second-rounder for me, his age and positional value could drop him down boards a little bit if teams overthink it. Should Schmitz not be available, then Wisconsin’s Joe Tippman and Ohio State’s Luke Wypler are both athletic scheme fits who excelled against Big Ten competition.
Should the Bears look otherwise, Matthew Bergeron from Syracuse is a talented tackle prospect with good athleticism on tape who should be available for at least one of Chicago’s Day 2 picks. Though he played tackle at North Dakota State, I like Cody Mauch better as a guard, where his lack of length can be hidden and his athleticism and mean streak highlighted better a la Teven Jenkins.
The Bears now have a nice wide receiver trio in place in the form of DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool. However, the latter two are free agents at the end of 2023, meaning it’s not out of the realm of possibility they add another weapon somewhat early in the draft.
After first-round hype early in the offseason, the hype seems to have fallen back to reality for SMU’s Rashee Rice, who is still quite the athletic weapon with great ball skills but seems more likely to go Day 2 at this stage. A skinnier yet even faster option could be Oklahoma star Marvin Mims, who possesses legit 4.3 speed and could be a threat out of either the slot ‘Y’ or the field-side ‘Z’ alignments.
If you’re looking for a dark horse draft picks, I suggest Georgia tight end Darnell Washington. The Bears have a solid starter at the position in Cole Kmet, but Washington is a freak of nature with absurd size, tremendous blocking ability and great athletic talent. I didn’t include Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Utah’s Dalton Kincaid or Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave because I expect them to be the first three tight ends taken. However, their prominence could slide Washington down the board into a fantastic scheme fit like Chicago.
If the Bears want to really mix things up, they could take a shot on prospects at other positions that aren’t talked about as much as needs.
Defensively, Chicago could still use some additional talent at linebacker. I’m looking for speed and length at the position, and both Daiyan Henley from Washington State and Owen Pappoe from Auburn fit that bill perfectly. Though I see him as more of a Round 4 target, Tulane’s Dorian Williams could go higher than many expect, too.
The Bears are also in need of one more starting cornerback, seeing as though they operate a lot out of sets with either 3 or 4 cornerbacks. Length and athleticism are the key here, as well. Miami (FL)’s Tyrique Stevenson and Julius Brents out of Kansas State both possess very good size and long arms for the cornerback position, as well as intriguing athletic potential. Finally, while I wouldn’t expect the Bears to address running back until Day 3 if they draft one, I really like Texas A&M speedster Devon Achane as a big-play back who uses his 4.32 speed to make plays as a complementary back and on passing downs.
Our newest writer, Jon Helmkamp, another draft aficionado, wrote up a few options for the Bears in the first round with the ninth overall selection.