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ESPN's Mel Kiper uses both Bears' first-round picks in most recent mock draft

ESPN's Mel Kiper uses both Bears' first-round picks in most recent mock draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

ESPN's Mel Kiper selected USC's Caleb Williams as the No. 1 pick from the Chicago Bears in the 2024 NFL draft with his first edition mock draft of the offseason.

That didn't change in his second edition.

"As we approach the one-year anniversary of the Bears trading the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina, I continue to believe they will keep this selection and move on from Justin Fields," Kiper wrote about the Bears selecting Williams. "It's about restarting the quarterback clock and taking one of the best all-around prospects of the past decade. Williams has a rare skill set in terms of arm strength, accuracy, decision-making and mobility. Chicago will need to continue to help him: The organization could add a playmaker with the No. 9 pick, and it also has cap space to make moves in free agency."

Indeed, as Kiper mentioned, the Bears have the third-most cap space in the NFL this offseason. The NFL recently boosted the league-wide cap space by $30 million, a record-setting cap number for teams.

Further, the Bears alleviated about $21.7 million in cap space by cutting longtime veterans Eddie Jackson and Cody Whitehair. The Bears will owe around $5 million in dead cap from their combined contracts. But that's a fair price to get their hefty numbers off the books.

In this edition of Kiper's mock draft, no one makes a trade in the first round. So, with the No. 9 pick, Kiper looks to improve the wide receiver corps for the Bears. He selects LSU's Malik Nabers to the Bears as the No. 9 pick.

"We're back around to the Bears, to whom I gave quarterback Caleb Williams at No. 1," Kiper wrote. "I thought about the offensive line, though it might be a little early for Troy Fautanu (Washington), the best guard in the class. I also considered cornerback, though Chicago could franchise-tag or sign to a big extension free agent Jaylon Johnson, which would plug that hole. And since this is a strange year for edge rushers -- Laiatu Latu (UCLA) has medical questions that should be answered at the combine, and I don't have a top-15 grade on Jared Verse (Florida State) -- let's instead select a dynamic playmaker to make Williams' life easier."

DJ Moore has proven to be the No. 1 receiver the Bears need for their offense. But with Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown and Tyler Scott's combined shortfalls, the Bears need another pass-catcher opposite of Moore.

Kiper has Marvin Harrison Jr. and Rome Odunze both selected before the Bears' No. 9 pick. Nabers represents the only wide receiver taken until the No. 26 pick, where Kiper has the Buccaneers selecting Keon Coleman. There's a dropoff there.

Battling between taking a wide receiver or an offensive lineman could be the great debate about the No. 9 pick come April 25. Stay tuned to see how the Bears' draft shakes out.

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