When general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus walked out of the media center at Halas Hall following their state of the franchise address Tuesday, the Bears’ offseason officially began.
Armed with over $100 million in salary cap and the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Poles has ample resources to reshape the roster in whatever vision he sees fit.
Poles, Eberflus, and the Bears’ staff will be disciplined in their approach to the offseason. They’ll pour over tape of prospects and upcoming free agents for the next month before the offseason really kicks into gear.
What the Bears accomplish in free agency will likely steer their draft strategy. But #MockDraftSZN can’t wait for the new league year to begin.
It starts now.
I’ll release a Bears-only mock after each mile marker of the NFL offseason. This is version 1.0. It consists of the Bears’ first six picks in the draft. They’ll have another fifth-round pick and a seventh-round pick that are not included in this version. They’ll be included in version 2.0 after I’ve had more time to look at prospects down the board.
Cue the Joker meme: Here. We. Go.
Round 1 (No. 4) — Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
In the most surprising move of the offseason, Poles played the Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans against each other to get maximum value for the No. 1 pick.
In the end, Colts general manager Chris Ballard forks over the No. 4 and No. 36 pick in the 2023 draft, the Colts’ 2024 first-round pick, and 2024 second-round pick for the No. 1 pick.
The Bears slide down to No. 4 and watch Bryce Young and CJ Stroud go 1 and 2 before the Arizona Cardinals select Jalen Carter at No. 3.
This leaves Poles with a no-brainer decision, grabbing Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson to be the lynchpin of the Bears’ new-look defensive line.
Scouts believe Anderson has a Von Miller-level ceiling at the NFL. He can be flat-out unblockable at times and was arguably the best player in college football over the past two seasons.
Round 2 (No. 36 via Indianapolis) — Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
The Bears sent the No. 32 picks to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Chase Claypool trade. But Poles recouped that asset from the Colts in the trade for the No. 1 pick.
Back on the clock at the top of Round 2, Poles elected to address the other side of the trenches by drafting Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones.
At 6-foot-8, 360 pounds, Jones has rare athleticism for his size. He is an absolute mauler in the running game, using his size to overwhelm opponents. He’s a pretty good pass blocker but has room for improvement. There are some questions about his quickness, but he put enough on tape to warrant being a high Day 2 pick.
Round 2 (Projected No. 58 via Baltimore) — Siaki Ika, DT, Baylor
Depending on how the Ravens’ playoff run shakes out, this pick could end up being further down the board. But for now, we’ll call it No. 58 until the Ravens are eliminated.
Poles probably takes a look at receiver here but instead continues stocking up on the line by adding Baylor defensive tackle Siaki Ika.
Ika projects to be a nose at the NFL level. Assuming the Bears find a three-technique in free agency, this could be the ideal pairing. (Again, what Poles does in free agency will dictate some draft moves.)
At 6-foot-4, 357 pounds, Ika has great mobility, athleticism, and strength. He’s a space eater who can be a quick disruptor through the A gap.
The Bears were putrid on the defensive line this season, so that has to be a focus for Poles in free agency and the draft. Ika fills a clear need.
Round 3 (No. 65) — Marvin Mims, WR, Oklahoma
After focusing on the lines in the first two rounds, Poles found quarterback Justin Fields a playmaker in Mims.
While there are questions about Mims’ size (5-foot-11), the Sooners star showed a great ability to create vertical separation and rack up yards after the catch.
Mims has the makings of a solid WR2/3 at the NFL level and should give the Bears much-needed big-play ability in the passing game next to Claypool and Darnell Mooney.
SMU’s Rashee Rice might be another name to highlight here, but I expect him to rise during the pre-draft process and be gone by Round 2.
Round 4 (No. 103) — Olu Oluwatimi, IOL, Michigan
Hey, we’re back to the trenches.
The Bears expected Lucas Patrick to be their starting center in 2022. Injuries negated that plan. Patrick likely will be back in 2023, but the Bears need a long-term answer at the center position.
Sam Mustipher is a nice depth piece but doesn’t have a high-quality starter upside.
Oluwatimi is a four-year starter who projects as a starting center at the NFL level. He has good balance and agility with the quickness to get out to the upper levels of the defense.
Round 4 (Projected No. 134 via Philadelphia) — Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas
The need for a running back disappears if the Bears and David Montgomery find common ground on a new contract.
But for now, I’m going to go with a player I love. Johnson is a tough, physical running back with good size and athleticism. He’s not a home-run threat, but he has good straight-line speed.
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More importantly, Johnson is a good pass blocker and is a real threat as a receiver. He needs to polish up his route-running, but if Montgomery finds a new home, a guy like Johnson would be a nice backfield partner for Khalil Herbert.
Round 5 (No. 136) — Eli Ricks, CB, Alabama
Secondary is a position that did not fall the Bears’ way in this version of the draft.
But Ricks has the size and length to be an outside corner at the NFL level. He has exceptional instincts and always seems to be around the ball.
There are questions about his speed and whether he’ll be able to run with the top receivers at the NFL level. But he’s a nice addition in Round 5.
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