When creating a big board for the Chicago Bears ahead of tonight’s NFL Draft, it’s important to consider separate categories.
Ryan Poles has spoken about “blue” and “red” players. Blue players are obviously the elite, reds are a step down. He hasn’t been consistent in how many blue players he sees in this draft, but he had indicated that he thinks the team can get one with the ninth pick. Though he previously said there were seven blue players, including quarterbacks, we can probably figure out which players he might target early.
But there is another option.
The Bears don’t want to make a pick at nine. They’d certainly like to move back and pick up an earlier second-round pick, giving them two in the top 50. That opens up many other options But if the Bears stay at nine, they have to take a blue player.
On Tuesday, Ian Cunningham said there are six-to-eight players the Bears were comfortable taking with the ninth overall pick. I’m betting the list includes the likes of Will Anderson and Tyree Wilson, who aren’t likely to be there. I’m also comfortable with assuming Devon Witherspoon will be gone. With that, I took a shot at guessing the players atop the Bears board.
1. Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio St.
If there is an offensive lineman worth taking with a top-10 pick this year, it’s Johnson.
Unlike Peter Skoronski, Johnson has the length to translate seamlessly to the NFL. And unlike Broderick Jones, Johnson is polished enough to play immediately.
Johnson will need to add strength and refine his technique, but he certainly has the upside to lock down the left tackle position for years. Johnson isn’t the best player on this list, but he would fill the biggest need.
2. Jalen Carter, DT, Georgia
We have no idea what to make of the off-the-field concerns or the on-the-field concerns regarding work ethic. Listen to Todd McShay on Waddle & Silvy and you’ll see why there are more concerns than most generally think. But, if there wasn’t, there would be no chance for the Bears to draft him with the ninth pick. His talent is undeniable.
3. Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
Cornerbacks with Gonzalez’s traits don’t typically make it outside the top ten. He has a freakish combination of length, athletic ability and ball skills.
4. Bijan Robinson, RB, Texas
Robinson is widely considered one of the three best players in the entire draft. Debates about running back value don’t typically go anywhere, but there is an undeniable truth that prospects of Robinson’s caliber make teams considerably better. We just saw Saquan Barkley drag Daniel Jones to the playoffs. My comparison for Robinson is Todd Gurley, which sounds like a cautionary tale, but Gurley ran for a lot of yards and scored a lot of touchdowns despite entering the league with a major knee injury.
5. Peter Skoronski, OG, Northwestern
A guard wouldn’t sniff the top ten in a strong draft, but this isn’t a strong draft. Skoronski is a terrific prospect and most think he will become an elite guard. This pick would almost certainly end Teven Jenkins’ career with the team, but it would give the Bears an anchor along their offensive line for the next decade. Sometimes, the most important thing is just making sure you get a good player.
6. Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
Wright had an incredible season at Tennessee last year, but there are some concerns about consistency and work ethic, which knocks him down to a red player. That said, Wright’s tape last year was probably the best of any of the tackles.
7. Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
The Bears may prefer Deonte Banks, the cornerback from Maryland, but Porter has an incredible combination of length and athletic ability. He doesn’t have the ball skills that many teams prefer – if he did, he’d be a lock for the top five.
8. Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Bears might like raw, but should they spend a top ten pick on a player who needs so much coaching? That said, the Bears have raved about the work offensive line coach Chris Morgan did last year and they could see a ball of clay with major upside.
9. Calijah Kancey, DT, Pittsburgh
Eberflus has said he wants big and athletic defensive linemen. Kancey is small, but he is an athletic freak. Three-technique is such an important position, and the top requirement is to have a player who can shoot the gap and get in the backfield. Kancey can be a game-wrecker on passing downs. Can he play on running downs? No clue, but being between 325-pound Andrew Billings and 280-pound Demarcus Walker could help.
10. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
JSN was injured last year, but two years ago he out-produced two players who were stars as rookies, in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. JSN has superstar potential.