The Bears finally made it to the bye week, but while many teams use the rest to prepare for a second half playoff push there will be no postseason run in Chicago. So let’s use this time to look ahead to next year’s draft. The Bears have plenty of roster holes to fill, and they can go a variety of ways with their picks to make an instant impact for the franchise. So this is one of three iterations of a mini mock draft. There will be different players in each mock draft, not only to show the many ways things can go next year, but also to discuss more guys who could be headed to Halas Hall next season. For these purposes, the selections will be at No. 2, No. 57 and No. 66 since that is where the Bears are currently slated to pick, per Tankathon. Obviously that will change as the final month of the season plays out, but whatever, we’re doing this now. Also, these mini mocks will be limited to the first three rounds.
NO. 2: JALEN CARTER - DEFENSIVE TACKLE, GEORGIA
Defensive tackle, specifically the 3-tech tackle, is one of the most important positions in Matt Eberflus’ and Alan Williams’ defense. Think DeForest Buckner on the Colts, Tommie Harris on Lovie Smith’s Bears teams, or Warren Sapp on the late 90s/early 2000s Buccaneers. It’s unfair to compare Carter, or really anyone, to the likes of Sapp, but Carter fits that mold and instantly raises the profile of the defensive line. Carter doesn’t have gaudy sack numbers this year, partly because he missed two games with a knee injury, but make no mistake, Carter generates serious pressure on opposing quarterbacks by collapsing the middle of the pocket. Carter’s swim move is devastating, but he can get by blockers a variety of ways, including bull rushes and spins. Other times he simply uses his superior strength to toss opposing linemen aside. Carter is by no means a pure pass rusher though. In fact, he may be better at defending the run than he is at pressuring the QB. The Bears struggled to stop running backs to start the season, but have gradually improved. Adding Carter can boost their run defense into the top half of the league.
NO. 57: BLAKE FREELAND - LEFT TACKLE - BRIGHAM YOUNG
The Bears need more young talent on the offensive line, and Freeland has a real shot to win a starting job as a rookie. Freeland is both reliable and experienced as an outside linemen. He earned a starting job partway through his true freshman season with the Cougars, and has started 40 games total over his four years at BYU. He was at right tackle for 15 of those starts between 2019 and 2020, and started 25 games at left tackle across the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Most importantly, Freeland only surrendered one sack in 1,113 pass blocking snaps from 2020-2022, according to PFF. Adding Freeland to the roster allows the Bears to get more creative with their offensive line unit in their quest to find the best starting five. Do they play Freeland at left tackle and move Braxton Jones to the right side? Or do they leave Jones at left, move Freeland to right tackle and try to work in Larry Borom or Alex Leatherwood at left guard? Ultimately it doesn’t matter where any of the young offensive linemen play, as long as the Bears are able to find some combo that keeps Justin Fields upright.
NO. 66: LUKAS VAN NESS - DEFENSIVE LINEMAN - IOWA
Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus covet versatility in their players, and Van Ness, a Barrington native, gives the Bears an intriguing player both inside and outside on the defensive line. Van Ness is a natural defensive end and that’s where he played in 2022. But the Hawkeyes moved Van Ness to defensive tackle in 2021 due to mounting injuries on the interior, and he picked up the new position quickly. Van Ness has also put together two consistently productive seasons at Iowa, not just one big year. In 2021, he finished with seven sacks and 8.5 TFLs. In 2022, he had six sacks and 9.5 TFLs. Van Ness also made a major special teams impact against Iowa State, when he blocked two punts in one game.