With the 2022 NFL Draft now in our rearview mirror, finally there’s enough time to talk about the 2023 NFL Draft.
I kid, I kid (…but only just a little).
I won’t berate you with way-too-early mock drafts. Not yet, at least. But there are some general trends for which we need to be aware, so that when the real mock draft season rolls around, we’ll have a better sense of what could be on the board for Chicago next April. And that will come in handy with the Bears having their own first-round pick.
To this point, there has been an obvious connection between the Bears and any number of receivers in what already projects to be a class full of impact talent. And unless the Bears make some striking moves between now and then, there will be an expectation that Chicago will use its next first-round pick on a receiver who can help Justin Fields take the passing attack to another level.
But it doesn’t have to be.
I mean, have you seen the upcoming class of offensive tackles?
Better yet, have you seen the forecast for the Bears’ offensive line for this season?
Re-posting after fixing a couple issues with the contract data pic.twitter.com/5J6msl5HjW
— Computer Cowboy (@benbbaldwin) May 11, 2022
That is a rough-looking set of pass-protection data (to say the least).
I realize there is an obvious need to address the skill positions, but we shouldn’t lose sight of needs along the offensive line. Maybe one of the four offensive linemen who were chosen by first-year GM Ryan Poles will surprise us. Perhaps a free agent addition to be made later has some staying power. But rather than assume that, I think it is easier to operate under the assumption that the Bears could have eyes at building (1) through the draft and (2) with a focus in the trenches.
So, while it might not look as stocked as the receiver class, there appears to be a bunch of offensive line talent generating a first-round buzz. And it is worth sharing.
Using the mock drafts cited in this post in which we highlight the Bears’ connection to a number of high-profile receiver prospects, we’ve come to learn that there are a number of offensive linemen we should be keeping tabs on. For starters, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson is the first linemen off the board in mock drafts from For The Win, CBS Sports, The Draft Network, ESPN, and Draft Wire. Zion Nelson (Miami), Peter Skoronski (Northwestern), and Jarrett Paterson (Notre Dame) garner top-20 buzz in various mock drafts. Meanwhile, Emil Ekiyor Jr. (Alabama), Jaxson Kirkland (Washington), and Anton Harrison (Oklahoma) are also mocked to go in Round 1 in various mocks.
Altogether, we’re looking at five mocks that list seven different linemen as having first-round grades.
The only consensus seems to be with Johnson being the top dog. Some mocks have as few as just two offensive linemen going on Day 1. Others have as many as six. This is what tends to happen when you’re trying to make a mock draft forecast 11 months ahead of time. But because the Bears figure to be in a place where they could use a helping hand in the trenches, I have no problem in trying to get ahead of the curve.