In the latest 3-round Bears mock draft, Chicago lands multiple starters on each side of the ball. Finally, Justin Fields receives the help he deserves.
The Bears entered the offseason in an unprecedented position. Not only did the team claim the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, but they also already have a potential franchise quarterback on the roster. This result led to the blockbuster trade with Carolina, netting Chicago several picks in return and a top-tier pass catcher in DJ Moore.
General manager Ryan Poles is now stocked with draft picks to reshape the roster. Head coach Matt Eberflus specializes in defense and he needs players with a certain set of skills to implement his system effectively.
Chicago Bears 3-Round Mock Draft: Justin Fields Gets Help on Both Sides of Ball
Thanks to the midseason Chase Claypool trade, the Bears do not own their own second-rounder. However, the Roquan Smith trade evens the scales, as Chicago received the No. 53 overall selection for the star linebacker. They filed the void created by Smith’s departure with the signing of Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards. Add in Jack Sanborn, and it is a nice trio of backers.
In the secondary, the Bears look mostly set for the future. Jaylon Johnson, Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker, and Eddie Jackson are as impressive of a quartet as there is in the league. Another starter on the boundary is needed, but if anything is clear, it is the need in the trenches — both offensively and defensively.
The commitment to build around Justin Fields will continue in the draft but expect the Bears to do so by beefing up the defense. Now, at No. 9 overall, Eberflus gets a cornerstone for his defensive line to start this mock draft.
Round 1, No. 9: Lukas Van Ness, DL, Iowa
The Bears could go several different ways at No. 9 overall. The way the draft is expected to shake out up top, Chicago could realistically be in a position to decide between the top offensive lineman, the top pass catcher, or the top linebacker in the class. However, the best value for them is actually on the defensive line. Enter Lukas Van Ness.
Van Ness is a risky proposition right now, but Eberflus could see him as a moldable ball of clay. The budding-Iowa star boasts the most dominant pass rush move in the class, as his patented bull rush is nearly impossible to stop. Van Ness converts speed to power effortlessly, using his otherworldly burst off the line to gain leverage and push his assignment back into the pocket.
Van Ness is a stout run defender, as well. His power shows up in this area, displaying incredibly strong hands and using them to rip through blocks. He needs to add more finesse to his game, as Van Ness currently lacks a go-to move off the edge.
Still, he can log a heavy snap count as a rookie, even if it is mostly from the interior. If he introduces more tools to his toolbox, Van Ness has the potential to be the best defender from the 2023 NFL Draft. He has some work to get there, but Eberflus knows how to develop talent on the defense, so it is a bet worth making.
Round 2, No. 53 (via BAL): Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin
Keeanu Benton is a nose tackle prospect but possesses the traits to kick out to three-tech if Eberflus sees a higher upside there. The three-tech is incredibly important in Eberflus’ scheme, but so is the zero/one-tech. Benton is a dominant run stuffer wherever he lines up, and I believe in his potential as a pass rusher from the interior.
Benton flexes top-tier strength for the position. He easily knocks linemen off of their spots, pulling their anchor up and sending them flying backward. When he has you in his grasp, there is no escaping. The Wisconsin defender is a near-impossible assignment one-on-one, as he faced double teams and did well absorbing them in college.
His wrestling background gives Benton natural leverage against bigger linemen. He gets under their pads and steers them in any direction he desires. This type of dominance is needed on the defensive line, and when factoring in the Van Ness pick, the group should look unrecognizable compared to what fans watched in 2022.
Round 2, No. 61 (via SF): Cody Mauch, OL, North Dakota State
The other side of the trenches needs help, too. The front office brought in a starter in Nate Davis, and youngsters Braxton Jones and Teven Jenkins have shown promise, but another needle-mover should be taken in the 2023 NFL Draft.
North Dakota State’s Cody Mauch is particularly intriguing for Chicago, as he shows the traits to line up anywhere on the offensive line. He played tackle in college but could play guard just as easily. Mauch is strong, has a deceptively agile body, and has an infectious energy that should bleed over to the entire locker room.
Draft Mauch and let him compete with Jones and Jenkins in training camp. The two who impress the most at tackle should assume the starting roles on the outside, while whoever is left could slot into a guard position. The key for the Bears is getting the five best linemen on the gridiron to protect Fields, it doesn’t matter where each guy lines up.
Round 3, No. 64: KJ Henry, EDGE, Clemson
More help for the defensive line? You bet! The overhaul continues for Chicago as general manager Ryan Poles gives his head coach yet another weapon. KJ Henry is a mind-boggling athlete. He posted absurd speed times, including a 4.63 40-yard dash and 1.55 10-yard split, ranking inside the 94th and 98th percentile, respectively.
Henry is a former five-star recruit but never quite figured it out at Clemson. He developed superb instincts but failed to hold down a steady dose of snaps or put up the gaudy stats you’d expect from a player of his stature. Nonetheless, the flashes Henry showed on tape have him on the day two radar for NFL teams.
Henry possesses the ideal size and frame for a pass rusher off the edge. He needs some NFL coaching to help bring out more consistency on a snap-to-snap basis, but as stated earlier, there are few in the league better suited to develop defensive talent than Eberflus. Expect the former Chris Ballard protege to follow a similar path in the draft, valuing traits over production.
Van Ness-Benton-Henry is a haul that can set the Bears’ defensive line up for the next decade. This trio should earn a large number of snaps as rookies, and given the upside of each prospect, one of them could become a favorite for Defensive Rookie of the Year. The tide is turning in the Windy City with this mock draft.
Mock Draft Trade!
*Bears trade No. 103 and 136 to Miami for No. 84*
Round 3, No. 84 (via MIA): Tank Bigsby, RB, Auburn
You thought the mock draft was finished? Nope! After seeing a running back prospect it loves, Chicago packages two day-three picks to get back into the third round. The prospect in question? Auburn’s Tank Bigsby.
Bigsby’s production suffered due to abysmal offensive line play and a general lack of direction at Auburn. He was consistently hit behind the line of scrimmage, preventing Bigsby from matching the numbers other running backs put up in their collegiate career.
This fact is why statistics only tell part of the story. Bigsby’s traits are that of a high-end ball carrier in the league. He is a bit on the smaller side, but his 4.4 speed shows up in spades on tape. When Bigsby broke free, he showcased an extra gear to leave defenders in his dust.
Bigsby runs angry, lowering his shoulder and delivering blows to anyone brave enough to attempt a tackle when he gains a full head of steam. The only good part about Bigsby’s lack of talent around him is that he flexed an uncanny ability to carry the offense down the field himself.
Bigsby is phenomenal at breaking tackles and turning plays that should be negative into a positive. The Bears don’t have the best offensive line in the world, so Bigsby will need this elusiveness and power to create as a rookie. Still, with Justin Fields in the same backfield, life should be exponentially easier for the Auburn alum. A perfect cap to this 3-round mock draft for the Bears.