March 26, 2023

Bears Analysis

NFL Combine preview: 5 offensive linemen for Chicago Bears to keep an eye on

Ohio State offensive lineman Paris Johnson Jr. plays against Michigan State, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in East Lansing, Mich.

The NFL Combine begins next week. All 32 NFL teams will converge on Indianapolis with a chance to watch 319 of the top prospects show off their talents.

The Bears, who have the No. 1 draft pick, are in need of help along the offensive line. This could come in the form of a tackle or an interior offensive lineman – or both. Rookie left tackle Braxton Jones had a nice debut season, and he will probably start at one of the Bears’ tackle spots next season, but the team is still in need of another tackle.

If general manager Ryan Poles were to trade the No. 1 pick, he could potentially wind up with a later first-round pick and/or an additional second-round pick. Doing so would give him options if he’s looking for protection for quarterback Justin Fields.

Here’s a look at five linemen who the Bears could be taking a closer look at during the combine. All of these linemen are potential first- or second-round picks.

Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

Johnson (6-6, 310) could be the first offensive lineman taken in the draft. It seems as if he and Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski are the favorites to go first. Johnson is one of the best pass blockers in the draft and was an impact player at left tackle for the Buckeyes. There aren’t a lot of questions surrounding Johnson heading into the combine, except for how high he might go come draft day.

John Michael Schmitz, C, Minnesota

One of the few true centers near the top of the draft, Schmitz (6-3, 306) is a local player who went to Homewood-Flossmoor. He started at center during each of the last two seasons for the Gophers and he made the calls for the Gophers’ offensive line. His arm length will be a topic of discussion at the combine. He is likely a second-round prospect.

Peter Skoronski, OT/G, Northwestern

Along with Johnson, Skoronski (6-4, 315) is one of the best tackles in the draft. The Maine South graduate is considered one of the most technically sound linemen available. He played left tackle at Northwestern, but could be best suited as a guard in the NFL. Teams will be curious to see how long his arms measure in at. Skoronski is likely a top 10 pick and almost certainly a first-round pick.

Joe Tippmann, C, Wisconsin

Tippmann (6-6, 315) is quite tall for a center and highly athletic. He started 22 games at center over the past two seasons at Wisconsin. Like Schmitz, Tippmann’s status as one of the few true centers toward the top of the draft has him projected as a potential second-round pick. If the Bears are thinking about a long-term answer at center, they will take a long, hard look at Tippmann and Schmitz.

Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee

Wright (6-5, 342) had the size and strength to bully opponents in college. He has experience at both right and left tackle, but is probably best suited for right tackle at the NFL level. NFL teams will see Wright as a high-ceiling tackle who could use a little refinement. He is in the discussion as a high second-round prospect who could potentially sneak into the first round.

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for Shaw Media. He also contributes to high school football coverage at Friday Night Drive. Sean has covered various sports at the amateur, college and professional levels since 2012. He joined Shaw Media in 2016.