The 2024 NFL Draft is still nine months away, but many fans and analysts (both National and local) are starting to put together Mock Drafts for next year. Why? Because the Chicago Bears have two first-round draft choices, and that pick they got from Carolina as part of this year's trade down from the number one slot should be a high pick.
For some reason, wide receivers always catch the eye of analysts because it is a glamour position. That said, will the Bears be looking to draft Ohio State's Marvin Harrison Jr. if they have the opportunity?
As I have said/written many times before, I don't think like a fan or an analyst but more like a front-office decision-maker because I was in that position for much of my adult life. When a person is in a decision making role for an NFL club, the emphasis is not on individual players but rather team building. The best way to build a team, especially if a General Manager is trying to build that team through the Draft, is to select high-value positions in the early rounds. Add that to signing young available unrestricted free agents, and it will go a long way toward building a Playoff contending roster.
Wide receiver can be a high-priority position if the club has weaknesses at the position and if higher priority positions are already filled with solid players. There is no question that Marvin Harrison Jr. is a quality wide out. He may be one of the better receivers in the Draft in the last few years. He could be a difference maker like Cincinnati's Ja'Mar Chase or Minnesota's Justin Jefferson. Harrison Jr. has Top-5 pick type of talent because of his size, speed and overall skill set. But is he a player the Bears really need?
How this upcoming season turns out will give us the answer. The Bears acquired D.J. Moore from Carolina as part of that huge trade last March. Moore is a legitimate number one receiver in the League and will easily upgrade the Bears' wide receiver room. Last October at the trade deadline, the Bears acquired Chase Claypool for a high second-round pick. Claypool didn't become a difference-maker in 2022, but honestly, that was not expected to happen last year. Ryan Poles made that trade for 2023 not 2022. Regardless of the narrative that some in the media and fans are trying to push, that facts are what I just wrote!
On paper, the Bears have a strong receiving corps, and if they come through, wide receiver will not be a priority position in the next Draft.
Granted, Claypool and Darnell Mooney are coming out of contract after this season, and many fans believe they will only be able to re-sign one. First, I don't believe that to be the case, and second, Ryan Poles didn't trade for Chase Claypool and give up a second-round pick to get him and then have him only be an 18-month rental. Trust me, that trade was made for the long term. In this offense, they want a big, fast and physical X wide receiver which is exactly what Claypool is.
Watching how Poles has tried to build this team, he has doubled up on high-priority value positions. Last year he spent a second-round pick on a corner, and he used another second-round pick this year to acquire another corner. In April's Draft, he selected a right tackle with the 10th overall pick in the first round and signed Nate Davis, a young, quality offensive guard, in free agency. He followed up the drafting of tackle Darnell Wright by selecting two promising defensive tackles in Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens in the second and third rounds. The position he has not been able to select is defensive end, and a quality pass rusher is one of the highest priority positions on any team.
I'm sure that Poles would have liked to draft a pass rusher this past April, but the Draft didn't fall that way. Between the selection of Wright and Dexter, eight pass rushers were selected. When the Bears were on the clock, there was not a pass rusher as talented as Dexter. Poles was not about to reach to select an edge pass rusher when he was looking at a higher-quality defensive tackle. That would be poor drafting.
If we look at the current Bears roster, the one thing they are missing is a dynamic pass rusher. That is the one position that Poles has not been able to acquire in his two years here in Chicago. Prudent drafting and team building all say that the Bears should select at least one and, more than likely, two pass rushers high in the next Draft.
If you look at some of the better pass rushers in the game, including some who are no longer in their prime, they were all high first-round picks. Myles Garret, Khalil Mack, and the Bosa brothers were high first-rounders. The Giants' Kayvon Thibodeaux was a high pick a year ago and showed much promise as a rookie. If a team wants a potentially high-value pass rusher, they have to use a high draft pick on one.
The Bears' pick from Carolina should be a potential Top-10 pick, maybe even a Top-5. If it is a Top-5 pick, the Bears could very well have the ability to select the best pass rusher in the Draft. In each of the last two Drafts, the perceived best pass rusher was selected in the Top-5. That shows the value of the position.
Next year's Draft is a good one for pass rushers. I have already evaluated several of them off 2022 tape, and all should be even better in 2023. Who the best one remains to be seen, but he should come from the group of Jared Verse from Florida State, Dallas Turner from Alabama, Bralen Trice from Washington and Chop Robinson from Penn State.
Many have Ohio State's J.T. Tuimoloau in that group, but I don't. There is no question he is very good, but he's not as elite as the names I mentioned. J.T. had one huge game on National TV versus Penn State, and that's where he got his notoriety. In the other games, he was good but not special. The names I mentioned all have some special to them. Tuimoloau could come on and be more consistent in 2023, but until he does, I won't put him in with that first group.
I'm not discounting the value of Harrison Jr., but both team need and future cap flexibility all say it's imperative the Bears use their first pick on a pass rusher. Granted, it depends on where that pick actually is, but until we know, I will continue to beat the drum for a pass rusher, and I'm sure Ryan Poles is also.