The 2023 NFL draft is here, and the Chicago Bears have a first-round pick for just the second time in the last five years.
After trading the No. 1 pick to the Carolina Panthers for a haul that included two first-rounders, two second-rounders and wide receiver DJ Moore, the Bears have the ninth overall pick in the 2023 draft, where general manager Ryan Poles will look to find an impact contributor.
Chicago has 10 total picks, including four inside the top 64. But we’re focused on Poles’ first first-round selection, where there are a number of directions the team could go in.
Assistant GM Ian Cunningham said the Bears will go with the “best player available” approach, where Chicago has six to eight players atop their draft board at No. 9.
Ahead of the draft, our Bears Wire staff is taking a crack at predicting what Chicago does with its first selection at ninth overall, and the fact that we all picked a different player speaks to the many scenarios that could play out for the Bears tonight.
Alyssa Barbieri: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State (Round 1, Pick 9)
While there’s a good chance the Bears trade out of the No. 9 spot – if they find a trade partner – I expect them to go offensive tackle with their first selection (barring Jalen Carter falling to them at ninth overall). In this case, that’s Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., who’s been gaining steam leading up to the draft. Johnson looks like a franchise left tackle at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, and he could very well be the first tackle off the board. He’s reliable both in run blocking and pass protection, and it’s hard to imagine he’s not Chicago’s pick at No. 9, if he’s still on the board. If the Bears were to draft him, it would likely mean Braxton Jones moves to right tackle. Reports indicate Johnson could very well be Ryan Poles’ guy at ninth overall. Although, there are some who believe he might not fall that far.
Brendan Sugrue: DT Jalen Carter, Georgia (Round 1, Pick 9)
This could be the most chaotic first round of the draft we’ve seen in quite some time and having Carter fall right into Ryan Poles’ lap wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest. While I’d prefer someone like Paris Johnson Jr. if he’s available, I can see Carter slipping past teams like Seattle and Detroit. At 6-foot-3 and 300 pounds, he has immense talent and was a key playmaker on college football’s best team the last two years. He also has some serious concerns both on and off the field, whether it’s his involvement in the racing accident that killed two people or the fact he was overweight and out of shape for his own pro day. Poles has done extensive homework on Carter and his agent Drew Rosenhaus wouldn’t even consider meetings with teams outside the top ten picks. If he’s there, he’s likely the guy they go after.
Ryan Fedrau: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas (Round 1, Pick 9)
Is it their biggest need? No, but he’s the most explosive offensive pick the Bears can make with the loss of David Montgomery this offseason. The 1-2 punch of Bijan Robinson and Khalil Herbert, along with Justin Fields’ running ability, is going to make teams fear this offense even more. If he’s on the board at No. 9, the Bears can solve their running back problem for the foreseeable future.
Nate Atkins: OT Broderick Jones, Georgia (Round 1, Pick 15 - TRADE)
The Bears trade back from ninth overall to select Georgia right tackle Broderick Jones at 15th overall. The Georgia prospect is an athletic, tone-setting right tackle that can develop into a franchise left tackle. Jones is a plug-and-play starter for Chicago.
Jarrett Bailey: WR Jaxon Smith Njigba, Ohio State (Round 1, Pick 9)
The Bears need to take a page out of Howie Roseman’s book in Philadelphia and surround Justin Fields with as many top-tier weapons as possible. This wide receiver class is top heavy, and has a ton of value in the later rounds. In terms of Day 2 talent, there’s a lot of guys I’d pass on. Get another weapon for Fields, and use one of their three selections they have between picks 53 and 64 on a tackle.