There shouldn’t be much surprise regarding Chicago Bears 2023 mock drafts. Wide receiver will be the popular choice in the first round, with a rotating set of names likely to appear until the college football season begins. Offensive tackle will garner attention too, and in the latest two-round 2023 mock draft from Pro Football Network, the Bears land one of each in the top two rounds.
In the first round, at No. 8 overall, the Chicago Bears select Ohio State wide receiver Jaxson Smith-Njigba.
“Smith-Njigba owns a compact 6’0″ and nearly 200-pound frame, leading to a more tangible brand of football,” PFN’s James Fragoza wrote. “Outside of the measurables, he is an intelligent player with the knowledge to find holes in zone coverage, attack leverages, and adjust to passes when needed.”
Smith-Njigba is entering the 2022 college season as one of the top wide receivers in the nation. LSU’s Kayshon Boutte is ranked slightly ahead of the Ohio State star, but that could change as the season marches on. In this PFN mock draft, Boutte goes two spots ahead of Smith-Njigba at No. 6 overall to the Carolina Panthers.
We’ll know just how significant the Bears’ need is at wide receiver once the 2022 season gets rolling. Darnell Mooney is Chicago’s unquestioned WR1. Rookie Velus Jones Jr. has a chance to emerge as a fantastic playmaker in the slot. Veteran Byron Pringle was signed to a one-year deal in free agency, making his future in Chicago unclear, even if he has a big season. If Jones Jr. emerges as a viable starter and Mooney continues his ascension into the NFL’s upper class at the position, the Bears’ could push wide receiver down their list of 2023 draft priorities.
The offensive line, however, is a different story.
In Round 2 of PFN’s 2023 NFL Mock Draft, the Bears level up the position group with the selection of Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright.
The Chicago Bears ended their 2022 offseason program with rookie fifth-round pick Braxton Jones as the starting left tackle. Larry Borom lined up with the starters at right tackle. Teven Jenkins, the Bears’ 2021 second-round pick, was relegated to second-team duties and could move to guard this season.
Simply put, the offensive line is a mess. Whether it’s Wright or another talented offensive linemen in the 2023 draft, there’s little doubt that the Bears will use an early draft asset on one.
Wright played a career-high 922 snaps last season, 920 of which came at left tackle. He earned a pedestrian 62.7 grade from Pro Football Focus but presents as a prospect with appealing upside as the 2022 college season inches closer. He’s more projection than production, however, and can quickly slide in pre-draft rankings if he doesn’t get off to a hot start this year.
The point of mock drafts at this time of year isn’t necessarily about the player picked. Instead, it’s about the positions of need entering the 2022 season. Going through mock drafts like this one also helps build a baseline understanding of the top prospects at each position.
General manager Ryan Poles committed most of the Chicago Bears’ 2022 offseason resources to defense. It’s a strategy that’s come under fire. And it’s created an expectation that 2023 will be all about offense in free agency and the 2023 NFL Draft.
As a result, landing a wide receiver and an offensive tackle in the first two rounds sounds about right.
Bryan is the founder and managing editor of Bears Talk. His previous stops include Bears coverage for NBC Sports Chicago and USA Today. His NFL Draft and Bears coverage has also been featured on The Draft Network.