Chicago Bears

Is Devon Witherspoon in play for the Bears at No. 9 overall?

Most 2023 NFL mock drafts have the Chicago Bears selecting an offensive lineman in the first round. The ones that don’t usually have GM Ryan Poles pivoting to an edge rusher. Perhaps, it’s a wide receiver like Jaxon Smith-Njigba. But maybe another position will offer Chicago a “blue” player at a premium spot: cornerback.

In the latest mock draft from Touchdown Wire, USA Today’s Doug Farrar has the Chicago Bears selecting Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon in the first round.

“Receiver and offensive line will be temptations for Bears general manager Ryan Poles with the ninth overall pick, and for good reason,” Farrar wrote. “But if Witherspoon is still on the board here, it would be tough to pass him up on a short trip to Halas Hall. Witherspoon may well be the best cornerback in this class, and since Chicago’s cornerback group is a bit undefined beyond second-year man Kyler Gordon, Witherspoon would fill yet another need for this roster very much under development.”

Don’t forget about Jaylon Johnson

Farrar’s analysis didn’t mention veteran Jaylon Johnson in his cornerback assessment. The Chicago Bears have a big (and expensive) decision with Johnson during or at the end of this season. He’s on an expiring contract and is setting up for a massive payday next winter. If he has a productive season in 2023, he could price himself out of the Bears’ wage scale.

If that happens, Poles needs a backup plan. Witherspoon is more than that; he’s a potentially elite outside cornerback who plays a physical brand of football. If he’s the pick at No. 9, it would be a loud message to Johnson that this is likely his final year with the Bears.

I think that would be a mistake by Poles and the Chicago Bears. Using their first-round pick on a starting offensive tackle while retaining Johnson to pair with Gordon is a better strategy. However you slice it, the Bears have to either pay up for Johnson or overspend on an offensive tackle in free agency next offseason if they don’t draft one in 2023.

Secure the tackle and lock up Johnson long-term. Let someone else draft Witherspoon.

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