There is a Growing Consensus on What the Bears Must Do in the NFL Draft
As Bears fans, we know this team’s biggest needs are (and have been) on the offensive and defensive lines. It doesn’t take a brain scientist or rocket surgeon to know that much. If you watched the games, you already know the importance. And if you’ve partaken in the online discourse, then you already know the need. If you’ve done both, then that explains why you’re here reading this.
But when insiders, outsiders, pundits, and experts are also singing similar choruses, then it really drives home the Chicago Bears’ biggest needs to fill for the rest of the offseason are along the offensive and defensive lines.
And the recent round oof mock drafts say as much.
So … let’s discuss.
Brad Biggs, Tribune: Broderick Jones, Georgia OT
The long-time Chicago football bigfoot dropped his first mock draft today. And it is one that I imagine will tickle the fancy of many Bears fans who are starving for this team to properly address its offensive line needs. And for Biggs, Chicago’s pick is Georgia’s Broderick Jones. Here is Biggs’ explanation:
GM Ryan Poles can go with a lineman on either side of the ball and declare he has filled a pressing need. As a former offensive lineman — and having made only one major addition in free-agent guard Nate Davis — it seems smart to stay on the O-line. Jones is a redshirt sophomore with a sturdy frame and good athleticism. Bears coaches can sort out which side he’ll play on.
Jones is one of the best offensive tackle prospects in this draft class. And while there isn’t a consensus No. 1, Jones checks some of the boxes we’d want from a tackle. The 6-4, 310-pound lineman has the size, length, skill, and pedigree football teams appear to prioritize when picking offensive linemen. A first-team All-SEC member in 2022 was part of two national title winners at Georgia, so he should have an idea of what it takes to win.
Where Jones would play is a bit of a mystery. Would you slide Braxton Jones from the left side and teach him a whole new position? Or would it be Broderick starting in the league on the right side instead? Whatever it is, just know that modern NFL calls for good blocking tackles on both sides of the line. There is no hiding a lesser tackle on the right side anymore. Not with the way teams move defenders around. And certainly not with the evolution of a game that features defenses with butt-whipping pass rushers on both ends of the line.
Brad Spielberger, PFF: Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State OT
Remember what I said above regarding not having a consensus top offensive lineman in this class? Good! You’ll need that as we navigate through this because we’ll mention two other O-linemen who can stake a claim to that title. Next on the list is Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., who already has experience blocking for Justin Fields from their time with the Buckeyes.
I’m very much into Spielberger’s explanation as to why Johnson is the fit:
Johnson is a versatile offensive lineman with the size and athleticism to play on the inside or at tackle, with his 36 1/4-inch arms landing in the 97th percentile among tackles.
The former Ohio State teammate of Bears quarterback Justin Fields started in 2021 at right guard before moving to left tackle, but he’s a perfect fit in this scheme wherever Chicago ultimately puts him, with great movement skills at the second level for Chicago’s outside-zone rushing attack. Johnson’s 85.5 run-blocking grade on outside-zone runs in 2022 ranked sixth among FBS tackles, and that was at a new position on the other side of the offensive line. If he can get more consistent and continue to develop in both facets, he’s the exact type of tackle that Chicago’s new brass covets.
Johnson checks the size, strength, length, and athleticism boxes. Plus he passes the analytical sniff test with a strong run-blocking grades. The Bears seem to value offensive linemen who are a plus in the run-blocking game, which is something to keep in mind as we try to peg fits for this group moving forward.
Call it a gut feeling, but Johnson sure seems destined to be a Bear at this point:
Also picking Johnson: Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports)
Danny Kelly, The Ringer: Peter Skoronski, Northwestern OL
Ah, yes. Yet another offensive lineman who could conceivably be the first lineman taken on draft day. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before.
Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski is the pick for Danny Kelly over at The Ringer — and I’m very much into it if that is how the cookie crumbles:
After extracting a massive haul to drop back out of the top overall pick, the Bears grab a talented offensive lineman here. A Chicago native, Skoronski lacks elite length but makes up for it basically everywhere else, giving the Bears a steady, hard-nosed lineman who excels as both a pass and run blocker. Whether he ends up at tackle or guard, Chicago gets what should be a longtime stalwart on the line.
I’d do a happy dance if it turns out the Bears turned the No. 1 pick into a legit WR1 for Justin Fields (D.J. Moore) and a stud offensive lineman. Perhaps Skoronski is that dude. After all, Skoronski has been a stud tackle for the Wildcats from the get-go. To put it another way: He knows what it looks like to start on the offensive line of what is an otherwise desolate place and elevate the group. Maybe that happens at right tackle or at guard. Wherever he fits, we shouldn’t overlook the possibility of landing a Week 1 starter along the offensive line who could have a 10+ year career as an anchor in the trenches. Sometimes, picking a player who has a high floor *AND* a high ceiling is the move.
And everyone loves a local kid who plays for hometown team angle, right? OK, so he has family ties to the Packers. No big deal. Give him one rookie minicamp at Halas Hall, a training camp with Justin Fields, and oodles of pro-Bears propaganda and we can knock the Cheesedoodle out of him.
Charles Davis Shapiro, NBC Sports Chicago: Jalen Carter, Georgia DL
While offensive line gets a ton of attention as a need, we shouldn’t ignore needs on the defensive side of the ball. Particularly at the line of scrimmage.
There was a time when you could’ve talked me into taking a stud defensive lineman with the top pick in a scenario in which Poles failed to trade the No. 1 selection. Thankfully, that isn’t a bridge we need to cross because he got that pick off his hands. But the Bears, picking ninth, could still be in a position to take a defensive lineman. And even though Georgia’s Jalen Carter has a lot to prove between now and draft day, there is a path to him being the Bears’ pick.
NFL Media’s Charles Davis explains why he sends Carter to Chicago in his first mock draft:
The top-rated player in the draft on many boards prior to the NFL combine (off-field issues/poor pro-day workout), Carter’s “slide” stops here … with the team that may have selected him at No. 1 overall if it had not traded the pick.
I’d recommend reading those NFL links to get a better understanding as to why Carter is falling down draft boards.
Also picking Carter: Alex Shapiro (NBCS Chicago)