There’s a long way to go before we officially enter the 2023 NFL Draft season. But with the Chicago Bears back in the first round after a year without one, the draft will have renewed excitement for Bears fans.
As we trudge through the summer months, it’s worth peeking at who the top draft prospects will be this season. And there’s no better place to check preseason rankings than The Draft Network, which recently published Kyle Crabbs’ early top-10 list.
The Bears will appear in the top 10 of every 2023 NFL mock draft until they begin winning games this season. And perhaps the wins come right away in September. But if Chicago is as challenged as pundits predict, they’ll end the 2022 season with a high first-round pick.
2023 NFL Draft headlined by elite pass-rusher
The cream of the 2023 NFL Draft class is Alabama edge rusher, Will Anderson. Despite his less-than-ideal frame, Crabbs envisions Anderson ending the year where he’s beginning it.
“Anderson isn’t listed with ideal mass, but he’s got prototypical length, a slew of hand counters, and a tireless motor,” Crabbs wrote. “It is hard to envision Anderson Jr. not finishing the season as the top-rated defender for the class of 2023.”
If the Bears are who mainstream media think they are, Anderson could be in play in the first round. Chicago is routinely projected to be a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Anderson is a lock to be a top-five selection and could push for the first overall pick if this year’s quarterback class struggles. He’d be a boon for the Bears’ defense.
Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter checks in at No. 3 on Crabbs’ early rankings. The Bears made a big swing at Larry Ogunjobi in free agency to fill the all-important three-tech role in coach Matt Eberflus’ defense, but Ogunjobi’s failed physical makes it a position without a long-term answer. Enter Carter, whose disruptive skill set will rank high on teams’ wish lists next April.
“Carter didn’t roll up crazy numbers in Georgia’s defensive line rotation, but he was super disruptive and should be a starring player in the Georgia front this upcoming season,” Crabbs wrote. “With his quickness, lateral mobility, contact balance, and hand power, there is a lot to like.”
Carter would be a need-meets-value player for the Bears.
2023 NFL Draft will continue trend of top WR talent
Only one wide receiver cracks Crabbs’ top 10: LSU’s Kayshon Boutte. He ranks sixth overall.
“Please don’t take this as disrespect to everyone’s favorite 2023 wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba—who just missed this list—but Boutte has the physical skill set to separate himself as of this point in time in our opinion,” Crabbs wrote. “With a reported 4.37s 40-time in his ledger, Boutte has flashed that open field speed plenty of times and has some tremendous production to his name to boot.”
The good news for the Bears is that many of the top prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft are at positions of need. Whether it’s a pass-rusher, interior defensive lineman, or wide receiver, Chicago will have an opportunity to turn a weakness into a strength next April. This, of course, hinges on the success (or lack of it) in 2022.
For now, Chicago’s focus is on a winning season this year. But if things go off the rails, Bears fans can find solace in a blue-chip prospect coming to town in 2023.
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.