Being a committed sports fan isn’t for the faint of heart, but damn, there can be some good days. As a fan of the Chicago Bears, today was a very, very good day.
Your Chicago Bears no longer have the first overall pick, which I’m sure you know by now. To recap the trade that is now the highlight on the short general manager resume of one Mr. Ryan Poles, The Bears sent the No. 1 overall pick to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for the 9th and 61st pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, 2024 1st, 2025 2nd, and wide receiver DJ Moore.
Now that we know where the Bears will be picking in the first round, let’s look at a few realistic draft targets for Ryan Poles and Co at ninth overall.
Pulling up Bears Twitter this morning pic.twitter.com/sMGdhFh2HC— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) March 11, 2023
Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State
Firstly, let me start off by saying that trading with the Carolina Panthers had been gaining steam for me ever since Jalen Carter’s legal issues popped up during the Combine. Trading down to 1.09 instead of 1.04, for example, means that Carolina would have to sweeten the deal – and boy is it sweet.
Secondly, it has to be said that the Panthers, who had the opportunity to draft Justin Fields and inexplicably didn’t, just gave Justin Fields the best wide receiver of his young career along with four other draft picks. I’m rolling.
I previously tweeted that I’d love to see Chicago trade down to 1.09 and target Paris Johnson, so I might as well stick to my guns. Johnson stood out as one of the elite options on the offensive line in this draft class during the Combine field drills, and while 1.09 might feel a steep compared to plenty of mock drafts, addressing the line after trading for wide receiver DJ Moore would be a smart way to go about things. You gave Fields a weapon, now give him protection.
Honorable offensive line mention: Peter Skoronski. If the Bears prefer him to Johnson, you aren’t going to hear me complain.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
Johnson would be a smart pick, but doubling down at wide receiver and pairing Fields with his old Ohio State wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba would be incredible. For my money, Smith-Njigba is the best wide receiver in this draft class, possessing rare route-running ability and shiftiness. He isn’t the fastest wide receiver, but who cares. He profiles as a lethal slot wide receiver that understands coverages and will give Fields a reliable, friendly target.
In last year’s draft, fellow Ohio State wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson were drafted high in the first round. They both went on to produce 1,000+ receiving yard rookie seasons. According to Wilson, Smith-Njigba is the best receiver of the three of them.
I don’t know that I’d say that (I loved Wilson as a prospect), but it’s high praise for a route running assassin. In the 2021 season, Smith-Njigba led the Buckeyes in receiving yards with 1,606, Wilson was second with 1,058, and Olave was third with 936. Smith-Njigba outshined two future first round wide receivers. If he’s the pick in the first round, Bears fans should be thrilled to draft him.
Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
So while we’re having fun, let’s have a lot of fun and get a bit weird with it. Bijan Robinson is as good as it gets at the running back position, and it isn’t hyperbole to say that he’s the best running back prospect to enter the NFL in the last five years. His vision, agility, and ability to throttle between power and shiftiness is unbelievable.
On talent alone, Robinson should be a top-five pick in the draft, just like Saquon Barkley and Ezekiel Elliott were. Unfortunately for Robinson, he plays one of the most devalued positions in the game and is part of a loaded running back class. How high or low he gets drafted will have more to do with his position than his talent.
Let’s assume for a minute that the Bears let David Montgomery walk in free agency, spend a lot of money on the offensive line, and have already secured Moore at wide receiver. You know what else would help a developing quarterback? A truly elite running game.
Robinson is a difference maker on the ground and out of the backfield as a receiving option, and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, who was with our not-so-friendly neighbors to the north, was part of implementing a Packers offensive that featured a healthy amount of running back production out of Aaron Jones, Jamall Williams, and AJ Dillon. Getsy would have a field day putting defenses in chaos with Fields, Moore, and Robinson.
Who would you like to see the Bears draft at nine?
Later today our Lead Draft Analyst, Jacob Infante, will reveal some draft prospects the Bears should be targeting in the second round.