In the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears have the ninth overall pick. When the off-season began, the Bears found themselves at the top of the draft. However, GM Ryan Poles quickly traded the first overall pick to the Carolina Panthers for the ninth pick, star wide receiver DJ Moore, a first round pick next year, and second round picks this year and in 2025. In total, the Bears have ten selections in the 2023 NFL Draft that will all be dictated by whoever they pick at nine.
Whoever goes in the first round to the Bears is joining a roster still filled with holes despite the busy off-season. The mid-season acquisition of WR Chase Claypool to go along with the newcomer Moore addresses the wide receiver room for now. Free agency acquisitions in the likes of LBs Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards, OL Nate Davis, RBs Travis Homer and D'Onta Foreman and TE Robert Tonyan certainly fill out the roster with some exciting talent. However, if the Bears are to compete, they still have much work to do. That work starts with their first round pick. So, who should they target?
Here are the three best players for the Chicago Bears to target at number nine in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
The Chicago Bears should draft RB Bijan Robinson from the University of Texas. Bijan Robinson is receiving early comparisons to the likes of Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley and would be absolutely explosive in the Bears dynamic rushing attack. Although taking a running back this high might be frowned upon by some, the duo of Robinson and Justin Fields could potentially be all-time.
Fields is entering the all-important third year in the NFL as a quarterback, and after last year's unbelievable rushing output, defenses will be preparing all off-season to force him to keep the ball in the air. Robinson would allow the Bears to keep opposing defenses honest, especially in the RPO game. Keying in on Fields as a runner would be much more difficult when he isn't even the best rusher in the backfield. The Bears do have the aforementioned Foreman and Homer on the roster, as well as current leader in the clubhouse to start Khalil Herbert. However, none of those three have the potential that Bijan Robinson possesses.
Robinson's size and speed is without question a force, however he exhibited elite instincts and natural running ability while dominating at Texas. His elusiveness distracts from the fact he is extremely tough with the football, consistently breaking tackles. He does this in both the rushing and passing game, earning his common comparison to McCaffrey with great route-running, steady hands, and the ability to destroy matchups at all levels of the defense.
Bijan Robinson would be the ideal weapon for Justin Fields to take the next step in year three. If the Bears have a shot, they would be smart to take the Texas product at ninth overall in the 2023 NFL Draft.
OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
If the Bears opt to not select Robinson at nine, OT Paris Johnson Jr. from Ohio State would be the next best option. Justin Fields' former teammate at OSU in 2020, he would be the perfect choice to protect the star quarterback's blind-side for years to come. Many view Johnson Jr. as the top offensive lineman in the draft, citing his size, athleticism and length. He would be a potential major upgrade for the Bears current options at left tackle.
OL Braxton Jones spent last season at left tackle for the Bears, and was a nice surprise for Chicago. A fifth round selection in 2022, he was consistent all season long. Along with addition Nate Davis, and veterans Cody Whitehair and Teven Jenkins, Jones gives the Bears four solid offensive line options going into the season. However, protecting the quarterbacks blind-side is arguably the most important job on the offensive line, so left tackle is ideally a sure thing. Paris Johnson Jr. looks like he could be a sure thing.
Not only does Johnson Jr. have the potential to be an elite offensive lineman, his skillset makes him a perfect fit for the Bears style of play. Even with an emphasis to throw more next season, with Fields at quarterback the Bears have no choice but to run the ball. Johnson is a smart player who picks up schemes quickly, exhibiting the ability to easily block into the second level and execute in an open-style offense like the Bears. His familiarity with Fields from their Buckeyes' days together would just be a plus.
Out of the many options the Bears will consider at number nine, Paris Johnson Jr. would be a smart selection in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
DL Jalen Carter, Georgia
Coming into this off-season, Jalen Carter was the consensus number one overall pick by many pundits across the NFL media landscape. An arrest stemming from a fatal car accident that Carter was involved in has seen his draft status fluctuate up and down the board. There is a very reasonable chance that he will be available to the Bears at number nine. If he is, the Bears should jump at the opportunity to add an elite talent to last season's worst defensive line in the league.
Last year, the Bears leading sacker was rookie cornerback Jaquan Brisker. Ask most around the NFL and they would say a rookie cornerback should not be leading the team in sacks. Then again, Brisker is on a trajectory to be a very good NFL cornerback, in a Bears secondary that is solid overall. With this off-season's LB additions of Edmunds and Edwards pairing with second-year Jack Sanborn, the Bears defense in the middle looks to be set for 2023 as well. It is now paramount to add to that abysmal front-four.
Jalen Carter would provide the presence the Bears are desperately missing. Despite his off the field concerns, Carter has already earned comparisons to future hall-of-famer Aaron Donald and led an absolutely dominant Georgia defense to back-to-back National Championships. Adding Carter would upgrade the Bears to potential monsters of the midway status, as he would provide a huge advantage for the rest of the defense. Simply put, Jalen Carter would change the game.
Bijan Robinson and Paris Johnson Jr. would be very solid selections by the Bears with less off the field concerns, but Jalen Carter might just be the best player out of the three.