The Bears’ 2023 season has come to an end, meaning it’s time for the offseason. That means one thing in particular: mock drafts!
Chicago officially holds both the No. 1 and No. 9 picks in the 2024 NFL Draft, with their trade with the Panthers last year netting them the top overall selection in this year’s class. Of course, there’s a chance trades affect where they end up picking, but for the time being, there’s now a sense of official clarity surrounding the picks’ slotting that hasn’t been there before.
I’ll operate these pre-free agency mock drafts under assumptions that certain positions are filled with free agent signings. In this case, I’m assuming that a new center and edge rusher are added, as well as a wide receiver who could battle for a WR3 role.
Here is my first Bears mock draft of the 2024 offseason.
Falcons receive: QB Justin Fields
Bears receive: 2024 second-round pick (No. 43), 2025 conditional fourth-round pick that can become a third-round pick
It’s a shame how things turned out with Fields in Chicago, and I waffled about it on Twitter on Sunday. Given the current situation, the best thing for both sides might be a trade.
Here, the Bears acquire two draft picks to further boost their roster. Fields ends up in a situation with weapons like Drake London, Kyle Pitts and Bijan Robinson, and he’s a higher-upside and cheaper acquisition than anyone Atlanta could draft. It’s a win-win for both sides.
Round 1 (via Panthers): Caleb Williams, QB, USC
The more work I do on Williams, the more I think some of his concerns are overblown.
There is valid criticism of his game — holding onto the ball too long, trusting his arm too much among them — but he’s a much more cerebral quarterback than many give him credit for. His offense at USC didn’t see much in the way of consistent pass protection in 2023, and the separation of his receivers wasn’t up to par. Yet, he was still able to make plays at a high level, demonstrating elite arm talent, impressive deep accuracy and top-end mobility. His sense of pressure is better than some give him credit for, and he has shown the ability to go through his progressions and make throws past his first read.
With all respects to Drake Maye, who’s a tremendous talent with franchise QB upside in his own right, Williams should be the No. 1 pick in the draft. If the Bears hold onto the pick, he should be the selection.
Round 1: Rome Odunze, WR, Washington
Now that the Bears have a new quarterback in tow, it’s important to surround that quarterback with weapons.
Odunze is my current WR2, as I recently placed him over LSU’s Malik Nabers on my board. Though I think Nabers goes higher due to his superior athleticism, I think Odunze is a more polished receiver and a safer pick. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has tremendous size for the wide receiver position, but he moves like a much smaller receiver. His body control as a route runner and in how he attacks the ball in the air is impressive, and he has a very high football IQ in how he attacks leverage in his stems and disguises route concepts. He and DJ Moore would play off each other incredibly well.
Round 2 (via Falcons, projected trade): Calen Bullock, S, USC
The Bears need a rangy playmaker at free safety alongside Jaquan Brisker, and in Round 2, their best bet is Bullock.
Bullock is a lengthy safety at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds with a large catch radius and plenty of range in coverage. In his three years at USC, he had 9 interceptions, 16 pass deflections and two defensive touchdowns. He’s quick out of his breaks and has loose hips in deep shells, allowing him to cover as a single-high centerfielder and in two-high looks. He processes route concepts well and is quick to read the progressions of opposing quarterbacks. Assuming Jaylon Johnson gets extended, Bullock would be the final piece of the puzzle for what could be an elite Bears secondary.
Round 3: Ruke Orhorhoro, DL, Clemson
The Bears’ interior defensive line play improved in 2023, but they could still use another big man up the middle.
Orhorhoro is an explosive 3-technique with the short-area burst needed to create good initial penetration in opposing backfields. He stacks and sheds well against the run, using his hands to free himself up and make tackles near the line of scrimmage. He plays with a high motor on a consistent basis and served as a genuine spark plug for Clemson’s defense on all three downs. He projects as an immediate contributor. A defensive tackle group with him, Gervon Dexter, Andrew Billings and Zacch Pickens would be quite fun to watch.
Round 4: Sataoa Laumea, OG, Utah
There’s no such thing as too much offensive line depth, and it could make sense for the Bears to add a new guard for after the 2024 season in case they’re unable to extend Teven Jenkins or don’t want to keep Nate Davis for Year 3 of his three-year deal. Laumea is a four-year college starter with starting experience at both tackle and guard. He’s a tremendous athlete with high-end coordination, quick feet in pass protection and good mobility as a reach blocker. He uses his hands well and keeps his pads low, and while his play strength won’t wow you, he has starter upside and could develop into exactly that in the NFL.
Round 4 (via Eagles): Audric Estime, RB, Notre Dame
If the Bears are unable to re-sign D’Onta Foreman, don’t be surprised if they take another swing at the running back position. Estime is a thick runner at 5-foot-11 and 227 pounds, and he maximizes his frame with tremendous determination and a low center of gravity. He won’t wow anyone with his track speed, but he’s a patient runner with good short-area burst and some of the best power you’ll find in the 2024 draft.
Jaguars receive: 2024 fifth-round pick (No. 142)
Bears receive: 2024 fifth-round pick (No. 151), 2024 sixth-round pick (No. 210), 2024 seventh-round pick (No. 233)
The Bears don’t have selections in Rounds 6 or 7 as of this writing. This is simply just an opportunity to acquire more draft capital and add some late-round picks to improve depth and get ahead of undrafted free agency.
Round 5 (via Jaguars, projected trade): Luke McCaffrey, WR, Rice
The brother of Christian and the son of Ed, McCaffrey is more than just a nepotism pick. He’s an effective big-slot weapon with very good size at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. He’s a coordinated athlete with good fluidity across the middle of the field, he’s a smart route runner who exploits soft spots in zone coverage well, and he’s a tough runner after the catch. Though he falls a bit due to a lack of elite speed and his being a Group of 5 player, he has potential to outdo his draft production and contribute rather quickly.
Round 6 (via Jaguars, projected trade): Ethan Driskell, OT, Marshall
A former high school basketball player, Driskell is a mammoth of a man at 6-foot-9 and 329 pounds but is much more nimble than most his size. He moves well in his kick slide in pass protection and maximizes his long arms in how he locates his strikes at the point of attack. He’s a work in progress but has the physical tools worth betting on in Day 3.
Round 7 (via Jaguars, projected trade): Myles Harden, CB, South Dakota
Harden’s production in college has been impressive: he had 2 interceptions and 7 PBUs in 4 games in a COVID-shortened spring 2021 season, he had 3 interceptions and 9 PBUs in just 6 games in 2022, and he added an interception and 6 PBUs in 2023. He isn’t super big and has an injury history, but he’s an intelligent cornerback with inside-outside versatility, fluid hips and a high motor against the run.