Ryan Poles re-shaping of this roster continued this week as the Bears said goodbye to two defensive stalwarts and hello to a 4th rounder, a 5th rounder, and Chase Claypool. With the deadline now fully behind us, ownership rights to picks will remain consistent until February- which means fans can dive into the class with a good sense of where their team will be picking. Moreover, the moves clarified a lot about how the Bears view their own team going forward, thus shifting the team’s needs next spring. Dreams of a first round receiver should be set aside; and defense should be re-focused on.
With these facts in mind, I dove in. The Mock Draft Network, my mock draft website of choice, still has not re-upped their simulator. Thus, it was off to NFL Mock Draft Database, who boasts a big board derived by an average from a multitude of sites (and also lets you trade free of charge!). Here are my selection, with a quick scouting report and an explanation of fit.
- Round 1, Pick 12- PARIS JOHNSON JR., OT, Ohio State
Johnson’s first year at tackle, his natural position, has been a resounding success. He is a cornerstone of the number 2 team in the country, protecting a likely top 5 pick in CJ Stroud- and protect him he does. Stroud’s mobility and decisiveness can be suspect at times, requiring his line to duel out their matchups for longer. This has not been a problem for Johnson; his natural frame and tenacity have kept CJ upright for long enough to complete some of those highlight reel throws. The junior boasts PFF grades >70 in both phases and has had good showings against NFL talents from Notre Dame, Michigan State, and Penn State. The Bears scheme is also ideally designed to highlight his natural gifts and limit the negative impact of his middling functional strength. He can slide right in at left tackle and let the team work out a right tackle between Borom, Leatherwood, and Braxton Jones.
- Round 2, Pick 56- Derick Hall, DE, Auburn
The Bears edge room lacked talent before an underperforming Robert Quinn was traded to the Eagles. It is now positively bereft, with the best of the bunch, Trevis Gipson, entering a contract year. New blood is needed. A higher second rounder might put the team in range of Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who I really like out of Kansas State. With him gone early, however, we turn to Derick Hall. Hall is a strong, wide bodied edge defender who can be counted on to hold his ground with lineman in the run game. He also possesses natural first step explosiveness and a varied enough athletic profile to provide for pass rush success across alignments. While he lacks consistent pass rush moves (and Auburn’s lost season has done him no favors), he is a good bet to be successful early just based on his profile.
- Round 3, Pick 73- John Michael Schmitz, OC, Minnesota
The Bears line is more than just one piece away from confidently being able to protect Justin Fields. Lucas Patrick and Sam Mustipher cannot be the long-term answers under center- and with this pick they are not, as the team selects an older prospect who’s done well to establish himself on a Minnesota line that is asked to supply a lot. Schmitz, 24, possesses exceptional strength, and has used that strength to allow for large dividends for Minnesota’s rushing offense. While lacking some mobility, Schmitz’s knowledge of rushing lanes and awareness to pick up slack in pass protection will come in handy.
TRADE: Bears send Round 4, Pick 110 to the Los Angeles Chargers, Receive Picks 122 and 157 in return.
- Round 4, Pick 122- Daiyan Henley, LB, Washington State
A transfer from Nevada and early riser in this class, Henley brings a similar skill set to the departed Roquan Smith in a slightly larger frame. Henley is an incredible athlete with a knack for getting in throwing lanes and intercepting passes. He possesses decent blitzing skills and has the potential to play outside or in. He does struggle at times to get off blocks, making him a likely candidate for starting WILL backer- he’s great at navigating traffic but not at responding once he’s snared.
- Round 5, Pick 133- Dontayvion Wicks, WR, Virginia
A fast down the field receiver, Wicks is in many ways similar to Darnell Mooney coming out of Tulane. Wicks has been limited by Virginia’s up and down season, but he’s shown an ability to haul in deep shots and separate in the deep part of the field- plus, he can block and work inside if needed. Although the Bears need for wide receivers has lessened due to the Claypool trade, we still need some new blood.
- Round 5, Pick 144- DeWayne McBride, HB, UAB
It looks increasingly likely that David Montgomery will not be returning to the Chicago Bears in 2023. In that case, Khalil Herbert may be able to stop into a fairly large role- but he will still need support. Montgomery provides certain technical skills Herbert just doesn’t have- pass blocking, short area between the tackles, and limited receiving work. While Trestan Ebner can be asked to take more passing down reps, McBride can handle the rest. At 5’10, 220 McBride is thickly built and hard to bring down, with a demonstrated ability to keep upright in a scrum and enforce his will on a blitzer. A 5th rounder is not too much to spend given what this position’s state will be without Mont.
- Round 5, Pick 152- Ruke Orhorhoro, DT, Clemson
The Bears will be coming into this draft with a notably depleted defensive line; luckily, this class is the most stacked in that area we’ve seen for years. I expect them to pick up a true 1T in free agency, but Justin Jones isn’t a long-term answer at 3T for long. Orhorhoro may not declare (for good reason; a season as the guy on the Clemson front will do wonders for his stock) but if he does, he is an ideal developmental pass rusher for the position. Long, fast, and quick, he can build up his strength and anchor in an NFL training program while rotating in for obvious passing situations.
- Round 5, Pick 157- Mekhi Garner, CB, LSU
While I hope the Bears shore up their outside corner spots in free agency, it never hurts to grab depth when a guy like Garner is falling. Big, long, and strong, Garner is routinely able to jam receivers at the line, disrupt at the catch point and lay the wood in the run game. While he is not a sudden athlete by any means, his frame makes him a good fit for an outside flat corner in cover 2 and special teams- replacing the role of Lamar Jackson or perhaps even Kindle Vildor.
- Round 7, Pick 230- Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State
Cole Kmet’s first contract is running out, and we don’t have much depth behind him in the short term anyway. Why not take a swing at Strange, who’s strong build helps him break tackles after the catch and clear lanes for Penn State’s efficient run game?
- Round 7, Pick 259- Mike Jones Jr., LB, LSU
Jones was a hot name as a freshman at Clemson- his A+ range and athleticism led him to make an early impact. But after a transfer and multiple seasons of middling production, Jones remains undersized and underdeveloped. Why not take a chance this late at a position here depth and speed among the depth is sorely needed? I would rather have Jones than Sterling Weatherford on the athletic profile alone.
The #1 goals of this team this offseason should be building a suitable offensive line for Justin’s future and revamping a defense that has lost quite a few star and impact players. I hope Ryan Poles is up to the task.