The Chicago Bears have clear objectives going into the 2023 NFL draft. They center on upgrading their offensive line. With three picks in the first two rounds, including the 9th overall, this is a big opportunity for GM Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus to get better in the trenches. Both areas were glaring weaknesses last season. The offensive line allowed 55 sacks. The defensive line had 10.5 sacks total. They were also horrible at stopping the run. If this team wants its schemes to function at a high level, it starts with controlling the line of scrimmage.
Probably the most pressing issue for Eberflus is the three-technique position. That is the defensive tackle spot designated for the best interior pass rusher. Think Warren Sapp in Tampa Bay or Tommie Harris in Chicago during the mid-2000s. This defense won’t function at its highest level until the Bears have somebody like that. Signing DeMarcus Walker helps somewhat, but the belief is Chicago will hunt for more help in the draft. Former scout Greg Gabriel helped build that Lovie Smith defense in the 2000s. He understands the type of player required for that position.
To him, four names stand out as Eberflus targets.
“I see four players in this Draft who are listed as defensive ends but in the Bears’ scheme are more suited to play the 3T. The first is Georgia Tech’s Keion White. Keion is 6’5 – 285 with speed and plays a relentless style of football. Early in the first game I viewed, I felt this player was the perfect three. The same can be said about Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore, who played mostly on the edge at Northwestern but at 6004 – 283 with 4.49 speed; he may be the best 3T in this class after Carter.
Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness played both inside and outside for the Hawkeyes, but his style of play screams 3T. Like Melton, he will need to bulk up, but if he can get to that 285-290 area, he can be a solid 3-Technique player. The last is USC’s Tuli Tuipolotu. Tuli was mainly a 5-Tech at USC, but he is another who easily has the traits to be a quality 3-Tech.”
Matt Eberflus saw this tactic work before.
DeForest Buckner was a defensive end coming out of Oregon a few years ago. He was eventually shifted to defensive tackle, where he became a dominant force up front. Henry Melton was a defensive end at Texas. Then the Bears drafted him in the 4th round and he became a Pro Bowl three-technique in 2012. This strategy has worked several times. If a player has the body type and skill set, a move inside for them is no different than a college tackle moving to guard. It works the same way.
It comes down to timing and luck. None of those players mentioned are worth the 9th overall pick. So if Matt Eberflus and the Bears intend to land one, they must wait until the 2nd round. It will be interesting to see how many are left by the 54th pick or if Poles tries to trade up for one of them. There is no doubt this team will come away with at least one defensive lineman in their first three picks. If any of those names get the call, we’ll have a good idea of what the plans will be for them.
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Jalen Carter is facing criminal charges for leaving the scene of a fatal accident. I would not take Carter as an undrafted free agent.
If Poles doesn’t trade down again for more picks, he could take Paris Johnson (a former teammate of Fields at Ohio State) or Peter Skoronski from Northwestern at #9. That would give the offensive line a boost and Justin Fields the protection. He needs. A lot of people are saying the best values in this draft will happen between #20-#50. So, Poles may yet do something to improve his draft position and acquire the defensive lineman the Bears need.
Poles is also about value. So his #1 graded RB would have to be available late in round #2 or he’s not pulling the trigger. I expect a trade down about 7-9 spots and adding a second rounder to move up a few spots in that round for a 3T they like.
Poles doesn’t strike me as a guy who is going to reach for a player just because it’s a bigger need than other areas. He’s a best player available type. His blue chip player at #9 would be Robinson.