The 2023 NFL preseason has come and gone, giving us as fans two weeks to gear up for the upcoming regular season.
So why not kill some time with another 2024 mock draft?
As is the case with all of these mocks this early, this isn’t meant to be as much of a prediction as much as a spotlight for some enticing prospects in the upcoming draft class. I’m doing these solely to introduce you all to some players that I’ve liked over my summer scouting, and if you have some fun going through these picks, then that’s all I can ever ask for.
I used the NFL Mock Draft Database simulator to create a draft for the other 31 teams which I could work around. The simulator has the Bears picking at Nos. 10 and 12 in the first round, but with updated Super Bowl odds, I had the Bears picking at Nos. 8 and 12, with their pick from Carolina jumping up two spots in Round 1.
Bears receive: 2024 second-round pick (No. 55), 2024 third-round pick (No. 86), 2025 fourth-round pick
Jaguars receive: 2024 second-round pick (No. 40)
While I was going through this mock simulator, I found myself not all that enthralled with the second-round value at No. 40. That said, I started looking for trade options, and luckily for me, the Jaguars seemed to show interest.
Ryan Poles has shown a penchant towards trading down to accumulate draft capital, thus giving him more swings at the plate. Trading down 15 spots in Round 2 is a bit of a leap down the board, but it’s worth it by acquiring an additional 2024 third-rounder and adding a 2025 fourth-round pick to the mix.
Round 1 (via Panthers): Jared Verse, EDGE, Florida State
The early consensus is that the Bears will target an edge rusher with one of their first-round picks, and can you blame them?
Chicago’s depth off the edge seems a bit better than what they had last year, but they have no long-term solutions in place at the position yet. Verse would have been a first-round pick had he declared for the 2023 draft, but now he finds himself in position to solidify his status as a top-10 pick in 2024. He’s an explosive edge rusher with a quick first step and killer flexibility turning the corner, and he has quick and active hands that see him beat tackles at the point of attack with a deep toolbox of techniques. He has double-digit sack potential in the NFL and would be an instant upgrade for the Bears up front with the No. 8 pick.
Round 1: Emeka Egbuka, WR, Ohio State
I wouldn’t rule out the Bears re-signing both Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool, but the more likely scenario figures to be extending one and letting the other walk. In this case, they’d be in the market for another receiver.
I mocked Egbuka to the Bears in a mock draft I did in May — a sentence which indicates I’m not at all sane — and while I like to mix things up this early to give you all a deeper understanding of the draft class, this pick made too much sense at No. 12. He’s a crafty receiver who’s quick out of his breaks and has a high route-running IQ. He also has reliable hands and good size that make him a valuable threat lining up inside or outside. I project him as a low-end WR1 at the next level, so to have two potential WR1 types in Egbuka and DJ Moore would be super beneficial for the Bears’ offense.
Round 2 (via Jaguars): Bryce Foster, C, Texas A&M
Popular draft target Sedrick Van Pran was long gone at this stage, but the Bears still end up with a starting-caliber center while trading back for additional capital in Round 2.
Foster started all 12 games at center as a true freshman in 2021, and before he got hurt in 2022, he looked to be building upon that standout first campaign. The dual-sport athlete, who’s also been a star in shot put for Texas A&M, is a powerful interior blocker with a strong anchor and vise grips for hands. He’s bigger as a center at 6-foot-5 and 325 pounds, but he shows serious capabilities of generating leverage in his pads, and he fires off the line of scrimmage quite well. Technical inconsistencies hurt him sometimes, but he’s a big, quick and nasty blocker with solid starting potential at the NFL level.
Round 3: Caelen Carson, CB, Wake Forest
It’s tough to predict exactly how the Bears will use their cap space, given they have multiple key free agents slated to hit the open market. Should they lose Jaylon Johnson, though, they’ll have to make some sort of investment at cornerback.
Carson fits that well-rounded, scrappy mold Ryan Poles has targeted at cornerback in recent years. He’s had 15 pass deflections in 17 games at the collegiate level, showcasing very good body control and physicality when the ball’s in the air. His coordination and fluidity allows him to mirror the movements of opposing receivers in man coverage, and he delivers a nice punch at the top of a receiver’s route. Though his deep speed isn’t anything to write home about, Carson projects as a high-floor cornerback who could be a reliable starter for the Bears in this scenario.
Round 3 (via Jaguars): Tyler Guyton, OT, Oklahoma
There’s no such thing as too much offensive line depth. The Bears are finding that out now, coming off of a preseason which saw multiple starters go down with injuries.
Guyton’s a bit of a projection at this stage, as he’s only started in 5 games at the collegiate level heading into the 2023 season. That said, his physical tools are marvelous. The 6-foot-7, 327-pound lineman has prototypical size and length at right tackle, and those long arms allow him to control defenders setting the edge. For a lineman as huge as he is, though, he’s an incredible athlete with great lateral quickness and very good flexibility in his lower half. His hand placement and processing leave a bit to be desired — as to be expected from someone with a minimal starting resume — but he has legit breakout potential this year. Round 3 is a bit higher than the consensus on him right now, but don’t be shocked if he skyrockets up boards in these next few months.
Round 4: Adisa Isaac, EDGE, Penn State
It wouldn’t shock me at all if the Bears double-dipped off the edge in the 2024 draft. Though a lot can and will change between then and now — maybe Yannick Ngakoue gets extended, maybe they sign a big name in free agency, etc. — addressing the trenches isn’t a bad idea with where they’re at right now.
Isaac is an explosive athlete whose development as a technician has been fun to watch over the last few years. His first-step acceleration and fluidity in space have always been impressive, but he’s done a good job of improving his pad level and anchor strength in order to win the battle at the initial point of contact. I’d like to see a deeper toolbox of hand techniques, but the athleticism is there for Isaac to become a nice contributor for an NFL defense.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Gabe Hall, DL, Baylor
The Bears spent two Day 2 picks on interior defensive linemen, but as I said in the last pick, going all-out on trench play seems like a good strategy given their current roster status.
Hall made an appearance on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List at The Athletic, having reportedly benched 500 pounds, squatted 565, cleaning 365 and trap-bar deadlifting 750 pounds with a 19.9 MPH mark on GPS. Those freakish numbers translate to what you see from him on tape, as his athleticism off the ball and raw power complement his 6-foot-6, 296-pound frame with tremendous length. Pad level and hand usage make him a bit of a raw prospect, but the physical upside with Hall makes him a worthy investment here for the Bears.
Round 5: Jalen Catalon, S, Texas
Safety isn’t the most immediate need for the Bears, but they’ll eventually have to invest more in depth at the position given their thin unit.
Catalon broke out in 2020 as an All-SEC first-team defender for Arkansas, having tallied 99 tackles and 3 interceptions in 10 games. He’s a high-motored safety with a very high playing speed and great fluidity that give him legit centerfielder ability as a single-high defender. He’s also a heat-seeking missile as a tackler and has a quick mental trigger that allows him to shoot downhill. Though his tape is tremendous, he’s dealt with several injuries and surgeries during his college days, and he’s a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds. That track record of durability concerns will cause his stock to fall a good amount, but his tape is so good that he still absolutely deserves to be selected in the 2024 draft.
Round 6: Alex Larson, TE, St. John’s (MN)
Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis make up solid depth for the Bears at tight end in 2023, but both are on one-year deals. The team may consider investing in more of a long-term option behind Cole Kmet through the 2024 draft.
St. John’s in Minnesota has had just two players drafted into the NFL in program history, but Larson has the chance to increase that total in 2024. The 6-foot-7, 240-pound tight end has a massive catch radius and impressive raw size that helps him out at the catch point. He dominated the Division III level in 2022 with 68 catches for 857 yards and 14 touchdowns, and his tremendous ball skills, reliable hands and sneaky good deep speed have seen him make a killing in college. The level of competition, high pad level as a blocker, skinny lower half and route-running roundedness are valid concerns with him, but a player with his measurements, statistics and dominant game tape will get NFL looks. He’s a sleeper worth remembering on Day 3.