You know what time it is.
The NFL Combine happened. The Bears currently have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Let’s do a mock draft.
Bears get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 2), 2023 second-round pick (No. 33), 2024 second-round pick
Texans get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 1)
Negotiations between the Bears and Texans will start with the Bears asking for the No. 12 pick in this year’s draft. Ryan Poles could be willing to include some additional draft capital to end up with the picks Nos. 2 and 12, and I wouldn’t rule out him being aggressive in trying to acquire those picks. That said, I’m sticking with a still-solid haul here, as Chicago ends up with two second-round picks to move to the spot they would’ve gotten anyway if Davis Mills didn’t engage in late-game heroics in Week 18.
Bears get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 9), 2023 second-round pick (No. 39), 2023 third-round pick (No. 94), 2024 first-round pick, 2024 fifth-round pick
Panthers get: 2023 first-round pick (No. 2), 2024 fourth-round pick
If the Bears trade with the Panthers, they might end up gauging interest in Brian Burns, but with the coaching staff Carolina has in place and how well they played to close out the year, they might want to keep Burns to compete in a wide-open NFC South. This trade ensures the Bears get additional first-round capital for next year, as well as acquiring another early second-round pick. This trade would give them 6 picks in the top 100 and 7 picks in the top 105.
Bonus prediction: Texans take Bryce Young at 1, Panthers take C.J. Stroud at 2, Colts take Anthony Richardson at 4, Raiders take Will Levis at 7
Round 1 (via Panthers): Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The strong Combine workout and insane agility drills set it in stone for me: Smith-Njigba is WR1 in this draft. If the Bears trade back, they can get a potential perennial 1,000-yard weapon and still stock up on high-end draft capital. JSN is an intelligent, coordinated and fluid receiver who’s arguably the best route runner in the class. Justin Fields gets his guy.
Round 2 (via Texans): Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
This may seem like a bit of a luxury pick, but if the Bears play their cards right in free agency by adding talent in the trenches, they could afford to take a cornerback this early. Banks tested absurdly well at the Combine and has top-notch fluidity, route-recognition skills, explosiveness, size and a scrappy demeanor. Adding him would give Chicago one of the better secondaries in the league.
Round 2 (via Panthers): Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Some may have concerns about scheme fit with Wright, but he tested well and looked nimble in agility drills at the Combine, carrying his 333 pounds tremendously. He’s a powerful blocker with good length who could absolutely displace people in the run game. Putting him next to Teven Jenkins would be unfair for opposing teams to work against on the ground.
Round 2 (via Ravens): Adetomiwa Adebawore, DL, Northwestern
The trend is leaning towards keeping Adebawore along the interior, and his athleticism would make him a freak as a 3-technique. His 4.49 40-yard dash and 1.61 10-yard split were insane for a 282-pounder, and they could see him drafted even higher than this in real life. That said, his freakish speed and length would make him a matchup nightmare on passing downs.
Round 3: Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn
Hall is a bit undersized from a height and weight perspective, but he has insane length and athleticism with a freakish 1.58 10-yard split and a 4.57 40-yard dash. On tape, he’s one of the quickest edge rushers in the class and converts speed to power quite well. If he develops some more moves in his arsenal, he could be a serious difference-maker.
Round 3 (via 49ers from Panthers): Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
I truly started going with the BPA approach here regardless of position. I love this tight end class, so I felt the need to take advantage of it. Selecting Kraft doesn’t mean you don’t extend Cole Kmet, but it gives you another talented weapon with freak athleticism. It’s an easy comparison to make since they’re both tight ends from South Dakota State, but Kraft compares quite favorably to Dallas Goedert athletically and in terms of play style.
Round 4: Chase Brown, RB, Illinois
Brown isn’t the best scheme fit from a pass protection perspective, but he’s an electric athlete with legitimate home-run hitting value. He has great top speed and has the ball-carrier vision needed to patiently find the open lane and quickly accelerate through it. As a rotational back, he brings a ton of value.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Trey Palmer, WR, Nebraska
Palmer was very productive on a subpar Nebraska team this year, so he’s arguably falling under the radar more than he should be. He’s a shifty weapon with very good YAC ability and insane deep speed on tape, and a 4.33 40-yard dash at the Combine sure won’t hurt him any.
Round 5: Braeden Daniels, OG, Utah
A plus athlete with four years of starting experience as both a tackle and a guard, Daniels looked coordinated and nimble at the Combine, which shows up with him on tape. He’s a tad raw but blocks very well on the move and can seal off defenders in the run game.
Round 5 (via Patriots from Ravens): Nick Herbig, LB, Wisconsin
Herbig took on that Zack Baun role for Wisconsin and could be in for a similar projection as a SAM at the next level. He fires off the ball with very good quickness, has nice change-of-direction and brings versatility in coverage and rushing off the edge. A full-time transition to an off-ball role could result in a learning curve, but his passing-down value is palpable.
Round 7: Jacky Chen, OT, Pace
Let’s roll with a Division II player to close things out! Chen got invited to the Shrine Bowl and measured with nearly 34-inch arms. He’s a nimble pass protector who generates good bend in his lower half and looks coordinated as a wide-zone run blocker. Though a tad raw as a processor and technique, he’s exactly the toolsy prospect you take in Round 7 to avoid getting in a bidding war over in undrafted free agency.