The history between the two teams is obvious, seeing as though Chicago traded the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to Carolina for DJ Moore and a large haul of draft picks, most notably their 2024 first-round pick.
From my perspective, I simply want the Panthers to have a bad year in 2024 so my favorite team gets a high first-round pick. There’s no hate towards the team, organization or fanbase in particular. That said, fans of both teams have hurled insults and started arguments towards the opposing team over social media over the last few months.
My general belief is the Panthers finish around 6-11 or 7-10. There’s a possibility they push for a playoff spot in a weakened NFC South, but there’s also a possibility they finish in last place in the division. Pro Football Network’s draft simulator trends towards the latter, as it gives the Bears the No. 5 overall pick through their trade with Carolina. Seeing as though I haven’t explored this possibility yet, I figured it would be worth a shot.
Just as a reminder, my mocks this early aren’t meant to truly predict what the Bears’ picks will be. They’re simply meant to explore notable draft prospects and introduce you all to names to remember going forward.
As a point of reference, the first four picks were Caleb Williams, Marvin Harrison Jr., Drake Maye and Joe Alt.
Bears receive: 2024 first-round pick (No. 16), 2024 third-round pick (No. 93), 2025 third-round pick
Texans receive: 2024 first-round pick (No. 12)
The Texans wanted to move up for Penn State offensive tackle Olu Fashanu, and with the likes of Emeka Egbuka, J.T Tuimoloau and Jared Verse all off the board at No. 12, I decided the Bears would be wise to trade down here. Adding another third-round pick for 2024 and securing what could be a high third-rounder in 2025 at a discount is an intriguing idea.
Round 1 (via Panthers): Brock Bowers, TE, Georgia
Does the timing of this mock draft coincide with the Jaguars’ extension of Evan Engram and the potential effect it could have on Cole Kmet’s eventual extension? Partially. Regardless of whether the Bears extend him, Bowers is a talent you don’t pass on.
The closest comparison I can think of for Bowers is George Kittle, which may sound like a reach to those unfamiliar with his game, but the upside for the Georgia standout to become a multi-time All-Pro is absolutely there. Here’s what I wrote about Bowers in a recent article of mine:
Based off of his 2022 tape, Bowers is the best tight end after the catch I’ve scouted at the collegiate level. He’s an explosive athlete with tremendous agility and creativity with the ball in his hands, giving him rare jet sweep and screen value. His athleticism translates to his route running, as he sinks well coming into his breaks and bursts well out of them. He’s also a willing and capable blocker for a tight end who won’t exactly impress anyone with size.
Round 1 (via Texans, projected trade): Bralen Trice, EDGE, Washington
I see this as the Bears missing out on the top tier of edge rushers in the 2024 draft, but they trade back to acquire high-end draft capital and still address their need with an extremely talented player.
Trice is a powerful edge rusher who wins with pad level, a high motor and ideal play strength at the point of attack. His hand activity and deep arsenal as a pass rusher allows him to push the pocket consistently and penetrate opposing backfields. He seems to be a high-floor defender who, though he isn’t the most explosive EDGE in the class, has enough athleticism to get Matt Eberflus’ gears grinding.
Round 2: Sedrick Van Pran, OC, Georgia
The Bears currently have Cody Whitehair at center, but they could save money by releasing him after the 2023 season and could find a young replacement who fits their scheme very well.
Van Pran is a tenacious blocker with a high motor and a mean streak when he engages in contact. His athleticism looked much better in 2022, showcasing ideal movement skills and fluidity blocking on the move. His grip strength and strike placement are also very good, indicating he could become a long-term starter at center at the NFL level.
Round 3: Jack Sawyer, EDGE, Ohio State
J.T. Tuimoloau has been getting most of the attention along Ohio State’s defensive line, but don’t sleep on Sawyer as a potential high-end prospect at the NFL level.
Sawyer is a very well-built edge defender at 6-foot-4 and 267 pounds with long arms and a powerful frame. He’s an explosive rusher who’s quick off the snap and offers top-notch closing speed. His pad level and flexibility are better than one would expect for his size, and he’s fluid moving around in space. He has the opposite problem of Trice in that he doesn’t have a deep arsenal of hand usage and can rely too much on physical talent. Though raw, Sawyer is an extremely gifted athlete who would be worth taking a shot on in Chicago’s case.
Round 3 (from Eagles via Texans, projected trade): Johnny Wilson, WR, Florida State
This scenario sees the Bears move on from Chase Claypool, but they replace him with another massive receiver with an intriguing size-speed combination.
Wilson is 6-foot-7 and 235 pounds and uses his size incredibly well. He boxes out defenders well at the catch point and dominates in tight windows, as well as using his strength to beat the opposition at the line of scrimmage. That said, he’s also a quick receiver who has surprising vertical speed for his size and has a good feel for how to exploit soft spots in zone coverage. He’s a bit undeveloped after the catch and doesn’t have elite burst out of his breaks. However, he has elite red-zone value and brings a physical combination few can match.
Round 4: Kiran Amegadjie, OT, Yale
With the Bears’ biggest needs addressed to this point, a small-school physical specimen at offensive tackle sounds like an investment worth taking a shot on.
Amegadjie is a Hinsdale native with 99th-percentile arm length at 33 3⁄4 inches. He’s an athletic blocker with great burst into his kickslide and nice acceleration climbing to the second level against the run. He’ll be a three-year starter by the end of the 2023 season with guard and tackle experience, and his mean streak once he locks up with defenders is apparent. Pad level and processing of blitzes are still areas of improvement for him, but his physical upside is apparent. He’s a player worth developing, regardless of whether it’s at tackle or guard.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Braden Fiske, DL, Florida State
A standout at Western Michigan prior to transferring to Florida State for the 2023 season, Fiske would be a nice rotational addition to a young Bears defensive line.
Fiske has the size of an interior defender and the quickness of an edge rusher, as his explosion off the ball when rushing off the edge seemed on par for what one would normally expect watching a much smaller player in that alignment. He has good length and quick hands, which gives him a high ceiling on passing downs. His weight distribution and anchor strength will need to get better for him to thrive as an interior defender at the NFL level, but his athleticism and pass-rushing value makes him a nice addition in Round 4.
Round 5: Jeremiah Walker, CB, Stephen F. Austin
Regardless of whether the Bears extend Jaylon Johnson or not, it’s never a bad idea to add some depth to the secondary.
Walker is a productive defender who had 4 interceptions in 2021 and most recently broke up 8 passes in 2022. He’s a bit skinny at 176 pounds but has very good length and height at 6-foot-1. He’s a competitive corner who battles hard at the catch point with good ball skills — he was a high school receiver, after all — and he processes route concepts very well, especially in zone. Walker’s physical upside might just be decent because of average speed and a skinny frame, but he seems like a nice backup option to have at cornerback.
Round 6: Jason Henderson, LB, Old Dominion
The Bears don’t necessarily need linebacker help, but why not take a shot on a productive and athletic player who could have tremendous special teams value?
Henderson led the FBS with 186 tackles in 2022, and he also had 10 tackles for a loss and 3 pass deflections. He offers sideline-to-sideline range as a tackler, thanks largely in part to his speed, agility and effort he showcases in space. He’s starred as a MIKE at Old Dominion but might be a better fit as a WILL at the next level. A lack of ideal size at 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds and overall play strength will hurt his stock, but with how fast he moves and how hard he fights to get to the ball, he’s a player worth taking a shot on.