Jalen Carter might be the biggest enigma in the 2023 NFL Draft.
His disappointing Pro Day and legal concerns have been well documented to this point, but the Georgia defensive tackle stakes a legitimate claim for having the best tape of any prospect in this year’s class. It’s practically a foregone conclusion he’ll be a first-round pick, but exactly how high he gets selected remains a mystery.
Prior to the Combine, Carter had been slated as a consensus top-5 pick, but concerns have since dropped him into the top 10. His agent, Drew Rosenhaus, is only sending Carter on team visits to teams selecting in the top 10, and while it’s probable he still goes that high because of his ceiling, there’s a chance he could fall into the latter end of that range.
This begs the question: would the Bears select Carter if he was available at No. 9?
I ran the simulator over at NFL Mock Draft Database until Carter fell to me at No. 9, and the first time it happened, I went through and made the rest of my selections. With that in mind, let’s begin.
Round 1 (via Panthers): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
The Bears need that bonafide star at the 3-technique defensive tackle position, and Carter is that guy and then some. If all goes well with him, he has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowler and a serious difference maker. He fits a Matt Eberflus defense because of his athleticism, raw power, hand activity and intelligence against the run.
Round 2 (via Ravens): Matthew Bergeron, OT, Syracuse
Passing on an offensive tackle in Round 1 risks a significant drop-off at the position, as the value late in Round 2 and early in Round 3 will likely be scarce. Luckily for me, however, Bergeron was the last of my “Tier 2” tackles remaining on the board, and he was a good value from a pure talent perspective. He’s an athletic, powerful lineman with starting experience at both tackle spots, a mean streak and easily correctable flaws. He projects as a solid starter at the NFL level.
Round 2 (from 49ers via Panthers): Derick Hall, EDGE, Auburn
The addition of Carter should hypothetically help the Bears’ pass rush significantly, but their group of edge rushers would still be pretty weak. Hall is a lengthy edge rusher with tremendous athletic ability, a quick first step and the ability to convert speed to power efficiently. His bend isn’t as good as his straight-line speed, but the potential for him to contribute right away is palpable.
Round 3: D.J. Turner, CB, Michigan
The Bears don’t have a solidified third starter at the cornerback position, so why not add one of the most athletic cornerbacks in the 2023 draft? Turner is an effective cover corner with inside-outside versatility and the ability to play underneath, play the flat or in deep quarters. He’s a very fluid athlete with loose hips and a willing edge maintaining contact through a receiver’s stems. Oh, and he ran a 4.26 40-yard dash. He’s smaller and isn’t a reliable tackler, but could be a Day 1 starter alongside Jaylon Johnson and Kyler Gordon.
Round 4: Isaiah McGuire, EDGE, Missouri
In this scenario, the Bears’ edge rusher group would consist of Derick Hall, DeMarcus Walker, Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson. However, Gipson’s contract expires at the end of 2023, and Walker will likely kick inside in certain passing down subpackages. There’s no such thing as too much depth, and McGuire is a lengthy, athletic and productive defender who converts speed to power well and a well-built frame. A lack of consistent lower-half flexibility and run game value could hurt, but he could be a reliable rotational edge rusher with potential starter value down the line.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Ricky Stromberg, C, Arkansas
Stromberg is a good center who’s a Bears fan, and the Bears need a good center. In all seriousness, he’s a quality prospect who’s put together four seasons of quality interior tape. He lands his strikes well, keeps his pads low at the point of attack and combines above-average play strength with a determined demeanor. He’s a solid enough athlete to play in Chicago’s offense, and while he doesn’t have elite speed or lateral quickness, he’s a high-floor player who should be able to stick around the NFL for quite some time in some capacity.
Round 5: Eric Gray, RB, Oklahoma
The Bears don’t have a massive need at running back right now, but the value in the 2023 draft is so good they might end up getting tremendous value on Day 3. Gray is a well-rounded back who can pass protect and catch passes well out of the backfield, and he’s a shifty runner and nice creativity in the open field. A trio of Gray, Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman could be a solid backfield for Chicago heading into 2023.
Round 5 (from Patriots via Ravens): Sidy Sow, OG, Eastern Michigan
Sow has above-average arm length, large hands and was one of the top athletic testers at the Combine this year. He offers experience starting at both tackle and guard, he has ideal knee bend and plays with above-average play strength when he locks up with defenders at the point of attack. His balance can provide issues for him sometimes, but if he works on his coordination a bit, his ceiling is enticing on Day 3.
Round 7: Kade Warner, WR, Kansas State
Warner is an intriguing big slot weapon who also has value as an outside weapon. He’s a sure-handed receiver with a mere 3.6% drop rate in 2022, and he’s both an intelligent and tough player across the middle of the field with a good feel working against zone coverage and a determined edge after the catch. His athletic upside is just okay, but he should be reliable depth who can contribute on special teams.
Round 7 (compensatory pick): Anthony Adams, CB, Portland State
The FCS career leader in pass deflections, Adams was a late addition to the Shrine Bowl earlier in the pre-draft process. He finished with 9 interceptions and 42 pass breakups, and he tracks the ball well with good coordination and precision in his movements. He’s a fluid cornerback with a four-sport background in high school. Physicality is a concern, as is the level of competition he faced, but he has very good tape and deserves serious NFL looks.
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