Will Bears Take Notice of O-Line Prospects at 2023 Senior Bowl?

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The Senior Bowl is Loaded With O-Line Prospects, Bears Better Be Taking Notes

Chicago Bears

In his first-ever draft class, Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles leveraged the 2022 Senior Bowl by selecting four participants: left tackle Braxton Jones, receiver Velus Jones Jr., pass-rusher Dominique Robinson, and offensive lineman Ja’Tyre Carter.

In other words, because of the Senior Bowl, the Bears got a starting offensive lineman (Braxton), a potential return ace with the ability to contribute as a multi-purpose offensive weapon (Velus), a rotational pass-rusher (Robinson), and a developmental project (Carter).

All things considered, that wasn’t a bad way to use draft capital. And now, it’s time for an encore.

Dane Brugler (The Athletic) previews the 2023 Senior Bowl. And while Brugler’s story is loaded with insight, I noticed there were a bunch of anecdotes about offensive linemen, in particular. Considering the Bears’ needs along the offensive line, I wanted to highlight some of those comments, and add some context and perspective of my own regarding possible fits and targets. Buckle up.

Cody Mauch is North Dakota State’s next great pro prospect

As someone who watches the Missouri Valley Football Conference religiously on Saturdays in the fall (roll damn Salukis!), I have a familiarity with some of the best prospects The Valley has to offer. And in recent years, we’ve seen some notable names make the jump from North Dakota State — which is a gold-standard football powerhouse that even I find myself tipping my cap to out of respect. Most football fans are familiar with quarterbacks such as Carson Wentz and Trey Lance. And Bears fans definitely began getting familiar with Packers receiver Christian Watson, a product of NDSU’s football factory. Up next? Offensive lineman Cody Mauch.

Mauch is a darling among draft nerds. And with good reason. He played tight end and defensive end in high school before developing into an All-American left tackle at North Dakota State. But as is often the case with college tackles going to the pros, there are questions about what position is best for him at the next level. How he measures out could dictate how teams view him. I’d like to see him at either tackle spot while practicing during Senior Bowl week. But I am also preparing myself to see him work along the interior, too.

Brugler seems to believe Mauch’s best long-term position could be at center. And even though he doesn’t have much experience there, his athleticism and skill could make him a force in the middle. Before you scoff, Mauch’s potential versatility reminds me of what the buzz around Cody Whitehair was before the 2016 NFL Draft. If the Bears can find a way to snag Mauch on Day 2 of the NFL Draft, I don’t think I’d be upset about it. But first, he’ll need to impress during Senior Bowl practices and game action to solidify his spot.

Five offensive tackles with everything to prove

If you’re looking for offensive line talent that the Bears can comb through this week, then this is your lucky week. Because in addition to Mauch madness, there are at least five offensive tackles who have so much on the line this week. Don’t get me wrong. College game tape and interviews will go a long way toward slotting these prospects on draft boards. But what goes down at the Senior Bowl could be helpful for those who make good impressions.

Among the tackles Brugler has eyes on this week:

  • Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse
  • Darnell Wright, Tennessee
  • Wanya Morris, Oklahoma
  • Dawand Jones, Ohio State
  • Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland

Bergeron might’ve had trouble with some of the ACC’s top pass-rushers this year, but still put out enough good tape to be considered worthy of being the first senior tackle off the draft board.

Wright, who was mocked to the Bears in a mock draft we touched on earlier, seems to have found his spot after moving from left to right tackle. If anyone can appreciate a position switch unlocking a lineman’s potential, it’s the Bears — especially after seeing it click with Teven Jenkins at right guard.

And among the prospects Brugler believes will be seen as the top dawg during Senior Bowl week is, of course, another offensive lineman. Florida guard O’Cyrus Torrence would instantly make our All-Name Team. But the first-team All-SEC lineman who earned Consensus All-American honors is a prospect I can see shining during Senior Bowl week.

Dawned Jones is the big man on campus

The most intriguing prospect might be Dawned Jones, the Ohio State product who is flat-out enormous:

Jones was a first-team All-American in 2022 and wrapped up his collegiate career with a pair of second-team All-Big Ten nods in 2021 and 2022. His college measurements were 6-foot-8 and 359 pounds. And with the wingspan of a 7-foot-5-inch monster, I’d like to give him a deeper look.

Even the guys with question-marks are worth watching

“Draft grades on BYU left tackle Blake Freeland are all over the place,” writes Brugler. “Some see an eventual NFL starter and potential Day 2 pick, while others see a late-rounder and more of a long shot. … He’s light on his feet and excellent on the move, but there are play-strength issues that might hinder him at the next level.”

Depending on how he grades out during practices, Freeland’s name is worth monitoring during the pre-draft process. If he hits, maybe there is a potential Day 2 option. But if he doesn’t, perhaps there is some possible late-round value in a player some believe has untapped upside.

Small-school offensive line prospects Brugler name-checks as players who should be on our radar are McClendon Curtis (Chattanooga guard) and Joey Fisher (Shepherd OL).

For more from the Senior Bowl, I highly encourage reading through Brugler’s full story:

Author: Luis Medina

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