Bears Insider

Bears draft primer: Potential targets, positions of need, sleepers

Bears Insider
Calijah Kancey, Darnell Wright

While the Kansas City Chiefs host their Super Bowl parade Wednesday, the rest of the NFL is hard at work trying to catch up to the team setting the pace for the rest of the league.

For the Bears and general manager Ryan Poles, extensive work is needed to take a 3-14 roster and make it competitive in 2023. Poles has almost $100 million in salary cap space to use this offseason, but he has been clear that he plans to build through the draft.

Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, and the rest of the Bears' staff have spent the last month-plus going over prospective free agents and draft-eligible players. They got an up-close look at some players during the Senior Bowl, but the pre-draft work will hit overdrive at the NFL Scouting Combine at the end of the month.

Here's a breakdown of the Bears' positions of need (of which there are many) and some prospects they could target to fill each hole.

Offensive tackle

Round 1: Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State

The 6-foot-6, 310 pounds Johnson excelled at left tackle this past season after moving over from right guard. Per Pro Football Focus, he gave up just two sacks and 14 pressures in 13 games. He needs to improve his hand usage, but he's a guy the Bears could target if they trade down in the first round.

Day 2: Darnell Wright, Tennessee

Wright had the best season of his college career this past fall in Knoxville after moving back to right tackle. He didn't allow a sack and allowed a pressure rate of 1.7 percent. At 6-foot-5, 335 pounds, Wright has excellent size and strength and is known for his reputation as a finisher, something the Bears' staff preaches on a daily basis.


Day 2/3: Blake Freeland, BYU

At 6-foot-8, 305 pounds, Freeland is an experienced tackle who has excelled on both sides of the line. After playing his first two seasons on the right side, Freeland moved to left tackle this past season and gave up just three hits, four hurries, and zero sacks. Freeland might be a swing tackle initially, but given time, he has the power and skill to become a quality starter.

Interior offensive line

Day 2: John-Michael Schmitz, Minnesota

Schmitz surely will be the first center off the board come draft time. Over the past two seasons at Minnesota, he has allowed just two sacks, one hit, and 10 hurries. He's 24 years old, so he's an older prospect. But he's got the smarts and frame to become a staple on the interior of the Bears' offensive line.

Day 2/3: Steve Avila, TCU

Avila started his career at center for TCU before moving to right tackle. In 2021, Avila moved back to center before playing left guard this past season, where he allowed just two hits and nine hurries in 540 pass-block snaps. He can play either center or guard at the next level.

Wide receiver

Day 2: Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Speed, speed, and more speed. Finally healthy in 2022, Hyatt torched defenses with vertical routes from the slot. He caught 67 passes for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns en route to winning the Biletinikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. Hyatt's speed is the type of weapon the Bears desperately need, but he'll need to expand his route tree and work on defeating press coverage to be successful in the NFL.

Day 2/3: Rashee Rice, SMU

While Rice lacks elite athleticism, he has excellent ball skills and is incredibly effective as a possession receiver on intermediate routes. His 16 contested catches ranked eighth in the country last season. The Bears need a chain-mover, and Rice has the makings of a good one at the next level.

Day 2/3: Kayshon Boutte, LSU

The Bears need playmakers on the outside to help Fields take another leap in Year 3. Boutte's speed and run-after-the-catch ability should intrigue Poles, Eberflus, and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy later in the draft. Boutte can line up inside or outside and be used in various ways. Boutte has to clean up his drops and sharpen up some of his route running, but you can't teach the speed and playmaking ability he brings to the table.

Running back

Day 2/3: Roschon Johnson, Texas

Playing in the same backfield with Bijan Robinson is a tough ask for anyone, but Johnson still managed to shine at Texas. His 45 percent forced missed tackle rate over the past two seasons leads all running backs with at least 190 attempts, per PFF. He needs to improve his hands to become a more well-rounded back in the NFL.


Day 2/3: Kendre Miller, TCU

Miller in his first season as the Horned Frog's lead back this past season. He forced racked up 816 yards after contact and scored 16 touchdowns. He's a well-rounded back who won't turn 21 until June.

Edge rusher

Round 1: Will Anderson, Alabama

By now, you know all about Anderson. Many scouts believe he has the tools to be the next Von Miller and, at the very least, should be an impactful edge rusher for a decade-plus as long as he stays healthy. In three seasons at Alabama, Anderson recorded 207 pressures and 34.5 sacks. If the Bears stay inside the top four, Anderson should be their guy.

Day 2: Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame

Long and quick, Foskey is a true 4-3 edge rusher with the strength to take on tight ends in the run game. He racked up 22 sacks and seven forced fumbles during his final two seasons in South Bend. He's the type of player the Bears need in their defensive line room.

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Day 2: Felix Anduike-Uzomah, Kansas State

Anduike-Uzomah was one of the best edge rushers in the country in 2021, notching 13 sacks and a 20.7 percent pass-rush win rate, via PFF. He was still outstanding in 2022, recording eight sacks and 46 total pressures. He's a high-floor edge rusher who should be able to play every down if asked.

Interior defensive line

Round 1: Jalen Carter, Georgia

The Bears have talked a lot about the need to find a disruptive three-technique to be the engine of Eberflus' defense. Well, Carter is the best defensive line prospect since Quinnen Williams, and his body is perfect to be a penetrating three-tech. If the Bears stay in the top four, Carter will be in the conversation with Anderson to be the anchor of the Bears' defense.

Day 2: Calijah Kancey, Pittsburgh

Kancey was one of the best interior pass rushers in the country this past season. He racked up eight sacks, nine hits, and 30 hurries for the Panthers. He has an explosive first step and will be best suited in a role that allows him to pin his ears back and get up the field.

Day 3: Tuli Tuipulotu, USC

Tuipulotu played mainly on the edge for the Trojans, but draft analysts believe he'll be better suited as a three-technique in the NFL. He's a powerful rusher with an array of pass-rush moves. But at 290 pounds, he'll need to get stronger and put on weight to stick on the interior.

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