With the ninth pick in the 2023 SB Nation Writers’ Mock Draft, the Chicago Bears select Ohio State offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr.
After not receiving any interest to trade back from my fellow writers, this was a no-brainer considering how the board fell. There were still several players available I would have been okay with, but a high-ceiling, high-floor, athletic 6'6, 313 pounder with 36 1/8" arms is precisely what the Bears need. And while Johnson definitely fills a need, he also falls into a best player available scenario.
For proper context on my pick, here's how my colleagues' first eight picks came off the board.
1) Carolina Panthers (via Bears), C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
2) Houston Texans, Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
3) Arizona Cardinals, Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alamaba
4) Indianapolis Colts, Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
5) Seattle Seahawks (via Broncos), Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
6) Detroit Lions (via Rams), Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
7) Las Vegas Raiders, Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
8) Atlanta Falcons, Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
This mock falls pretty close to the recent DraftKings Sportsbook draft props. They have Johnson with the highest odds to be the first offensive lineman taken (-150), Robinson as the first running back off the board (-10,000), Gonzalez as the number one corner picked (-190), and Anderson as the first defensive player (-400) and first non-QB selected (-425). Early in the draft process, Young was the favorite to go first overall, but Stroud (-330) has taken over that spot.
But back to PJJ and his fit with the Bears.
Johnson manned the left tackle spot for the Buckeyes in 2022, but in 2021 he started 13 games at right guard, and he played in five games at guard as a true freshman in 2020. His length means he's most likely an NFL tackle, but his versatility is a plus, as is an entire season working from a right-handed stance. The Bears were comfortable with rookie Braxton Jones at left tackle a season ago, but they aren't married to the notion that he stays on the left with a rookie starting on the right side.
"I think he can go on both sides," Eberflus said of Braxton in a recent interview on the team's site. "Obviously, some of the linemen prefer one side or the other. They prefer the right-hand stance or the left-hand stance, where the angles are and all that. That's something you always have to look at, for sure."
If Johnson is Chicago's first-round draft pick, he'd immediately slot into a starting tackle spot, and whether it's the right or left side, he'll have a full offseason to hone his technique and get ready for the 2023 season.
Our Lead Draft Analyst Jacob Infante recently wrote up why he believes Johnson makes sense for the Bears at ninth overall.
Johnson projects best as a zone blocker at the next level, especially in wide-zone situations. He showcases very good body control blocking on the move, along with impressive coordination at the point of attack. He changes direction well in pass protection and has good initial burst in his pass sets. In the run game, he’s quick off the snap and does a good job of rolling his hips through contact to seal off defenders.
There are some flaws in Johnson’s game: his pad level can run too high, and his spatial awareness when he doesn’t have a defender directly over him can be hit or miss. That said, he complements the aforementioned length and athleticism with good strike placement and very good raw power in his frame, and his weaknesses seem incredibly coachable.
What are your thoughts on the way this mock draft fell?
If no trade back was available, would you be content if the real draft went this way for the Bears?
Stay tuned for round two of SB Nation's mock, where the Bears have two picks.