Breaking down Bears’ 2023 draft class: Best picks, winners/losers, overall assessment
The Chicago Bears welcomed 10 new rookies to the roster during the 2023 NFL draft, including offensive tackle Darnell Wright, defensive tackle Gervon Dexter and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson.
General manager Ryan Poles addressed some huge needs in the trenches at offensive tackle and defensive tackle, as well as cornerback. He also got great value on Day 3 with some playmakers for Justin Fields.
While it’s far too early to start evaluating this rookie class before they’ve even hit the practice field — yet alone stepped out on an NFL field — Poles appears to have added some impact players at key positions of need.
Now that the 2023 draft is in the books, let’s take a closer look at this Bears rookie class, where we’re looking at the best picks, sleepers, the biggest winner and loser and beyond.
Best pick: OT Darnell Wright
The Bears prioritized Justin Fields with their first-round pick, filling the last gaping hole on offense. Chicago got the best right tackle in this NFL draft class in Wright, who’s strong in pass protection and brings a nasty mentality to this offensive line. The best part is the Bears landed a 2024 fourth-round pick in the process – trading back one spot with the Eagles – for the guy they were going to take at No. 9 all along.
Sleeper pick: RB Roschon Johnson
The Bears got a steal with Johnson in the fifth round. While he’ll start the year off as the RB3 behind Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman, Johnson has the potential to be a long-term starter in this offense. Johnson has the makings of a three-down back, where he’s also a reliable option in the passing game and solid in pass protection, where Herbert and Foreman lack. Expect to see plenty of Johnson during his rookie season.
Most intriguing pick: DT Travis Bell
Bell is a relative unknown coming to Chicago. That’s typically what happens when you hail from a smaller school. In fact, Bell became the first player in Kennesaw State history to be drafted in the NFL. So why did the Bears take a chance on him in the seventh round? We know the importance of character, and Poles described Bell as “one of his favorite human beings.” Bell faces an uphill battle for a roster spot — especially with fellow rookies Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens ahead of him. But the selection — and Poles’ high praise — are attention worthy.
Most questionable pick: LB Noah Sewell
I actually think the Bears got great value with Sewell in the fifth round, especially considering many had him pegged as a first-round talent after the 2021 season. But if we’re talking about picks that surprised us, this was the one. After everything Chicago did to overhaul the linebacker position this offseason, this felt like a selection that could’ve been used to add some depth at other positions. But I’m nitpicking because I have to choose a questionable selection, and I’d love nothing more than for Sewell — who’s an impactful run stuffer — to develop into an impact player down the line.
Must follow position: Edge rusher
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While the Bears upgraded the interior of the defensive line, they didn’t draft an edge rusher simply because the board didn’t fall their way. Poles didn’t overreach – much like free agency – but it remains the biggest concern on this roster heading into the next phase of the offseason. Look for them to add another veteran in free agency to pair with DeMarcus Walker, Rasheem Green, Trevis Gipson and Dominique Robinson.
Biggest winner: Justin Fields
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Let’s be honest, Fields has been the biggest offseason winner, as the team has made a concerted effort to support him. Specifically, with the NFL draft. The Bears traded the No. 1 pick and acquired a legitimate No. 1 wideout in DJ Moore — and that was before the draft. Then, the Bears landed their top offensive tackle in Darnell Wright in the first round, shoring up the gaping hole at right tackle. On Day 3, Poles added a couple of weapons for Fields in running back Roschon Johnson and wide receiver Tyler Scott, who both have the potential to develop into impact contributors. Now, this is a make-or-break year for Fields.
Other winners: Cody Whitehair/Lucas Patrick, Braxton Jones
Biggest loser: Justin Jones
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There are a number of starters who need to be concerned about losing their jobs to rookies, but Justin Jones is someone who will face some stiff competition. Chicago added three defensive tackles in the draft, including two in Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens, who will be, at worst, key rotational pieces. Considering the importance of 3-technique — and the fact that both Dexter and Pickens have played the position — Jones could be relegated to a rotational role. The hope is Dexter and Pickens are the future along the defensive interior. And they have the potential to challenge for starting reps as early as their rookie season.
Other losers: Kindle Vildor, Darnell Mooney
The Bears didn’t have the sexiest draft, and that’s okay. Instead, Poles checked off multiple positions of need and added some immediate impact contributors and landed some potential steals on Day 3. The Bears got a lot better as a team. Whether that was landing their starting right tackle in Darnell Wright, shoring up the defensive line with Gervon Dexter, Zacch Pickens and Travis Bell, adding cornerback Tyrique Stevenson or finding great value on Day 3 with running back Roschon Johnson, wide receiver Tyler Scott, cornerback Terell Smith and safety Kendall Williamson. Not to mention, they added wide receiver DJ Moore, who for all intents and purposes is part of this 2023 class. It was a sneaky good draft for Poles, who is positioning the Bears to take the NFC North and never give it back.
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