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After the end of the NFL season, I was expecting (and hoping) for the Bears to prioritize taking an offensive tackle or a wide receiver. Those were the 2 weakest spots on the offensive, and the things that would help Justin Fields the most. Defense was also problematic, and I would have been fine with a defensive pick. But I wasn't hoping for any particular defensive pick because the defense was just kind of bad on the whole, and there wasn't really 1 or 2 positions that could single-handedly fix the defense. The defense would need a lot of work in free agency as well.

But then the Bears made some free-agency moves that changed things. The first was trading away the top overall pick to the Panthers in exchange for DJ Moore. That filled the wide receiver need, and Darnell Mooney can go back to a secondary or slot role, where I think he will do much better.

The Bears also traded David Montgomery to the Lions. This left them with an underwhelming backfield of Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, and Darrynton Evans. Herbert could probably be a serviceable starter, but only in a rotational role. I was high on him when he was drafted, but I don't see him being a productive every-down back.

DJ Moore
photo credit: Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
David Montgomery
photo credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo / Getty Images
The Bears acquired receiver DJ Moore from Carolina, and traded David Montgomery to the Lions.

So considering that the defense needs a complete overhaul that couldn't be satisfied with just a single draft pick, and the offseason moves, my personal top two priorities for the Bears heading into the draft were running back and offensive tackle.

Another developmental tackle?

Even though the Bears did take an offensive tackle with their 1st-round pick, I was kind of disappointed by the pick. I was hoping for the Bears to take Peter Skoronski, the offensive tackle from Northwestern. He was the highest-rated offensive lineman in this draft class, the only offensive lineman who was a consensus top-15 pick, and the one who was considered the most "pro-ready" by scouts. And he was still available when the Bears went on the clock with the 10th overall pick

The Bears have been relying a lot on veteran free agents in their offensive tackle positions for years now, and have been repeatedly looking for young players to fill those positions long term. They tried drafting Teven Jenkins to play tackle, but he struggled at that position in his first year, was moved to guard, and has been doing well as a guard. Then they threw Braxton Jones into the fire of offensive tackle and traded for Alex Leatherwood from the Raiders to play the opposite tackle. Jones and Leatherwood were serviceable, but inconsistent. Jenkins, Jones, Leatherwood, and also reserve tackle Larry Borom have all proved to developmental projects.

Darnell Wright
photo credit: Daily Herald
I wanted an offensive tackle, but Darnell Wright was not my preferred pick.

Instead of Skoronski, the Bears picked Darnell Wright from Tennessee. Wright is supposed to be a very good run blocker who will probably play right tackle. I fear that he's going to be more developmental when it comes to pass blocking. Unless the Bears find an elite veteran to fill the left tackle position, that position will be a battle between Braxton Jones, Alex Leatherwood, and Larry Borom. If one of them steps up and shows dramatic improvement from last year, then maybe Justin Fields' blindside will be well-protected. If not, Fields may find himself running for his life a lot in 2023, as he had to do in 2022.

No every-down back?

If Skoronski was unavailable, my other favorite pick for the Bears was running back Bijon Robinson. Robinson ended up going 8th overall to the Falcons, just 1 pick before the Bears'. After that, the Bears traded back 1 pick from 9th to 10th to let the Eagles take Jaylon Carter. So the Bears had an opportunity to potentially move up a spot to take Robinson, but passed on it.

Oh, and Skoronski ended up being picked by the Titans with the next pick after the Bears selected Wright. So my 2 top picks for the Bears were selected 1 pick before the Bears, and 1 pick after. The Bears had the opportunity to take either, but elected to pass on both.

Bijon Robinson
photo credit: Tim Warner / Getty Images
Roschon Johnson
photo credit: Bears Wire
The Bears couldn't get Bijon Robinson, but they did get Robinson's backup, Roschon Johnson.

I wonder if the Bears' front office also wanted Bijon Robinson, but weren't willing to move up 1 space to get him? In any case, the Bears had to look to free agency to get D'onta Foreman (also from Carolina) to be a stop-gap running back who will likely play in a rotation with Khalil Herbert.

This is assuming that 4th-round steal Roschon Johnson (who incidentally happens to have been Bijon Robinson's backup at Texas) doesn't end up impressing the coaches and getting in on the starting competition. I've read several analysts who think he could be a breakout candidate. I hope so, because I really do fear for the Bears offensive potential if they don't get elite production out of their running backs.

Defensive help in the later rounds

As I expected, the Bears dedicated a lot of later-round picks to rebuilding the defense. The Bears took 2 defensive linemen and a cornerback in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, and then another defensive tackle in the 7th round. Cornerback Tyrique Stephenson has a good chance at starting, especially if Kyler Gordon stays at the nickel position. It's also possible that one of the defensive tackles could get a starting job as a nose tackle opposite Justin Jones.

They also took a linebacker and safety in day 3. Surprisingly, the Bears did not take any defensive ends or edge rushers in the draft; though they did sign 2 undrafted free agents in those positions after the draft ended.

I've also seen some analysts who are very high on the Bears' 4th-round receiver pick, Tyler Scott. He adds an additional speed threat to go along with Chase Claypool, Darnell Mooney, Dante Pettis, and Velus Jones Jr. This is looking to be a very fast receiving corps that the Bears are putting together.

With all this speed at receiver, and the addition of Robert Tonyan at tight end, Justin Fields will hopefully have a lot more competent receiver play in 2023, and a lot more options to throw to.

Aaron Rodgers
photo credit: Elsa / Getty Images
With Aaron Rodgers leaving for the Jets,
the NFC North may see a changing of the guard.

I feel like the Bears managed to get a lot of "value" from their picks, by taking players who had fallen into later rounds, but they didn't make any blockbuster picks. I'm not nearly as high on the Bears' 2023 draft, compared to that 2021 draft when they picked Justin Fields and Teven Jenkins. But there seems to be a lot of optimism about the Bears in 2023 from other fans and analysts. And that was before the regular season schedule released! The Bears have a very easy-looking schedule, with matchups against some of the worst teams from 2022, including the Broncos, Panthers, Jets, and Falcons. Yes, they do have difficult match-ups against the Chiefs and Chargers, but 8 or more wins definitely looks achievable.

With the changing of the guard in Green Bay, and the Vikings' 2022 success looking like a huge fluke of luck, the NFC North is the Lions' division to loose, and the Bears could very well be their strongest competitor. But whether the Bears can actually compete in the division will likely come down to whether the defense comes together and is able to keep them in games. And that is a big "if".

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