Day 1 of the 2023 NFL Draft is finally here. As of this writing the Bears still are picking ninth, so it’s time to identify the three most likely scenarios on how the draft will play out for general manager Ryan Poles.
We know Poles grades his prospects from best to least as blue, red, gold, orange and gray. On Tuesday, assistant GM Ian Cunningham told us the Bears have between six and eight players rated as blues. Of course, he did not tell us who they are.
Since all 32 NFL teams’ draft boards and rankings are different, it is safe to assume there will be at least one blue player – if not more – still available at No. 9, and the Bears’ ideal scenario will be to get a blue in the first round and two reds in the second.
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My list of the top eight prospects in this draft is not going to be the same as the Bears, but I’ve worked hard on it and talked to a number of general managers and scouts so it should be close.
1. RB Bijan Robinson
2. ER Will Anderson Jr.
3. ER Tyree Wilson
4. QB Bryce Young
5. CB Devon Witherspoon
6. DT Jalen Carter
7. QB Anthony Richardson
8. CB Christian Gonzalez
Now, let’s add four more names since we know my list is going to be different from many teams, but not radically so.
9. OT Paris Johnson
10. CB Joey Porter Jr.
11. ER Nolan Smith
12. WR Quentin Johnston
If the Bears use the ninth pick, we can say with some certainty it won’t be on a quarterback or wide receiver. That eliminates Young, Richardson and Johnston. As impressed as I am with Smith, he’s just not big enough to take the third best edge rusher at No. 9. I also really like Porter, but I can’t see the third-best cornerback going at No. 9. Anderson and Wilson just aren’t going to last that long.
That leaves Robinson, Witherspoon, Carter, Gonzalez and Johnson for the Bears to choose from. I’d have no problem with any of them, although I do still have concerns about what I don’t know about Carter. And, as much as I like Johnson I believe the Bears already have a potentially excellent left tackle in Braxton Jones. I don’t see either him or Johnson on the right side.
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If you have been following my draft work, you know I am adamant that when rebuilding an entire team you must draft the best available prospect regardless of position with every pick. That is whom I have the Bears choosing from in Option 1.
Not everybody agrees with me, so in Option 2 let’s assume the Bears will try and address their greatest need at No. 9. There can be no dispute that the team’s greatest needs are on the defensive line – edge rushers first and defensive tackles second.
In Option 2, if any of Anderson, Wilson, Carter or Smith are still there, the Bears should take one. If all four are gone, the defensive line prospects the Bears have to consider are Lukas Van Ness, Myles Murphy, Keion White and Calijah Kancey. I think ninth is too high for all four of them, but if you’re going to draft for need over best player available, that’s the price you have to pay.
Option 3 is the most intriguing of all, and perhaps most likely: trading down again from No. 9. Hopefully that’s no further than No. 16 or 17 and adding more Day 2 picks. If Richardson and fellow QB Will Levis still are on the board at No. 9, no receivers have been drafted yet and only one cornerback and one tackle have been taken, there could be a number of teams willing to move up. In this scenario, some of the Bears’ top targets still are available at the spot they move down to, and they could get more for the move than they thought possible.
The third option could prove to be the best if Poles has his board ranked right.