Mel Kiper Jr. Finally Addresses the Bears Offensive Line Needs With His Latest Mock Draft
For the first time since before January, we’re seeing mock drafts that don’t feature the Chicago Bears picking first.
Shout out to the Carolina Panthers for making Ryan Poles’ dreams come true. Fulfilling his request to trade the No. 1 overall pick for players and future draft capital was a kind gesture. We’ll always appreciate your contributions toward helping the Bears build a winner in this corner of the internet. But with that being said, we find Chicago’s football team picking in a different place. This means we need to re-adjust our sights to a different set of prospects. With that in mind, let’s check out Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft following last week’s free agency wave.
By the time the Bears go on the clock, four quarterbacks have gone off the board. And in the first five picks, too. That type of scenario playing out would help the Bears. Especially since it would leave Poles in a place to pick someone from his list of 6-8 blue-chip prospects. And perhaps Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. is on that list. If he is, then maybe we’ll look at Kiper’s latest mock draft as being prophetic because that is who he sends to Chicago with the ninth pick.
Here is Kiper’s thought process behind the selection:
While the Bears could be in play for a defensive lineman here — particularly if Jalen Carter drops — I see offensive tackle as their biggest hole after their moves in free agency. They added guard Nate Davis to start on the right side, but are they really trusting Teven Jenkins to lock in the right tackle job? They could have their choice of the class’ tackles here. Johnson played both tackle spots and right guard for the Buckeyes, and he already has blocked for quarterback Justin Fields. Chicago needs to keep supporting Fields and get him a stellar lineman with this pick, and it could still address the defense with its two second-round picks (Nos. 53 and 61) and early third-rounder (No. 64).
You’ll get no argument from me against offensive tackle being the team’s biggest hole. And Johnson could be quite the filler. Johnson can make a case for being this draft class’ top offensive line prospect. The Ohio State product was a Consensus All-American in 2022 and a two-time All-Big Ten performer (earning a first-team nod in 2022). It is a nice résumé, to be sure. Plus, having a standing relationship with Chicago’s QB1 could be helpful — both in terms of team building and getting background on a prospect. Fields could (and should) give Poles and friends any and all scoopage on Johnson. And if he checks all the boxes, it is easy to envision Johnson being the pick at No. 9.
Then again, Johnson isn’t the only offensive lineman we should be keeping tabs on ahead of the draft. After all, Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Georgia’s Broderick Jones can also make strong cases for being the first lineman taken. For what it’s worth, both are on the board and go after Kiper sends Johnson to Chicago in his mock. Skoronski goes one pick after Johnson (to the Eagles at No. 10). Meanwhile, Jones goes 13th to the Jets (so long as they don’t trade that pick to the Packers in the Aaron Rodgers deal). All in all, there are four offensive linemen going in the first round with Darnell Wright (19th, Bucs) rounding out the group. Seeing four O-linemen go in the first 20 picks — all between Nos. 9 and 19 — has me thinking the Bears should strike with that ninth pick.
Although, it might be tempting for Head Coach Matt Eberflus to lean hard on his GM and ask for him to take a disruptive defensive lineman like Texas Tech’s Tyree Wilson (11th, Titans) or Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness (15th, Packers). In other words, the Bears have plenty of options on how they can use that first pick. And they’re all at spots where they can check the best player available and best player available at a position of need boxes. If they can do that with one top 10 pick, Chicago’s football team will be better for it.
For the rest from Kiper’s latest bit of draft coverage, you’ll want to check out the rest of his mock: