While the NFL Playoffs continue rolling on, the vast majority of teams are already in offseason mode. Of course, arguably the biggest event of the entire offseason is the NFL Draft in late April. Fans speculate about who their team could take weeks in advance, and draft analysts like ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. provide a general idea of what those teams are thinking. In this piece, we’re taking a look at the Bears mock draft.

Kiper has honed his craft for decades now and is probably the biggest draft analyst in the game. While his projections have been far from perfect, he has had so many hits over the years that his credibility speaks for itself. On Wednesday, Kiper released his first 2023 mock draft, and it got fans buzzing.

Of all fans in the NFL, Chicago Bears fans are likely the most invested in the draft. Chicago finished the season 3-14 and snatched the first overall pick away from the Houston Texans in the final week. Now the question is, what will the Bears do with that pick?

Well, one option is that they could trade the pick to a quarterback-needy team and get a haul in return. However, because there’s no certainty that a trade will happen, Kiper elected to keep them at the top spot for now.

“I thought long and hard about a trade here, with the Colts, Raiders and Panthers as the top candidates to move up for a quarterback,” Kiper wrote. “And if I’m Chicago general manager Ryan Poles and I can move down a few spots, add premium picks and still get my choice of the best defensive prospects, I’d make a deal. It takes two teams to make a trade, however, and that’s never a guarantee. For now, let’s stick with the Bears keeping this pick.”

So, who does Kiper have the Bears taking at first overall then?

Chicago Bears Pick 1: Jalen Carter, defensive tackle, Georgia

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With the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Kiper projects that the Bears will take Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter. According to FanDuel, Carter has the best odds to go first in the draft, behind quarterbacks Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud. With Chicago already having a young quarterback in Justin Fields, this selection makes all the sense in the world.

“It has to be D all the way for wherever the Bears make their selection,” Kiper writes. “Carter, an explosive interior pass-rusher and run-stuffer, gets the nod over Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. on my Big Board. He’s the best player in this draft, a Day 1 starter in the middle of this defense.”

Truthfully, Chicago could use an improvement at nearly every position. The Bears finished in the bottom five in both total offense and total defense, and the roster lacks talent in general. It was already lacking at the start of the season, but trading away Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn at the deadline only compounded the issue.

While Chicago would appreciate some help along the offensive line, there aren’t any top-pick worthy linemen in this class. On the other hand, Carter is a can’t miss prospect at another position of need.

Currently, Chicago’s starting defensive linemen are Trevis Gipson, Mike Pennel Jr., Justin Jones and Dominique Robinson. Needless to say, that’s not a great lineup compared to other teams. The Bears could spend some of their massive cap space on the defensive line, but it would still need work.

Carter can defend well against the run and the pass, and that versatility makes him a can’t-miss prospect. If the Bears to keep the first overall pick, expect Carter to be the first name off the board.