The Chicago Bears’ desperate need for a new right tackle has many expecting them to take one of the top offensive tackles with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, but The Draft Network’s latest mock has them sticking to the “best player available” philosophy and adding a generational weapon to their backfield.
In TDN’s March 27 mock draft, the Bears miss out of the opportunity to get blue-chip defensive tackle Jalen Carter with Detroit taking him with the sixth pick and instead use the ninth pick to add “a true difference-maker” in Texas running back Bijan Robinson, who would form a dangerous combination in Chicago with quarterback Justin Fields.
“Ryan Poles has been making all the right moves in free agency, trading down from the No. 1 pick and receiving great compensation,” TDN draft analyst Keith Sanchez wrote for the Bears’ first-round mock selection. “The Bears let David Montgomery go in free agency and Poles decides to fill that void by drafting Bijan Robinson. Robinson is an elite-level back and a true difference-maker at the RB position. A backfield with Fields and Robinson should place a lot of stress on defenses.”
Bijan Robinson Could Be Bears’ Best Player Available
Bears fans with their hearts set on an offensive tackle might roll their eyes at the idea of Chicago passing up Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. with the No. 9 pick, but Robinson would have a legitimate claim to being considered the best player available if the boards falls the way it does in TDN’s mock.
The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Robinson displayed all the tools of a generational rushing talent over his three seasons at Texas, combining his multi-faceted running style with a consistent ability to make plays as a pass-catcher. As a junior in 2022, he carried the ball 258 times for 1,580 yards and an eye-popping 18 touchdowns and added another 314 yards and two scores on 19 catches, averaging 16.5 yards per reception. According to Pro Football Focus, he also led the FBS with 104 forced missed tackles last season.
Here’s what NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote about Robinson in his draft profile:
Full-menu back blending a smorgasbord of position-specific traits that allow him to affect games. Robinson is well-built with a compact lower half and pairs a low center of gravity with agile feet. There are elements of both fight and flight in his running style, but defenders can never be quite sure what they are going to get. He’s a capable insider/outside runner with unique footwork to stack moves and reset pathways, but can plow into tacklers at a moment’s notice using elite contact balance to keep the run rolling. He might need to dial back efforts to search out big runs so frequently and take what is there a little more often to keep from getting bogged down. His pass-catching talent ensures the opportunity for Robinson to see a high number of touches. He has a chance to become one of the more productive runners in the league very quickly.
Now, the Bears do already have a working plan in place for next year’s backfield, having signed D’Onta Foreman and Travis Homer in free agency to help account for the loss of David Montgomery, but neither of their contracts are hefty commitments. And with Robinson drawing comparisons to superstar backs like Saquon Barkley and Christian McCaffrey, Poles might decide locking down the next great running back for the next half-decade is well worth the investment of a top 10 draft selection.
More Signings Could Push Bears to Bijan Robinson
The Bears still have some major needs along their offensive and defensive lines after the first wave of 2023 free agency and seem likely to prioritize those positions in the first few rounds of the draft next month, but there is a chance that more signings between now and then could push them toward a “best player available” choice like Robinson.
The biggest position to watch for the Bears is offensive tackle. Most of the top-bill options are off the market with Orlando Brown Jr., Mike McGlinchey, Jawaan Taylor, Kaleb McGary and Andre Dillard all locked up on new contracts, but Chicago still has a few serviceable veteran starters to choose from, such as Taylor Lewan and Isaiah Wynn. There is also the possibility of Poles pulling the trigger on another trade to solve their current problem at the right tackle spot, which would significantly lower their chances of targeting an offensive tackle with the No. 9 overall pick.
Defensively, it is a little more complex. The Bears don’t have many free agent options left outside of a trade to fill the role of the 3-tech in head coach Matt Eberflus’ system. In all likelihood, that means they will try to prioritize getting one in the draft, but it remains to be seen how many they believe are worth taking with the ninth pick. If Carter doesn’t fall into their hands, Poles might be out of defensive “blue” players — or players that he believes have a strong chance of being successful in the NFL — and have to turn his attention to other sure-thing choices, such as Robinson.