Ranking Bears Draft Options at No. 9

We are three days away from the NFL Draft and things seem pretty quiet. The Bears will take Caleb Williams at No. 1 overall, and the Commanders have said twice that they’re not interested in trading down. The Patriots could trade down from No. 3 and if so, Chicago GM Ryan Poles has to be hoping it’s to a team that wants a quarterback.

But what if it isn’t?

According to NFL insider Adam Schefter, the Cardinals are open for business with the No. 4 pick. Arizona’s biggest need, by the way, is wide receiver. That means one of four things.

  1. Monti Ossenfort doesn’t have Marvin Harrison Jr. as the highest-rated wide receiver on his board.
  2. He believes the Patriots will pick MHJ.
  3. Ossenfort believes the Patriots will trade the pick to a team that covets Harrison so he’ll target Rome Ozune, Malik Nabers, or Brock Bowers – plus acquire some draft assets – by moving down.
  4. The Arizona GM hopes to get a big return from one of the quarterback-needy teams and take a pass catcher later in a draft that is deep at the position.

A lot of people want the Bears to trade up and take Harrison. That’s probably not the safest plan considering Chicago’s dearth of picks, but it’s a weak draft, and Poles creates and works within his constraints. He’ll have plenty of suitors if he wants to trade down. He has enough 2025 picks to potentially move up.

The cost will be prohibitive, however. Chicago would probably have to strike a deal with New England if Poles is locked on MHJ. The cost, according to a couple of experts, would be the No. 75 pick this year, plus first- and third-round picks in 2025 to swap the ninth pick for the third. The cost would be the same if the Ohio State wideout is still available at No. 4 overall.

I don’t see Poles doing that but nobody can predict what the man will do. Nobody has so far, anyway. Let’s look at Poles’ options with that in mind.


  1. WR Rome Odunze (Washington) – I prefer Odunze to Harrison because of his contested catch rate (70.8% to 43.3%). He also had fewer drops than his counterpart. Odunze is the player who is most mocked to the Bears at No. 9, but he may not fall that far. He caught 92 passes for 1,640 yards and 15 scores in 2023. He led the nation in deep catches (23), deep yards (783), and contested catches (21). Odunze also finished in the 99th percentile vs. catch rate vs. single man, the 90th percentile in zone coverage, and the 95th percentile in yards-after-catch. He has the size (6-foot-3), speed (4.45), and elite ball skills to make him a true playmaking threat. Odunze also said that playing with Williams would be special.
  2. TE Brock Bowers (Georgia) – It could be a smokescreen, but Bowers is being mentioned as often as Odunze as a potential Bear, something we discussed a week ago. Perhaps I started a trend. According to NFL insider Tony Pauline, if Chicago goes pass catcher, the decision with the No. 9 pick will come down to Bowers and Odunze. The key phrase is “if Chicago goes pass catcher.” Bowers also has as much helium right now as Odunze. The tight end is drawing “the most interest” from the Chargers, Titans, and Bears, per Pauline. What do those teams have in common? They’re all positioned nicely to trade down. Pauline did say Bowers likely won’t get past the Jets, who have the 10th selection. The Chargers need offensive line help, but they also lost Mike Williams, Keenan Allen, and Gerald Everett, the latter two to the Bears. It might be tough on San Diego to pass on Bowers if they do not trade down. It would be odd, to say the least, if San Diego traded the pick to Chicago and Poles selected Bowers.
  3. Trade Down – Chicago has four draft picks, and they’re getting the best quarterback in the draft in Williams. They need help on the offensive and defensive lines and at wide receiver. The Bears also lack depth at several key positions. This year’s draft class is weak beyond the middle of the second round, but don’t rule out this scenario.
  4. Edge Dallas Turner (Alabama) – The Bears have an improving defense, one of the league’s better linebacking corps, and an emerging defensive backfield. They do lack pass rushers, however. If head coach Matt Eberflus had his way, and he carries a lot of pull, the Bears would take someone to pair with Montez Sweat, inside or outside, to get after opposing quarterbacks. According to Dane Brugler, “Turner is a long, explosive edge rusher with the body twitch, hand usage, and play strength to leverage blocks and be disruptive in multiple ways. He also has the freaky tools to be a potential impact player in the NFL who should continue to improve as his body and rush attack mature.” Simply put, Turner is the best edge rusher in this draft.
  5. Byron Murphy II (Texas) – Eberflus loves a dominant three-technique and would be a perfect fit for the Bears for all the points mentioned above. Additionally, he’s low-key flying under the radar the way Darnell Wright was at this time last year. Chicago lost Justin Jones, so a position opening exists, but Gervon Dexter could be on the precipice of becoming dominant in his own right, something Sweat said earlier this month. “You’re gonna see man. He’s pretty good,” Sweat said about Dexter. “I feel like he’s still just kind of unlocking himself and being himself. And I think that’s gonna really flourish this year, but he’s a really talented kid. He’s one of those quick [defensive] tackles and was strong as hell. It’s really is really a sight to see. But yeah, he’s gonna jump out on on the scene for sure.”
  6. WR Malik Nabers (LSU) – Nabers is the consensus No. 2 receiver in this draft, but I prefer his teammate, Brian Thomas Jr., a little more, right behind Harrison Jr. and Odunze. Rick Leen, who hosts the Chicago Bears Den Podcast and also writes for us, disagrees and has Nabers at No. 2 in the class. “Nabers is smaller, but he’s very well-rounded,” Leen wrote last week. “He’s one of the best route runners and has fluid movement, maintaining speed through his cuts. Nabers is a dangerous vertical threat running away from the defender, tracking the ball, and getting under it for the catch, or he can highpoint the ball and snag it. He didn’t have a diverse route tree at LSU, but Nabers excelled in the routes he ran. He caught with his arms instead of his hands too often, making me concerned that he’s not as reliable a pass-catcher as I initially thought. I had hoped the combine would alleviate those concerns, but Nabers didn’t participate much, so we wait and see.”
  7. OT Joe Alt (Notre Dame) – A lot of things would have to happen for Alt to fall to No. 9, so it’s not likely he’ll end up in Chicago unless Poles loves him and trades up. First, the Chargers would have to pass on Alt, and they reportedly love him. The Titans do, too. But, as I mentioned before, both teams could be interested in trading down. The Bears, however, don’t have a pressing need at left tackle with two-year starter Braxton Jones in place. Poles is still high on Jones, though 2024 will be a make-or-break year for the lineman. He’s probably not a candidate to move inside, either. Alt won’t move to guard, and the Bears are more in need of a center anyway.
  8. Edge Laiatu Latu (UCLA) – Latu might be higher on Poles’ board than most analysts suspect. Make no mistake, selecting Latu at No. 9 would not be a reach. Some analysts, including Leen, have the UCLA pass rusher ranked higher than Turner. Latu projects as a technically refined pass rusher who can rush from either two-point or three-point stances. Poles and Eberflus love versatile linemen. Latu is also better suited to play in a four-man front. There’s no reason why he can’t be an 8-10 sack pass rusher who can also defend the run.
  9. Trade Up – It’s very possible Poles loves any of the above-mentioned players enough to trade up. How does that happen? The player has to be best-in-class at his position with a very high floor for Poles to make that leap. There are 10 blue-chip players at the top of this draft. All of them fill a position of need. That’s why I don’t see Poles burning through present and future capital to move up 4-5 spots.

The Wild Card 

IOL Jackson Powers-Johnson (Oregon) – JPJ is arguably the best interior lineman in the draft, but is he worthy of a first-round selection, let alone one in the top 10? He’s a pro-ready center who possesses the size, athleticism, and football IQ required to lead an NFL offensive line. I currently have Johnson going to the Seahawks at No. 18, and Poles would draw a lot of criticism if he took Powers-Johnson at No. 9. That said, he checks all of Poles’ boxes, much the same way Wright did last year.

Powers-Johnson wasn’t a full participant at the NFL Combine, but he displayed athleticism with a 32-inch vertical and an 8-foot-8 broad jump. He also showcased his easy movement skills despite weighing a 98th-percentile 328 pounds. Most importantly, he’s a bruising, violent lineman who likes to destroy defenders in the open field. That said, positional demand is creating upward pressure attracting teams to the Oregon standout.

The Eagles signed guard Landon Dickerson to a four-year extension worth $84 million, making him the highest-paid guard annually at $21 million. Former Dolphins guard Robert Hunt came close to matching that annual figure, having signed a five-year, $100 million ($20 million AAV) deal with the Panthers in unrestricted free agency. JPJ can play guard, too, which will help his transition to the NFL.

Put it this way: Chicago’s O-Line philosophy is that the best five start, regardless of position. The Bears will plug-n-play linemen to best protect their quarterback. Powers-Johnson would be a surprise pick, but he does have value at No. 9. He won’t go that high, but it wouldn’t shock me if Poles trades down to select Powers-Johnson later.

I still think Bowers will end up with the Bears, however.

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