ESPN's FPI Has the Bears Drafting 2nd Overall in 2023, But Making the Most of the Pick

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ESPN’s FPI Has the Bears Drafting 2nd Overall in 2023, But Making the Most of the Pick

Chicago Bears

We should really get used to seeing the name Jaxon Smith-Njigba around these parts.

That’s because the Ohio State receiver is once again sent to the Bears in another way-too-early mock draft — this time by ESPN’s Matt Miller.

Miller’s mock adds him to the growing list of draftniks connecting the Bears and Smith-Njigba in a draft that isn’t taking place for another 10 months. We’re now at (at least!) five mock drafts in which Smith-Njigba becomes a Bear in 2023. This trend certainly has my attention. Especially since it is someone with Smith-Njigba’s profile and upside.

From Miller’s mock-draft writeup:

“The electric Smith-Njigba left us with a statement game in the Rose Bowl when he caught 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns as the entire defense failed to stop him. This would be the highest a wide receiver has been drafted since Calvin Johnson in 2007, but Smith-Njigba is the type of talent (Justin) Fields needs.”

Chicago going receiver with a premium pick would be a departure from what GM Ryan Poles did in his first draft, selecting defensive backs with his first two picks. But Miller seems to think that next year’s draft is one in which Poles pivots to fixing the offense. And what better way to do it with a high-profile pass-catcher with game-breaking potential? Smith-Njigba is coming off a 95-catch, 1,595-yard season at Ohio State. And if he can match (or even surpass) what he did in this highlight reel in 2022, then I don’t think I’d quibble about taking a receiver with the second overall pick:

Then again, that the Bears are choosing second overall leaves me feeling angsty.

At this point, you’re probably wondering how they end up at No. 2 in the first place? That is easily explained by Miller’s draft order being based on ESPN’s Football Power Index projecting the Bears to be one of the NFL’s worst teams in 2022. In fact, ESPN’s FPI has only the Jets being worse than Chicago’s football team this season. Even still … I don’t expect the Bears do end up here. Not with Fields’ potential, an inviting schedule, and coaching/schematic changes that could help along the margins and steal some wins.

Seriously … how bad do things have to go for the Bears to finish with the second overall pick? Is it injuries? Poor performance? Coaching foibles? A collection of misfortunes that would rival what happens to C. Montgomery Burns’ team of softball ringers in the Homer at the Bat episode of The Simpsons? Monstars stealing Bears players’ talents as part of another Space Jam re-boot? All of the above?

And if the Bears are picking this high in the draft shouldn’t they be considering a quarterback? For what it’s worth, Miller has five going in the top-10. And the run on them starting with pick No. 5. Unlike last year, this draft class appears to be one with high-end QB prospect talent. But if Fields gives the Bears reason to continue building around him, then at least we know that trade-down possibilities exist for QB-hungry teams. Because if this class is good, we’ll see a bunch of quarterbacks go off the board early with any number of teams jockeying for position to get one. Otherwise, next year’s draft could look a lot like the one we just had in April.

In the end, seeing the Bears being in a position to add a high-profile receiver via the draft after seeing news of Terry McLaurin’s extension with the Commanders softens the blow of seeing another possible free agent target leave our wish list. If it is any consolation, engineering a big swing trade isn’t the only way to secure a receiver upgrade. And we should probably keep that perspective as we move forward.



Author: Luis Medina

Luis Medina is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at@lcm1986.