As the 2023 NFL Draft moves closer and closer, the fans’ curiosity over what the Bears will do with the ninth overall pick continues to grow.
Multiple draft experts are predicting the Bears will focus on finding the best player available to help quarterback Justin Fields succeed. The most common assumption is that will be an offensive tackle. Others think addressing their greatest need, which is an edge rusher, is the way to go. And others think trading down in the first round to acquire more picks is the most likely scenario.
Without knowing who will be on the board at No. 9, and having no idea which teams behind the Bears on the board may be looking to trade up and who they might value the most, we have to work – for the moment – on the premise the Bears will keep and use the ninth pick.
And Bears fans have to hope general manger Ryan Poles will do what is clearly the best and smartest thing: figure out who the best future pro will be regardless of position and make him his pick.
What Poles almost certainly is doing right now is spending almost every moment of his time adjusting his draft board to lock in who the top 10 prospects in this draft are, and which are the most likely to still be available at No. 9.
According to my studies – and, far more importantly, my best sources because they know a lot more about this than I do – here is your top 10.
1. RB Bijan Robinson, Texas: Robinson is 5-11 ½, 215 pounds and he does it all. He would be the unanimous No. 1 pick if he was this good at any other position other than the devalued running back spot in today’s NFL. He’s not only a Pro Bowl-caliber runner, but he’s an excellent receiver and route runner, a committed blocker, and he has stayed healthy and piled up three excellent seasons at Texas.
2. Edge Will Anderson, Alabama: At 6-4, 243 pounds, Anderson is an explosive athlete and has been the best pure pass rusher in college football over the past three seasons. I can’t find it if there’s a red flag on his resume.
3. QB Bryce Young, Alabama: Young was the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner and produced even better last season. By now you’ve probably heard he is just under 5-11, and size is a legitimate concern. It’s why I personally prefer Anthony Richardson to Young, but everything else on his scouting report is spectacular.
4. DT Jalen Carter, Georgia: Carter is the most complete and most dominant football player in this draft. Regardless of where he ends up lining up on the defensive front, I can’t find a negative thing to say about him. But his off-the-field issues are undeniable and will scare off a number of teams.
5. Edge Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech: Wilson is 6-6, 275 and unblockable if you can’t beat him to his first step, which extremely few offensive linemen can. He is a force against the run and a monster rushing the passer.
6. QB C.J. Stroud, Ohio State: At 6-3, 214 pounds, he has what Bryce Young lacks, and his measureables are awfully close to Young’s. Still, in the end, except for his size, Young is the most complete package.
7. CB Christian Gonzalez, Oregon: At 6-1, 197, and with 4.38 40-yard dash time, Gonzalez has been flying up draft boards ever since the combine. He has shown enough physicality, instincts and toughness for me to move him ahead of Devon Witherspoon.
8. QB Anthony Richardson, Florida: This kid is my top quarterback prospect in the draft. He’s 6-4, 244 and a remarkable athlete. But it’s hard and risky to ignore his one season as a starter in college and tendency to make mistakes because of his lack of experience in spite of his incredible athleticism.
9. DT Paris Johnson, Ohio State: There is little argument that Johnson is the best true left tackle prospect in this draft, and that’s still the hardest and most important position to fill on the line. He’s 6-6, 313 and still growing with only one full season at the position after playing on the other side.
10. CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois: He has acceptable but not special size at 5-11, 181, but what he does have is an incredible natural instinct for the position, and he’s as tough and nasty as they come.
You can almost guarantee Young, Stroud, Anderson and Wilson will be gone in the top eight picks, and Richardson almost certainly will be, too. I believe one of the first eight teams just won’t be able to leave Carter on the table, but he’s the hardest player in this draft to evaluate.
That leaves Robinson, Gonzalez, Johnson and Witherspoon for the Bears to pick from. I’m pretty sure you know what I would do, what about you?
• Hub Arkush is the senior Bears analyst for Shaw Media and ShawLocal.com.