2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bears focus on protecting Justin Fields

·11 min read

2023 NFL Mock Draft: Bears focus on protecting Fields originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

Thing are definitely shaping up as the 2023 NFL Draft inches closer.

The Chicago Bears began to stir the off-season cauldron by trading the first overall pick before the start of free agency. Quarterback mania ensued with Derek Carr signing in New Orleans, Jimmy Garoppolo finding a home in Las Vegas and Aaron Rodgers all but traded to the Jets.

The downward spiral of NFL prospect Jalen Carter is increasingly disturbing to witness, whereas the ascent of franchise quarterback hopeful Anthony Richardson is amazing to watch.

This latest mock takes a look at potential trades and some quiet draft risers into account. The rollercoaster continues...

1. Panthers (via CHI): Bryce Young, QB, Alabama

Finally, we have definitive proof the Bears will not be making the first selection. Ironically, the decision as to which player will be chosen at No. 1 is just as unclear as it was before the trade. Young is still slightly considered more creatively dynamic in the face of on-field adversity, so, I'll consider him the favorite for now.

2. Texans: C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Houston stands pat and takes arguably the most polished passer in the draft, CJ Stroud, a player with impeccable throwing mechanics and the stats to match his production. By choosing not to trade up with Chicago, the Texans retain all 12 picks from this draft to bolster a deficient roster.

3. Colts (via AZ): Will Levis, QB, Kentucky

The Colts could wait at their original fourth-overall pick and choose between quarterbacks Will Levis or possibly Anthony Richardson. Instead they may decide to be proactive and make a move. Choosing Levis provides Indianapolis with a more experienced passer and game tested player at the most important position in football.

4. Cardinals (via IND): Will Anderson Jr., EDGE, Alabama

Arizona want to infuse its defense with speedier more athletic edge rushers and taking Anderson would be an excellent acquisition. The Cardinals have a new head coach in former Eagles' defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and taking the best defensive player would be a good first draft pick.

5. Seahawks (via DEN): Anthony Richardson, QB, Florida

Athletically gifted beyond imagination, Richardson's physical attributes bursts through most measurable metrics, exponentially increasing his potential to become a star in the NFL. Seattle can afford gambling on taking Richardson because it has two first-round picks.

6. Lions (via LAR): Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia

As much as I've struggled placing Carter with the Lions, I'm sure there could be 10 times the consternation amongst Detroit brass if Carter becomes the team's pick at No. 6. Undoubtedly Carter's ability and potential make him worthy of a top-five selection, but his actions are concerning and raise multiple red flags demanding meticulous scrutiny. Head coach Dan Campbell will have to provide an environment conducive to Carter's emotional growth and maturation to make this pick sustainable.

7. Raiders: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon

The Raiders are virtually faceless at their cornerback position and desperately need immediate upgrades in that department. This long-limbed defender competes tenaciously for 50/50 jump balls, with an astounding 42-inch vertical that challenges the largest of catch radiuses. At the end of the day, Gonzalez plays with a confidence that compliments his athleticism. 

8. Falcons: Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech

Quick and agile for his size (6'6", 271 lbs), Wilson compliments his athleticism by utilizing his length (86-inch wingspan) to create leverage and manipulate blockers at the point of attack. Slippery and exceptionally nimble, Wilson's bendability around the edge is difficult to gauge, complicating blockers attempts at containing his pass rush.

9. Bears (via CAR): Paris Johnson Jr., OL, Ohio State

A natural athlete with easy lateral fluidity in and out of his sets, Johnson projects as a starting NFL left tackle. An intelligent player who executes blocks well into the second level of defenses, he's the type of agile blocker required in today's more open offensive style of play.

10. Eagles (via NO): Devon Witherspoon, CB, Illinois

Witherspoon finished second in the Big Ten conference with 14 passes defended and added three interceptions on the season. His closing speed, high football I.Q. and concept visualization skills make him an intriguing prospect to NFL evaluators. According Pro Football Focus, Witherspoon is this season's top rated coverage cornerback with a 92.5 rating. 

11. Titans: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Tennessee released offensive lineman Taylor Lewan, leaving a noticeable hole at left tackle to fill. Skoronski is a respected pro prospect who flashes day one starting potential. According to PFF, Skoronski is the highest rated pass blocker (92.4) in the nation.

12. Texans (via CLE): Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson

Should Murphy fall into the mid rounds, any team selecting him may be getting an underappreciated talent that slipped through the cracks. Extremely aggressive at the point of attack, Murphy utilizes his brute strength to overpower opponents. His ability to rush the passer is equaled by his effectiveness and tenacity against the run.

13. Packers (via NYJ): Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State

For the sake of this mock draft, the Jets traded their No. 1 overall pick to the Packers for Aaron Rodgers. The Packers' asking price reportedly is a first-round pick and the teams aren't close on terms. It's worth noting teams around the league don't feel Rodgers is worth a first-round pick, but we're running with it for now.

Should backup quarterback Jordan Love become the Packers' starter, getting him a day one starting slot receiver would expedite his growth as a passer. Smith-Njigba wastes little motion when leveraging defenders away from him, using angled cuts and smooth transitions into and out of his breaks on pass routes.

14. Patriots: Joey Porter, Jr., CB, Penn State

Porter flashes shut down cover corner ability by utilizing his 6-foot-2 frame to blanket receivers and challenge receptions. Scheme friendly, Porter is equally adept in man or zone coverages, plus, his physicality in the run game cements his all around defensive acumen.

15. Packers: Michael Mayer, TE, Notre Dame

Drafting Notre Dame's best and most accomplished tight end in school history, could only improve a passing attack that struggles on crucial downs in close games. Taking a top-flight tight end would greatly enhance quarterback Jordan Love's immersion into the potential starter's role for the Packers' offense.

16. Commanders: Drew Sanders, LB, Arkansas

Sanders is a cross between former NFL linebackers, Dan Morgan (Panthers, '01-'07) and Luke Kuechly (Panthers, '12-'19) but with a little more size. Last season he registered 103 tackles; 13.5 tackles for loss; 9.5 sacks; five passes defended and three forced fumbles.

17. Steelers: Broderick Jones, OL, Georgia

Excellent size (6'4", 311 lbs) and impressive arm length allow him to sting and neutralize power rushers. His quick feet and loose lateral movements help in keeping tempo with speedy edge defenders. Jones may be the most athletically gifted offensive line prospect in the 2023 draft class. 

18. Lions: Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia

Smith suffered a pectoral injury late in the year (October 29) and it cost him the remainder of the season. However, if any athlete helped himself at this year's NFL Combine, it was Smith. Posting a ridiculous 40-time of 4.39 seconds and showcasing a 41.5 inch vertical leap, Smith improved his draft status and turned any doubters into ardent believers.

19. Buccaneers: Calijah Kancey, DL, Pittsburgh

Kancey was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year this past season, and one look at his game clips illustrate how truly disruptive a player he can be. His low center of gravity paired with an extremely well-fortified base and upper body strength, allow him to stay low and leverage against blockers' pad levels.

20. Seahawks: Lukas Van Ness, EDGE, Iowa

A long, rangy athlete at 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, Van Ness possesses enough size and athletic versatility to play inside or outside along the defensive line. Extremely quick when extending his arms, his length and suddenness generally catch blockers off-guard, helping him establish immediate leverage against most opposition. 

21. Dolphins: Forfeited

The Miami Dolphins forfeited one of their two first-round picks (plus a third-round pick in 2024) for tampering surrounding Tom Brady.

22. Chargers: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson

Simpson is a do-it-all defender with elite athleticism and a versatile toolbox which allows him to dominate games. He's a special player with the ability to blitz off the edge, shed blocks to stuff ball carriers, or glide into space and eliminate underneath passing lanes.

23. Ravens: Quentin Johnston, WR, TCU

Should quarterback Lamar Jackson remain in Baltimore, he is going to feel better if the organization provides him with a healthy, active target with a legit catching radius. As a boundary receiver, Johnston possesses NFL caliber size (6'3", 208 lbs), speed and a 40.5 inch vertical jump that should threaten opposing teams' coverage schemes. Jackson to Johnston has a certain eloquent ring to it.

24. Vikings: Kelee Ringo, CB, Georgia

A two-time national champion, it would be erroneous for pundits to mistake Ringo's low defensive stats for ineffectiveness on the field. Ringo showcases sprinter speed (4.36 40-time) and at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds, his ceiling projects higher than most of his draft class peers. His above average change-of-direction ability, aggressive man to man coverage skills and his proficiency in zone schemes should make Ringo a targeted asset in the Vikings undermanned secondary.

25. Jaguars: O'Cyrus Torrence, OL, Florida

Jacksonville's offensive line is decent, but adding another quality lineman further insulates the offense from untimely injuries. Torrence works well in space and does an excellent job of attacking the second level of defenses with effective consistency. He's powerful enough to move the pile and mean enough to do so with practiced prejudice.

26. Giants: Jalin Hyatt, WR, Tennessee

Hyatt possesses phenomenal speed and make-you-miss agility, consistently frustrating defenders' attempts to stop him in the open field. His ability to accelerate and decelerate makes him dangerous either from the slot position or as a boundary receiver. The 2022 Biletnikoff Award recipient's upside oozes with vast untapped potential that could provide an immediate impact.

27. Cowboys: Bryan Breese, DL, Clemson

Dallas is pretty much stacked at every position on both side of the ball, however, if there is a less secure area of notice it may be within the defensive interior. The Cowboys ranked 22nd in yards allowed per game (129.3) and during the playoffs, being unable to stop the run cost them during the past two postseasons. Bresee plays with a brute force ugliness that doesn't apologize for making things difficult for opposing teams.

28. Bills: Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas

Over the course of the 2022 season, Robinson performed as is one of college football's most consistent and exciting ball carriers. Robinson averaged six yards per carry (6.1) and rushed for 18 touchdowns this season. NFL scouts are impressed with Robinson's entire repertoire as a complete running back, too. An adept pass catcher, Robinson also averaged 16.5 yards a reception with two receiving touchdowns.

29. Bengals: Dalton Kincaid, TE, Utah

Kincaid is an impressive receiver at the tight end position, having led his team in receptions (70), receiving yards (890) and aerial scores (8). The Associated Press selected him as an All-American due in part to him leading all FBS tight ends in receiving yards per game (77.3).

30. Saints (via SF): Emmanuel Forbes, CB, Mississippi State

In a conference dominated with elite athletes, especially in the defensive secondary, Forbes quietly performed as one the SEC's best pass defenders. He led the conference in interceptions (6), interception return yardage (174), and interceptions returned for touchdowns (3). Long-limbed, lean, lightning quick with speed for deep coverage, Forbes may be this draft's defensive diamond in the rough.

31. Eagles: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

The Eagles let Miles Sanders explore free agency, so it's reasonable to consider they may choose a younger more cost effective option at running back. Assuming Bijan Robinson is already gone, arguably the next most dynamic player at running back is Gibbs. His acceleration and gear shifting acumen make defenders look silly and him more unpredictably dangerous. He runs and catches with elite competence and can score from anywhere on the gridiron.

32. Chiefs: Darnell Wright, OL, Tennessee

Darnell Wright played extremely well this past season for the Tennessee Volunteers, helping them to a double digit win total (11), the most in approximately 15 seasons since last winning 10 games in 2007. A physical blocker with a smooth drop step and lateral slide, Wright acquitted himself well at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Combine. The Chiefs just released offensive tackle Orlando Brown, and Wright has comparable size with better athleticism.

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