When general manager Ryan Poles traded the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Carolina Panthers, the thought was the Chicago Bears would still land one of the best non-quarterbacks in the class at No. 9.
Adding wide receiver DJ Moore and a 2024 first-round pick helped complete the deal, but it wasn’t without risk. Sliding back eight spots all but assured the Bears would be out of striking distance for the top two non-quarterbacks — Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. and Georgia’s Jalen Carter. Still, the remaining prospects on the board at the ninth pick profiled as potential impact starters.
That narrative has worsened since the trade. Carter’s legal troubles could force him off many teams’ draft boards (including the Bears). Concerns about Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson’s injured foot could push him out of the top 10 picks too. Wilson is rated higher than Anderson by some teams, and he’s been projected to come off the board before the ninth pick.
Why does this matter? Well, if Carter and Wilson — two of the presumptive top six or seven non-quarterbacks in the 2023 NFL Draft — have enough questions in their scouting report to push them down the board, then players who may have otherwise fallen to the Bears now might not. It could leave Poles in a difficult position; he could be forced to take either Carter or Wilson and assume the risk that comes with each one.
Tyree Wilson’s injury clouds Chicago Bears’ first-round pick
Tyree Wilson suffered a season-ending foot injury in November. He had surgery on Nov. 21, and on March 21, he had a follow-up procedure to remove hardware from his foot. His doctor medically cleared him Friday but instructed Wilson to sit out of Texas Tech’s pro day so the incision in his foot could heal.
Wilson will have a private pro day in April.
The good news is Wilson is medically cleared. The bad news is he has a pre-existing foot injury. He’s a big dude (6-foot-6, 271 pounds) who relies on lower-body force for a powerful get-off at the snap. Foot injuries like his, with his physical profile, will have teams second-guessing whether Tyree Wilson should be a first-round pick, let alone a top-10 selection.
If the Chicago Bears join the list of teams who will pass on both Carter and Wilson, the best players available at No. 9 could be at undesirable positions. Sure, the Bears could use another cornerback, but not more than a three-tech or edge rusher. Offensive tackle is still very much in play, but Paris Johnson Jr. might leapfrog Carter and Wilson in the top seven picks. Peter Skoronski could, too.
Chicago Bears 2023 mock drafts won’t be easy
It will be a tough NFL mock draft season for Bears fans trying to figure out what direction Chicago is headed in Round 1. Cornerbacks like Christian Gonzalez (Oregon) and Devon Witherspoon (Illinois) are rarely sent to the Bears in mocks. That might soon change.
Another option that’s becoming more likely by the day is another trade. The Bears could view the available players at the ninth pick in the same class of players who will be available at the 12th or 15th selections. If that ends up being the case, Poles will work the phones. And he should.
Sometimes, negative pre-draft narratives help teams like the Bears land a prospect who otherwise shouldn’t be available when they pick. The Miami Dolphins benefited from offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil’s fall. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were enriched by defensive lineman Warren Sapp’s drop. The Minnesota Vikings enjoyed historic production from wide receiver Randy Moss after he slid.
Perhaps, the Chicago Bears are next. Maybe it’s Jalen Carter who provides All-Pro production on the defensive line. Maybe Tyree Wilson has multiple 10-sack seasons coming off the edge. That’s the best-case scenario.
For now, all Ryan Poles and the Bears can do is gather as much information as possible on every prospect so they can make the smartest decision for the franchise when they’re on the clock.