With every passing week, it looks more and more like the Bears will control the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft. In Week 14, the Panthers lost yet again, putting their record at 1-12. Meanwhile, the Patriots managed a win over Mitchell Trubisky and the Steelers, putting them a full two games ahead of the Panthers at 3-10, along with the Cardinals. That’s important because the Bears own the Panthers’ first-round pick thanks to the trade that sent the No. 1 overall pick to Carolina last year.
What the Bears do with the No. 1 overall pick if the Panthers continue their path to the NFL’s worst record will be the subject of debate for months to come. Should they stand pat with Justin Fields and build around him? Or should they select a new rookie to reset the clock on their rebuild?
We’re going to explore that second route in this mock draft.
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As always, this mock draft is not an attempt to predict what the Bears will actually do when they’re back in the War Room next offseason. That’s impossible. Nor is it meant as a recommendation of what the Bears should do. This mock draft is meant as an opportunity to dig into some of the intriguing college prospects this season, and how those players may fit in Chicago.
NO. 1: CALEB WILLIAMS - QUARTERBACK - USC
Last year, Ryan Poles passed on picking a new quarterback and traded away the No. 1 pick for a DJ Moore and a bounty of other draft selections. He can’t resist the opportunity to add a young, talented QB again, though. There are reasons to believe Justin Fields can succeed as an NFL quarterback, but he’ll need to be paid a hefty contract soon, and the Bears aren’t quite ready to contend for Super Bowls yet. So Poles opts to trade Fields, draft Williams and give the Bears more runway to win with a QB on a rookie deal.
Williams has all the same big-play upside that Fields brings to the offense. He’s a threat to score with his legs, has a top-notch deep ball and can turn busted plays into explosive gains with his off-script improvisations. Ball security issues cropped up with nine fumbles this season, but over the breadth of his career, Williams has taken very good care of the football. He’s also effective working as a rhythm and timing passer. There’s a reason he’s one of the most highly-touted quarterback prospects since Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence came out in 2020 and 2021.
NO. 7: JER’ZHAN NEWTON - DEFENSIVE TACKLE - ILLINOIS
The best defensive lines in the NFL come at you in waves, and the Bears’ success on defense starts with their front four. Whether or not Gervon Dexter and Zacch Pickens develop as the Bears hope, they’ll want to continue adding young talent to the interior of their defensive line.
Newton is a dynamic three-tech who can help plug up holes in the run game and dent the pocket in the pass rush. His eight sacks rank tied for second in the nation among all interior linemen, his 44 total pressures are third, and his 15.5% pass rush win rate ranks fourth among all interior linemen with at least 200 pass rush snaps. His 25 run stops ranks tied for sixth.
NO. 71: BILLY BOWMAN JR. - SAFETY - OKLAHOMA
If the Bears have concerns about Eddie Jackson’s foot that kept him out of five games in 2022 and five games this year, they could look to replace him as early as next season. In that case, they’ll need someone with ballhawking skills to take his place in the back end of the defense. Bowman Jr. has displayed the ranginess, instincts and ball skills required to play free safety and has the production to back it up with nine interceptions over the past two seasons. He also swipes at the ball while tackling in a manner that Bears coaches preach to force fumbles. Beyond the ball production, Bowman Jr. shows a willingness to contribute in the run game when asked to play at the line of scrimmage. He has seven TFLs dating back to 2021.