2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bears trade down twice

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bears trade down twice originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

A heck of a scouting combine just ended, having showcased athletic exploits and performances whose butterfly effects will be felt in April's draft. Several players not only impressed but addressed some athletic concerns, while simultaneously improved their draft status.

The Jalen Carter situation was probably the most significant unexpected turn of events entering the draft and definitely added a dark cloud of uncertainty to the overall mix.

Free agency is around the corner, possible trades and more player evaluations with college pro day workouts will keep draft boards fluid.

The rollercoaster continues...

1. Colts (via CHI): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

The Bears and the Colts potentially set the narrative for the 2023 NFL Draft by exchanging first-round picks, along with additional draft capital to Chicago. Once again within the last 25 years, Indianapolis could select a quarterback with the first overall pick (Peyton Manning 1998, Andrew Luck 2012), if the Colts were to choose Bryce Young (2021 Heisman Winner) to lead the way.

2. Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Houston stands pat and takes arguably the most polished passer in the draft, C.J. Stroud, a player with impeccable throwing mechanics and the stats to match his production. By choosing not to trade up with Chicago, the Texans retain all 12 picks from this draft to bolster a deficient roster.

3. Cardinals: Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

Future Hall-of-Famer, J.J. Watt announced his retirement while opposite end edge rusher, Markus Golden is aging (turns 32-years-old in March). Arizona may want to infuse its defense with speedier more athletic edge rushers and taking Anderson could be an excellent acquisition. The Cardinals have a new head coach in former Eagles' defensive coordinator, Jonathan Gannon and taking the best defensive player would be a good "first" executive decision.

4. Panthers (via CHI, via IND): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

If Carolina bargains with Chicago to acquire the fourth overall pick (while the Bears slide down to ninth), selecting Will Levis to play for new head coach, Frank Reich makes sense. For several seasons, while coaching in Indianapolis, Reich dealt with retread signal callers, which ultimately led to his unceremonious dismissal from the Colts. Now, he gets an opportunity to break in a quarterback instead of dealing with broken down, past their prime passers.

5. Seahawks (via DEN): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Yes, the Seahawks re-signed Comeback Player of the Year, Geno Smith to a three year deal to quarterback the team; but....Anthony Richardson is this draft class' most prized unicorn. Athletically gifted beyond imagination, Richardson's physical attributes bursts through most measurable metrics, exponentially increasing his potential to become a star in the NFL. Seattle can afford gambling on taking Richardson because it has two first round picks within the first 31 selections.

6. Lions (via LAR): Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

Gonzalez crushed it at the 2023 NFL Combine, excelling in virtually every physical assessment metric. This long-limbed defender competes tenaciously for 50/50 jump balls, with an astounding 42 inch vertical that challenges the largest of catch radiuses. At the end of the day, Gonzalez plays with a confident certitude that compliments his athleticism.

7. Raiders: Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State

A natural athlete with easy lateral fluidity in and out of his sets, Johnson projects as a starting NFL left tackle. An intelligent player who executes blocks well into the second level of defenses, he's the type of agile blocker required in today's more open offensive style of play.

8. Falcons: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

Quick and agile for his size (6'6", 271 lbs), Wilson compliments his athleticism by utilizing his length (86 inch wingspan) to create leverage and manipulate blockers at the point of attack. Slippery and exceptionally nimble, Wilson's bendability around the edge is difficult to gauge, complicating blockers attempts at containing his pass rush.

9. Bears (via CAR): Broderick Jones, OL, Georgia

The unfortunate events surrounding defensive tackle Jalen Carter (Georgia), along with the tag deadline and the onset of free agency, could provide opportunities for the Bears to possibly trade down twice to the ninth spot. Jones possesses excellent size (6'5", 311 lbs) and impressive arm length, enabling him to sting and neutralize power rushers with extreme prejudice. He may very well be the most athletically gifted offensive line prospect in the 2023 draft class.

10. Eagles (via NO): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

Carter's draft stock took a serious hit once his involvement regarding two vehicular fatalities was publicly disclosed. Once considered a sure top five pick, him falling to the Eagles could be the best outcome for the beleaguered prospect. The championship infrastructure is in place; there are established veterans to guide him; his addition offers fiscal flexibility and roster depth, and the Eagles have experience dealing with public scrutiny of fallen players (Michael Vick).

11. Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Tennessee released offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, leaving a noticeable hole at left tackle to fill. Skoronski is a respected pro prospect who flashes day one starting potential. According to PFF, Skoronski is the highest rated pass blocker (92.4) in the nation.

12. Texans (via CLE): Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Johnston is a legit aerial weapon with long striding acceleration, above average leaping ability and an impressive catching radius. As a boundary receiver, Johnston possesses NFL caliber size (6'3", 208 lbs), speed and a 40.5 inch vertical jump that should threaten opposing teams' coverage schemes. Possibly pairing him with the Texans' first selection at quarterback might cause sleepless nights for AFC South opponents.

13. Jets: Paris Johnson, Jr., OT, Ohio State

Johnston is a legit aerial weapon with long striding acceleration, above average leaping ability and an impressive catching radius. As a boundary receiver, Johnston possesses NFL caliber size (6'3", 208 lbs), speed and a 40.5 inch vertical jump that should threaten opposing teams' coverage schemes. Possibly pairing him with the Texans' first selection at quarterback might cause sleepless nights for AFC South opponents.

14. Patriots: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Witherspoon finished second in the Big Ten conference with 14 passes defended and added three interceptions on the season. His closing speed, high football I.Q. and concept visualization skills make him an intriguing prospect to NFL evaluators. According PFF (Pro Football Focus), Witherspoon is this season's top rated coverage cornerback with a 92.5 rating. This potential pick for New England screams classic Belichick prototype selection.

15. Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Drafting Notre Dame's best and most accomplished tight end in school history, could only improve a passing attack that struggles on crucial downs in close games. Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers may or may not stay in Green Bay. Should he depart, taking a top flight tight end would greatly enhance backup quarterback, Jordan Love's immersion into the starter's role for the Packers' offense.

16. Commanders: Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

The Commanders got inconsistent production from their linebacking unit over the past few seasons and are very thin depth wise, too. Sanders is a cross between former NFL linebackers, Dan Morgan (Panthers / '01-'07) and Luke Kuechly (Panthers / '12-'19) but with a little more size. Last season he registered 103 tackles; 13.5 tackles for loss; nine and a half sacks; five passes defended and three forced fumbles.

17. Steelers: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Porter flashes shut down cover corner ability by utilizing his six-foot-two frame to blanket receivers and challenge receptions. Scheme friendly, Porter is equally adept in man or zone coverages, plus, his physicality in the run game cements his all around defensive acumen. Were he taken by the Steelers, Porter could begin his professional career at the same place where his father starred.

18. Lions: Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith suffered a pectoral injury late in the year (October 29th) and it cost him the remainder of the season. However, if any athlete helped himself at this year's NFL Combine, it was Smith. Posting a ridiculous 40-time of 4.39 seconds and showcasing a 41.5 inch vertical leap, Smith improved his draft status and turned any doubters into ardent believers.

19. Buccaneers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

Aside from four-time Pro Bowler, Mike Evans, the Bucs' receiving corps is either aging or constantly dealing with injury and missed games. The 2021 Biletnikoff Award recipient's upside oozes with vast untapped potential that could provide an immediate impact. Addison is a scheme proof, quarterback friendly receiver, who can execute the entire route tree and merge seamlessly with any level of pass thrower.

20. Seahawks: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson

Entering the 2022 collegiate campaign, many pundits placed Murphy easily into the top ten of potential NFL prospects. Should he fall into the mid rounds, any team selecting him may be getting an underappreciated talent that slipped through the cracks. Extremely aggressive at the point of attack, Murphy utilizes his brute strength to overpower opponents. His ability to rush the passer is equaled by his effectiveness and tenacity against the run.

21. Dolphins: Forfeited

The Miami Dolphins forfeited one of their two first-round picks (plus a third-round pick in 2024) for tampering surrounding Tom Brady.

22. Chargers: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

The Chargers released star edge rusher, Khalil Mack and his expensive contract, so targeting a younger more affordable replacement is a strong possibility. A long, rangy athlete at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Van Ness possesses enough size and athletic versatility to play inside or outside along the defensive line. Extremely quick when extending his arms, his length and suddenness generally catch blockers off-guard, helping him establish immediate leverage against most opposition.

23. Ravens: Bryan Breese, DL, Clemson

Baltimore is getting a little long in the tooth along its defensive front and Bresee"s alignment versatility could be a boon for this aging unit. Bresee is an instinctive player who plays with leverage and above average strength. He is adept at slipping blocks and pursuing ball carriers with an unsuspecting burst and sustained lateral quickness.

24. Vikings: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

A two-time national champion, it would be erroneous for pundits to mistake Ringo's low defensive stats for ineffectiveness on the field. Ringo showcases sprinter speed (4.36 40-time) and at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, his ceiling projects higher than most of his draft class peers. His above average change-of-direction ability, aggressive man to man coverage skills and his proficiency in zone schemes should make Ringo a targeted asset the Vikings undermanned secondary.

25. Jaguars: O'Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida

When selecting players this far down the draft board, teams generally acquire individuals that shore up minor areas of concern. Jacksonville's offensive line is decent, but adding another quality lineman further insulates the offense from untimely injuries. Torrence works well in space and does an excellent job of attacking the second level of defenses with effective consistency. He's powerful enough to move the pile and mean enough to do so with practiced prejudice.

26. Giants: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

New York requires a consistent and dependable downfield threat to help its anemic and imbalanced offensive attack. Hyatt possesses phenomenal speed and make-you-miss agility, consistently frustrating defenders' attempts to stop him in the open field. His ability to accelerate and decelerate makes him dangerous either from the slot position or as a boundary receiver. The 2022 Biletnikoff Award recipient's upside oozes with vast untapped potential that could provide an immediate impact.

27. Cowboys: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

Kincaid is an impressive receiver at the tight end position, having led his team in receptions (70), receiving yards (890) and aerial scores (8). The Associated Press selected him as an All-American due in part to him leading all FBS tight ends in receiving yards per game (77.3). Dallas released their pass catching tight end in Dalton Schultz, so possibly taking a similar athlete with youthful upside makes sense.

28. Bills: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Over the course of the 2022 season, Robinson performed as is one of college football's most consistent and exciting ball carriers. Robinson averaged six yards per carry (6.1) and rushed for 18 touchdowns this season. NFL scouts are impressed with Robinson's entire repertoire as a complete running back, too. An adept pass catcher, Robinson also averaged 16.5 yards a reception with two receiving touchdowns.

29. Bengals: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

Cincinnati has several defensive backs, most notably, both starting safeties (Jessie Bates III, Vonn Bell) listed as unrestricted free agents. Targeting a versatile talent like Branch might solve several roster and budget concerns. Over the past 26 contests, he tallied 145 total tackles with 19 tackles for loss and 16 passes defended. Branch is truly one of the best back end, hybrid defensive prospects in the upcoming draft.

30. Saints (via SF): Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

Kancey was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year this past season, and one look at his game clips illustrate how truly disruptive a player he can be. His low center of gravity paired with an extremely well-fortified base and upper body strength, allow him to stay low and leverage against blockers' pad levels. Cat-like quickness and agility help him win against larger opponents, eerily echoing reminiscent effectiveness like Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle, John Randle.

31. Eagles: Cam Smith, CB, South Carolina

Fair or unfair, cornerback James Bradberry's untimely interference call may be viewed as a big reason the Eagles lost Super Bowl 57. Consequently, Philadelphia's challenges with fiscal cap space might hinder keeping certain veterans. If Bradberry is released, drafting a talented cover corner like Smith could simultaneously remedy the budget and roster depth.

32. Chiefs: Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee

Darnell Wright played extremely well this past season for the Tennessee Volunteers, helping them to a double digit win total (11), the most in approximately 15 seasons since last winning 10 games in 2007. A physical blocker with a smooth drop step and lateral slide, Wright acquitted himself well at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. The Chiefs just released offensive tackle Orlando Brown, and Wright has comparable size with better athleticism.

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