Will Anderson Jr. doesn’t know whether the Bears plan to draft him, but the Alabama standout believes they are “onto something special” in Chicago.
Anderson had an opportunity to speak with reporters Tuesday at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine and said he has already met with both the Bears and the Houston Texans — who own the top two picks in April’s draft — among several other teams. He also went into a bit of detail about what he thought of his visit with Chicago.
“It went really good,” Anderson told reporters at the Combine on March 1. “I went in there, watched a couple of tapes, really just got to know me, got to know them. And the culture is great there, and I can tell that they’re up to something special.”
Anderson is considered a legitimate option for the Bears if they stay at No. 1 overall in the 2023 NFL draft and has a good case for being at the top of their draft boards after a dynamic career at Alabama. He might also be their preferred target if they trade down either to No. 2 or No. 4 (Indianapolis Colts); although, they do run the risk of another team — like the Arizona Cardinals at No. 3 — taking him before they get the chance.
Anderson is expected to participate in his Combine workouts with the rest of the defensive linemen and linebackers in the draft class at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 2.
Anderson Could Be Immediate Difference-Maker for Bears
Without question, Anderson would be a game-changing piece for a Bears defense that recorded the fewest sacks (20) in the league last season. The 6-foot-4, 243-pound pass rusher was elite in terms of his production for the Crimson Tide, producing 10 sacks, 17 tackles for a loss and 65 quarterback pressures in 2022 to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Year for a second consecutive season. He also displays all the aggressive tools that allow a great NFL pass rusher to set the edge and punish the quarterback, already showing prowess for both bending and bursting off the edge.
The real question with Anderson’s fit in Chicago is how he would translate from being an outside linebacker in Alabama’s 3-4 defense to a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end in Bears head coach Matt Eberflus’ 4-3 defensive scheme. Fortunately, Anderson seems undeterred by the prospect of making a switch and even embraces the change.
“I feel like football is all about embracing the change,” Anderson said on March 1 of potentially playing defensive end in a 4-3 defense like Chicago’s. “So, no matter what type of defense I get in, I’m going to adapt to it and I’m gonna be able to embrace the change and embrace the challenge that is there and learn the lessons that come with it. That’s what I’m very excited about, whatever defense I get in, learning how to operate throughout it and having fun doing it.”
If Bears Want Anderson, How Far Can They Trade Down?
Mock drafts for the Bears have run wild since they locked up the No. 1 overall pick in the final week of the 2022 regular season, but one of the most common projections for them is them trading back to No. 4 with the quarterback-needy Colts and taking whichever option — Anderson or Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter — is still on the board after an early run on quarterbacks. That outcome, however, might be a little less attractive now in light of Carter’s new legal troubles in Georgia.
According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the former Georgia star was booked for reckless driving and racing on highways/streets late on Wednesday night after the Athens-Clarke County Police Department issued a pair of misdemeanor arrest warrants for him earlier in the day in connection with a fatal crash in January. Schefter wrote that he was released in less than 20 minutes on a $4,000 bond and has an arraignment hearing set for April 18, which is nine days before the first round of the 2023 NFL draft.
Now, how does this affect the Bears? Well, that depends on how Carter’s draft stock is impacted, both in terms of how the Bears feel about the incident as well as other teams. A big part of the lure to trading down with the Colts is how it could set the Bears up to take one of the top two defensive prospects in the class, but if they cross Carter off their list — or at least lower his ranking — they may only be looking for Anderson at the No. 4 spot and would run the risk of missing out on him.
For now, if the Bears want Anderson on their roster, their best bets seem to be either staying at No. 1 to select him outright or flipping the pick to the Houston Texans to move down one spot, gain a bit of draft capital and select him at No. 2. Everything else is just too much of a risk until we see more of how Carter’s situation resolves itself.