There is no question that Ryan Poles prefers not to make a selection at nine. But operating under the assumption he’ll have no other choice, here is a survey of who folks out there believe he’ll take.
- Peter Schrager at NFL.com: Christian Gonzalez. “This strong, smart, speedy corner out of Oregon (via Colorado) is a gamer. The Bears have so many needs, and snagging a top cover man with the ninth overall choice makes them better tomorrow.”
- Charles McDonald, Yahoo: Peter Skoronski.
- Mel Kiper, ESPN: Peter Skoronski. “I’ve gone back and forth on which offensive lineman the Bears will take here, but Skoronski is the best on my board (No. 8 overall), even though I like him a little more as a guard…Chicago needs a right tackle, which is why I projected Darnell Wright here in my two-round mock. I’d be confident in Skoronski’s ability to learn the position.”
- Ryan Wilson, CBS: Paris Johnson Jr. “… since this draft class is deeper at EDGE than OT, Chicago takes Paris Johnson Jr. here. He played LT last season at Ohio State and was the RG during the ’21 season. Protecting Justin Fields is Priority No. 1, and they can circle back at pick No. 53 (or even 61) to get that pass rusher.”
- Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz, USA Today: Paris Johnson Jr.
- Arjun Menon and Brad Spielberger, PFF: Paris Johnson Jr. “Unless Jalen Carter is still on the board, the Bears should pivot back to offense with their first pick and reunite Fields with tackle Paris Johnson Jr., who allowed a 4.4% pressure rate on true pass sets in 2022, good for 20th in the FBS despite it being his first year starting at left tackle. Johnson played right tackle in 2021, which is where Chicago has its biggest hole along the offensive line. The Bears also deploy the popularized outside-zone-based rushing attack, and Johnson’s 85.5 run-blocking grade on outside-zone runs in 2022 ranked sixth among FBS tackles.”
- WalterFootball: Darnell Wright. “Darnell Wright didn’t allow a single sack to Hendon Hooker last year.” (Side note: Don’t click that link unless you want to ruin your phone/computer. WalterFootball is the reason I’ll never let ads overwhelm this site. What’s the point? He’s rendered his site unnavigable for a few bucks.)
- Justin Melo, Draft Network: TRADE! Darnell Wright (at 17 overall).
- Ryan McCrystal, Sharp Football Analysis: Broderick Jones.
- Unattributed, Tankathon: Paris Johnson Jr.
- Danny Kelly, The Ringer: Jalen Carter. “Carter’s slight fall stops at no. 9, giving the Bears a high-upside building block for their interior defensive line. The former Georgia star brings three-down potential as a pocket-collapsing pass rusher and difference-making run defender.”
- Vinnie Iyer, The Sporting News (which I was thrilled to find out still exists): Peter Skoronski. “Skoronski, who had a great Combine from his running through his smooth positional drills, can deliver as their immediate starting left tackle with his smooth quickness and athleticism on the edge.”
- Seth Trachtman, YardBarker: Paris Johnson Jr.
So, it seems there is a general consensus around the world of the Draft Industrial Complex that the Bears are going to find a starter for their offensive line with this pick. I agree. The Bears showed us the team they want to be on offense in 2022. They want to maul opponents with their rushing attack and utilizing the passing game off that run. But when the run game wasn’t dominant, the passing game was nonexistent. That’s because they couldn’t protect their quarterback on obvious passing downs.
Let’s not overthink this. While the team is not enamored with Teven Jenkins, he was arguably their best offensive lineman in 2022. The Bears can take Wright, the best pure pass blocker in the draft, here. They can take one of the high-profile centers in rounds two or three. And then they can let the chips fall at right guard with Jenkins, Whitehair and Patrick.
And while I like Skoronski’s temperament for this team, give me the player who has already done what the Bears will be asking him to do, against elite competition.