2023 NFL Draft: Chicago Bears
Ryan Poles is living every GM’s dream. With the number one pick in the draft, about $100 million in cap space, and a franchise quarterback already on the roster, Poles gets to go on a spending spree of sorts. The tall task of balancing positions best filled in free agency and those that should be addressed in the draft should not be understated.
Premier players at certain positions come with higher price tags than premier players at other positions. If you have a need at a cornerstone position, drafting and developing a guy is the more responsible route, keeping them on a rookie contract while you can. If you can fill other needs in free agency, that’s ideal. It’s unlikely Poles will nail this perfectly, but if the Bears take a huge leap next season, this offseason should be used as a case study for years to come.
Top Draft Needs: DL, OL, WR
Quarterbacks carry the highest average salary in the NFL and it’s not particularly close. With the luxury of Justin Fields on a rookie deal, the Bears don’t face that issue (yet). Wide receiver, edge rusher, offensive line, and interior defensive line round out the top five. The Bears have glaring needs in all of those areas.
The Bears had the worst pass rush in the NFL in 2022, closing the season with a mere 20 sacks, which ranked them dead last in the NFL. Robert Quinn was traded after seven games in Chicago and Roquan Smith was traded a week later. Jaquan Brisker, a rookie safety, led their defense with four sacks. Four. The Bears also had the 31st ranked rushing defense, allowing 157.3 yards per game on the ground.
The defensive-minded Matt Eberflus will certainly be eager to rebuild the identity of this defense, converting from a 3-4 to his more classic 4-3 scheme last offseason. Eberflus has long cited the importance of a stout three-technique defensive tackle in his defense, and DeForest Buckner played that role extremely well for Eberflus in Indianapolis. I believe Eberflus will follow his blueprint in April.
Drafting a three-technique defensive tackle and a dominant edge rusher will be prioritized. At the top of the draft, Eberflus must be drooling about Jalen Carter and Will Anderson Jr. I suspect Chicago will trade down slightly, accumulate picks, and grab the guy that Eberflus feels could most quickly reform this unit. I won’t name my pick here — mock drafts to follow!
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bears need to protect Justin Fields. The second-year quarterback was sacked a league-leading 55 times in 2022. Chicago needs to upgrade both at tackle and on the interior. Poles will also likely add a playmaker or two. The top Bears receiver, Darnell Mooney, had fewer than 500 yards receiving in 2022.