2023 NFL mock draft: Where will Bears go after free-agency decisions?
Schrock's Mock Draft 5.0: Bears have clear needs after free agency originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The Bears' blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers had me dreaming of an electric offense at Soldier Field. One piloted by quarterback Justin Fields with DJ Moore, Darnell, Cole Kmet, Chase Claypool, and future No. 9 pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba flanking him.
That pick in my post-trade mock was based on the assumption that the Bears would do anything to bolster their offensive and defensive lines in free agency.
General manager Ryan Poles lost out on right tackle Mike McGlinchey, didn't view left tackle Orlando Brown Jr. as a scheme fit, and elected not to spend big on a three-technique.
The Bears added a guard in Nate Davis and two rotational defensive linemen in DeMarcus Walker and Andrew Billings.
The lines very much remain a massive need in Chicago.
As such, we went back to the big board for this latest mock draft with a clear view of what the Bears will target in the 2023 NFL Draft.
With most of the free-agency spending in the books, here's mock draft 5.0: Back to the Trenches:
1. Carolina Panthers: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State
2. Houston Texans: Bryce Young, QB, Alabama
Trade! The Colts see Stroud and Young fly off the board and can't risk getting jumped for the quarterback they want. Indy sends the No. 4 pick, a 2024 second-round pick, and a 2024 fourth-round pick to Arizona for the No. 3 pick.
3. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida
4. Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
5. Seattle Seahawks: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
6. Detroit Lions: Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
7. Las Vegas Raiders: Will Levis, QB, Kentucky
8. Atlanta Falcons: Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia
9. Chicago Bears: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
The Bears solidified their linebacking corps in free agency but didn't address their needs on either side of the line of scrimmage. With Jalen Carter gone, Ryan Poles takes the best left tackle in the draft and moves Braxton Jones to the right side.
Johnson is a 6-foot-6, 313-pound tackle with 36 1/8-inch arms. He has all the physical tools you want in a tackle and has the athleticism to get out wide in the Bears' zone-run scheme.
10. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
11. Tennessee Titans: Peter Skoronoski, OT, Northwestern
12. Houston Texans: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU
13. New York Jets: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
14. New England Patriots: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
15. Green Bay Packers: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa
16. Washington Commanders: Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois
17. Pittsburgh Steelers: Anton Harrison, OT, Oklahoma
18. Detroit Lions: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame
20. Seattle Seahawks: Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
21. Los Angeles Chargers: Jordan Addison, WR, USC
22. Baltimore Ravens: Myles Murphy, EDGE, Clemson
23. Minnesota Vikings: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia
24. Jacksonville Jaguars: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
25. New York Giants: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
26. Dallas Cowboys: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
27. Buffalo Bills: Brian Branch, S, Alabama
28. Cincinnati Bengals: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
29. New Orleans Saints: Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson
30. Philadelphia Eagles: Adetomiwa Adebowore, DT, Northwestern
31. Kansas City Chiefs: Will McDonald IV, EDGE, Iowa State
RELATED: Where Bears stand in power rankings after free agency
Remainders of Bears’ 2023 draft:
Trade! The Bears see the defensive linemen they covet start to slip so they make a move up, sending the No. 53 overall pick and their 2024 third-round pick to the Las Vegas Raiders for pick No. 38.
No. 38 overall (via Las Vegas)
Felix Anudike-Uzomah, EDGE, Kansas State
There's a good chance Anudike-Uzomah is gone by No. 53, but I can't quit him.
The Bears signed edge rusher DeMarcus Walker in free agency, but their pass-rush situation remains a disaster. They need to add long-term staples to the defensive line. Anudike-Uzomah is a bendy edge rusher with a fantastic array of pass-rush moves who holds up well against the run. This is a big win for the Bears.
No. 61 overall (via Carolina via San Francisco)
Keeanu Benton, DL, Wisconsin
I think we've officially reached the point where Northwestern' Adetomiwa Adebawore is going to be outside the Bears' grasp. He's quickly rising and very well could end up being a late first-round pick.
Onto Plan B.
Benton was a productive pass-rusher at Wisconsin, registering 49 pressures in 482 pass-rush snaps over the past two seasons. He's a high-motor interior defensive lineman with good hands a strong upper body. He's not the athletic marvel that Adebawore is, but he'll help the Bears.
No. 64 overall
Cedric Tillman, WR, Tennessee
At 6-foot-3, 213 pounds, Tillman has the skill, size, and toughness that NFL teams desire. In 2021, Tillman showcased his ability to make tough catches underneath and go up and get them in contested-catch situations. He needs to get a little more explosive out of his breaks, but he's a good bet in Round 3 for a Bears offense that still needs weapons.
No. 103 overall
Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas
I expect Johnson to continue to rise through the pre-draft process, but for now, he's still projected to be an early Day 3 pick.
The Bears let David Montgomery walk in free agency and brought in D'Onta Foreman to pair with Khalil Herbert. Still, I'm not sure either is the long-term answer in the Chicago backfield next to Justin Fields. Both struggle in pass protection and aren't the pass-catching weapon the Bears want in a running back.
Johnson is a tremendous pass protector who excels at forcing missed tackles. However, he doesn't have the explosion and burst the Bears covet in an every-down back, so there's a potential the Bears look elsewhere at running back in the draft.
No. 133 overall (via Philadelphia)
Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina
I've been on the Eli Ricks train at cornerback, but I will jump off and go a different route here.
Rush stood out at the Senior Bowl, where the Bears' brass was out in full force. He'll be 23 by draft day, but he's a long, physical corner with good ball skills. He's also a productive tackler in the run game.
His athletic limitations shouldn't be too much of an issue in the Bears' scheme. He is a good value in Round 4 and could develop into a plus-starter.
Zacch Pickens, DL, South Carolina
Have I mentioned the Bears' defensive line is a mess? Poles added two should-be starters in Round 2, but more help is needed.
Pickens is an athletic interior defender with the traits to be well-suited for an upfield attacking role like the Bears want in their three-technique. Pickens can be a rotational defensive tackle with starter upside if appropriately developed.
No. 148 (via Baltimore)
Olu Oluwatimi, IOL, Michigan
Oluwatimi is a four-year starter with a high football IQ. He is a strong pass-blocker best suited for a zone-run scheme since it will allow him to move laterally in the run game. The Bears don’t have a long-term answer at center, and I like what Oluwatimi can bring to their offensive line room.
RELATED: Moore vital to Bears' fleecing of Panthers for several reasons
Brenton Strange, TE, Penn State
At 6-foot-4, 253 pounds, Strange is an athletic developmental tight end who could go under the radar in a draft filled with good tight ends. He’s an athletic route-runner who is a good blocker in-line and space. He’ll need time to iron out some technique issues, but he could end up being a plus-starter that teams pass on because of lackluster production in college.
No. 258 (compensatory)
McClendon Curtis, OT, Chattanooga
A 6-foot-5, 325-pound small-school tackle with 35-inch arms should have the Bears' attention late on Day 3. McClendon started his career at guard before kicking out to tackle for his final season with the Mocs.
As the Bears look to build out their offensive line room, McClendon is a sleeper who could end up being a late-round steal.
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