If the Bears lose to the Falcons on Sunday and the Vikings beat the Cowboys, Chicago will be mathematically eliminated from winning the NFC North. That’s a tough pill to swallow considering the 1-7-1 Texans will still have a shot at winning the NFC South no matter what happens this week. With that in mind and more for grits and shins than anything, I decided to head over to the ol’ Pro Football Focus Draft Simulator and try my luck.
There have been plenty of mock drafts to sift through in the last month, but this is our first. I’ll do Mock 2.0 sometime in January.
Obviously, I’ve got nothing better to do on a Friday evening. I have a nice bottle of red wine, Yacht Rock playing through the Sonos courtesy of SiriusXM CH311, and fingers itching to spin that draft wheel o’ fortune. Let’s see what we come up with, shall we?
To start, I made three trades. I gave Atlanta the No. 6 overall pick for the No. 13, the No.45, and the Falcons’ first-round pick in 2024. WE Jaxon Smith-Njigba was available when I made the trade, and Atlanta chose the Ohio State star. Ouch. I then flipped that No. 45 pick to the Patriots for the No. 51 this year and New England’s 2024 fourth-round selection. Finally, I traded the No. 191 pick to the Giants for selections 220 and 223. That gave me 10 picks in 2023, plus an extra first and fourth-round selection in 2024. I’ll take that. On to my selections.
Round 1, No. 13 overall – WR Kayshon Boutte, LSU
— Jacob Infante (@jacobinfante24) May 7, 2022
Boutte is considered by many to be the best wide receiver in this year’s draft, so losing Smith-Njigba didn’t hurt too badly. The tie to Justin Fields would have made a nice story, but I would have chosen Boutte at No. 6 regardless, and getting Atlanta’s first selection in 2024 was just too good to pass up. Boutte is an explosive receiver that has the size and athleticism to align in multiple receiver positions. The 6-foot, 185-pound junior profiles as a WR1 but can operate from the slot, too.
Adding Atlanta’s first pick in 2024 makes Boutte the steal of the 2023 draft.
Round 2, No. 51 overall – Safety Brian Branch, Alabama
— CBS Sports College Football 🏈 (@CBSSportsCFB) November 13, 2022
The Bears didn’t trade Eddie Jackson at the deadline, and it’s very likely he won’t be dealt or cut this offseason. The sixth-year safety is too important to the defense and makes too much money. Al-Quadin Muhammad and Cody Whitehair have the highest probability of being salary cap casualties, and Lucas Patrick is on the bubble. That said, Jackson has proven to be a great teacher, and Branch could be the guy lining up opposite Jaquan Brisker before the 2024 season ends.
Branch has decent height and weight and above-average length. At 6-foot, 195 pounds, Branch has high-level short-area agility. Versatile defensive backs who combine athleticism and instincts are generally coveted, and Branch falls under this categorization. The Alabama junior also plays a violent brand of football. He’ll blast into receivers attempting to haul in passes over the middle of the field, and he should excel at forcing fumbles.
(ED. Note) – Since we’re talking about non-tenders, don’t forget to check on the latest Cubs news over at Cubs Insider.
Round 2, No. 57 overall – OT Darnell Wright, Tennessee
Wright plays left tackle and won’t force Braxton Jones to a new position, though Jones is versatile enough to move to the right side or play guard. Wright is an excellent run-blocker who also excels at pass-blocking in a spread offense. He played two seasons on the right side before shifting to the left this year.
Wright is a big-bodies lineman but his feet are a little heavy at times. He offers an appealing blend of size, power, and tenacity. If the Bears can help the young man with his footwork, Wright could be a fixture at right tackle for years.
Round 3, No. 67 overall – EDGE Tyree Wilson, Texas Tech
Tyree Wilson is having A DAY for Texas Tech, showcasing why he’s such a highly regarded pass rush prospect in the 2023 #NFLDraft class 🔥
— College Football Network (@CFN365) November 5, 2022
Wilson is a senior defensive end who enters play this weekend with seven sacks, nine quarterback hits, and 10 TFLs. In other words, he spends a lot of time in the opponent’s backfield. He’s 6-foot-6, 275 pounds with the size, speed, and power to be a disruptive force against the run or pass.
The questions about Wilson will not be about if he can play in the NFL, but rather what position will best complement his skill set. Wilson is physically dominant and plays with consistent force, but might be better suited as a three-technique. He has all the attributes GM Ryan Poles loves in an athlete.
Round 4, No. 102 overall – DT Jaxson Player, Baylor
Player shows impressive burst and enough quickness to occasionally threaten the edge as a pass rusher. In fact, a scenario exists that he could move to the outside with Wilson moving to the inside. Player is a violent defender with elite burst, quick hands, and a non-stop motor.
Round 4, No. 131 overall – LB Jalen Graham, Purdue
Graham is one of the most intriguing 2023 draft prospects. He’s a former safety, but at 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he’s a much better outside linebacker who could immediately complement Jack Sanborn. Graham is a hybrid in the mold of the modern NFL linebacker. He had 64 tackles, as a junior, including four tackles for loss, one sack, two picks, and seven deflections.
Round 4, No. 137 overall – Center Joe Tippmann, Wisconsin
For those that love offensive line play (I do), watch the #Badgers starting center Joe Tippmann No. 75, put his man in the dirt, opening up a gaping hole for Braelon Allen on his 96-yard TD run. pic.twitter.com/Yf3qusNeZB
— Dillon Graff (@DillonGraff) September 4, 2022
Tippmann is a rare physical specimen who made Feldman’s Freak List ($) over at The Athletic. He has a documented 1.65 10-yard split (a number that would have led linemen at the 2022 NFL Combine), a 635-pound back squat, and a 455-pound max bench. The young man is a beast, to say the least. At 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, his size for a center is overwhelming. He gets off the snap quickly and shows great range as a pulling blocker. He also has the core strength to gather and absorb rushes. Leverage will be an issue at his size, but he’ll eat linebackers for lunch all afternoon.
Round 6, No. 199 overall – LB Cam Jones, Indiana
I’ll admit this selection is a bit of a reach, but I love Jones with this pick. Most boards peg the 6-foot-3, 228-pound linebacker to go undrafted. Opposing quarterbacks will pick on him, but he’s with stashing on the practice squad even as a draftee. Why? He’s an unmatched blitzer who gets to opposing passers quickly and violently. The Bears rarely blitz, which makes Jones a bit of a specialty player. But if Chicago’s coaching staff can help him as a pass defender, he could be elite.
Round 7, No. 220 overall – WR Jacob Cowing, Arizona
As a sophomore at UTEP, Cowing hot or eclipsed 100 receiving yards in eight of 12 games. He is competitive at the catch point and will elevate and attack the football at its highest point. However, his size will force him into a slot role, and he’s not a very good blocker. But, he excels at moving the chains, averaging more than seven yards after the catch. Cowing has good-bit-not-great hands, but could be an asset on special teams and has enough skills to be a WR5 or WR6.
Round 7, No. 223 overall – CB DJ Turner, Michigan
— PFF College (@PFF_College) May 13, 2022
Turner is a burner who runs a documented 4.28 40-yard dash. That alone makes him worth a selection with Chicago’s final pick. He’s a gifted athlete who covers well and can intercept the ball but lacks elite size. He carries a chip on his shoulder, a trait the Bears’ front office loves, especially for a Day Three pick.