NFL free agency is far from over, but the first wave seems to have come and gone.
The Chicago Bears have arguably been the most active team in free agency thus far, splashing on such signings as Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards and Nate Davis. They’ve also made several intriguing rotational additions on both sides of the ball, working to upgrade a roster that finished with the NFL’s worst record in 2022.
Despite some quality signings — as well as trading for DJ Moore — the Bears still have a handful of significant holes on their roster. Luckily for them, there’s still the 2023 NFL Draft to look forward to, and also luckily for them is the fact that this year’s draft is deep at some of their biggest needs.
Odds are the Bears’ current major needs won’t change significantly between now and the draft, so with that in mind, let’s run an updated 7-round mock draft!
Round 1 (via Panthers): Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
If the Bears stay put at No. 9 and Johnson is on the board, I have a hard time imagining they’ll be able to pass on him.
Johnson is an absurdly long offensive lineman with tremendous size at 6-foot-6 and 313 pounds with 36 1/8-inch arms, which is 96th percentile for an offensive tackle. His raw size and length is aided by top-notch strength and a high motor, and he’s also one of the most athletic offensive tackles in this year’s draft. A high-upside lineman with a strong relationship with Justin Fields that certainly doesn’t hurt, Johnson makes all the sense in the world for what Chicago needs.
Round 2 (via Ravens): Isaiah Foskey, EDGE, Notre Dame
It might sound boring to use the default “long and fast” description for a lot of these picks, but it works!
Foskey has been very productive at the collegiate level with 25 sacks and 28 tackles for a loss over the last three seasons. He’s a 4.58 athlete with 34-inch arms and an intriguing frame that’s built well for a 4-3 base defensive end role. He accelerates well off the line of scrimmage, turns the corner well and has done a good job of adding good weight to his frame, meaning his play strength should only get better with time. Chicago needs some juice off the edge, and Foskey has the tools to be a long-term starter.
Round 2 (from 49ers via Panthers): Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
The Bears might not be able to find their 3-technique in the draft this year, but that shouldn’t stop them from addressing the defensive tackle position.
I’ve selected Benton in several mock simulations and have written about him quite a bit. Simply put, I think he’s the highest-floor defensive tackle in this draft. He has a deep arsenal of hand techniques, a strong anchor that lets him eat up gaps in the run game, and nice short-area burst to generate some initial pressure up the middle. He’s a guy I think starts pretty quickly in his NFL career and steps in as at least a solid starter.
Round 3: Joe Tippman, C, Wisconsin
Two beefy boys from Wisconsin back-to-back? Don’t mind if I do.
Tippmann compares quite favorably to Ethan Pocic, who was the top center out on the open market this year. He’s a bigger center at 6-foot-6 and 313 pounds whose size is apparent in his play strength, and he’s a high-quality athlete with good mobility and body control. He’ll need to work on his lower-half bend but should become a quality starter at the next level.
Round 4: Jakorian Bennett, CB, Maryland
I’m going to bat for Bennett, a talented cornerback who’s a tad undersized but has above-average length for his position and impressive athletic upside.
He’s a fluid athlete in coverage with loose hips and above-average route recognition abilities, which allows him to stay inside the receiver’s hip pocket and mirror their movements well. He also tested above the 90th percentile at cornerback in the 40-yard dash, 10-yard split, vertical jump and broad jump. He played predominantly on the field-side in the tape I watched of him, but he makes a lot of sense as someone who could thrive in the slot.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Wanya Morris, OT, Oklahoma
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: the Bears take a lengthy, athletic offensive lineman in a mock draft.
Cliches aside, I really think Morris fits exactly what Chicago wants in an offensive tackle. He has massive 35 1/8-inch arms, plays with a nasty edge at the point of attack, and he moves well laterally in pass protection. He’s pretty raw, but he’d be a high-upside swing tackle with the tools to develop into more than that, which is a flier worth taking a chance on if you’re an OL-needy team like the Bears.
Round 5: Andrei Iosivas, WR, Princeton
The Bears have their starting wide receiver trio set for 2022 in DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool, but the latter two are slated to be free agents after this year, and there’s no such thing as too many weapons.
Chicago’s in the perfect position to take a flier on a high-upside, developmental wide receiver in this year’s draft. Does anyone in this class fit that mold better than Iosivas, a 6-foot-3, record-breaking heptathlete with insane deep speed and impressive ball skills? I personally don’t think so.
Round 5 (from Patriots via Ravens): Andrew Vorhees, OG, USC
Were it not for a torn ACL suffered at the Combine, Vorhees likely would’ve been a Day 2 pick. The Bears could afford to take the risk on a high-upside offensive lineman this late in the draft.
He’s a coordinated athlete with some nice pop in his jabs, a wide base and good hand placement. He offers tackle-guard versatility that should help him find playing time early in his career, and he handles power quite well in pass protection. Should he recover fully and regain his level of athleticism — while not elite, it’s solid — Vorhees could be a potential steal down the line for Chicago.
Round 7: Robert Beal Jr., EDGE, Georgia
Let’s take a shot on some untapped potential for the Bears’ defensive line in 2023.
Beal is a bit underweight at 247 pounds, he was a backup at the collegiate level, and he doesn’t use his hands super well yet. That said, he has insane length, an explosive first step and a red-hot motor on a consistent basis. Oh, and he runs a 4.48 40-yard dash! That’ll help out pretty nicely.
Round 7 (compensatory pick): Deneric Prince, RB, Tulsa
I have a higher grade on Prince than a late seventh-rounder, but it seems likely he’ll be a late Day 3 pick this year, which could make him a potential steal.
He’s a determined runner with good contact balance, and he’s shown some really nice flashes of patience out of the backfield. He’s a well-built back at 6-foot-0 and 216 pounds, and he’s an explosive straight-line athlete who thrives in between the tackles. The Bears now have Khalil Herbert, D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer competing for touches, as well as 2022 sixth-rounder Trestan Ebner, but Prince is a toolsy back worth taking a shot on.
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