Chicago Bears 2023 NFL Draft: Needs, Prospects, and Strategy

The Bears showed promise at the beginning of last season. They had a 3-0 preseason and won two of their first three regular season games. The Bears then lost three straight close ones to the Giants, Vikings and Commanders. Followed by a 33-14 beat down of the Patriots on Monday Night in what was a really impressive performance. But after that win, the Bears lost 10 straight and finished the season with a 3-14 record.

You don’t have to go too far to find areas where the Bears can improve, but we’re going to start with defense.

The Bears defense gave up more points than anyone else in the NFL. They also finished last in opponent yards per pass attempt, opponent 3rd down conversion percentage and sacks. They were also 27th in opponent yards per rush attempt, which is last, but it’s still bad. You really can’t argue with any positions the Bears need to address defensively, but it starts with the defensive line and linebackers. They must get pressure on opposing QBs.


The offense was better, but still ranked 23rd in the NFL in points per game.

The sacks allowed sticks out; 29th with a mobile QB like Justin Fields is unacceptable.

The plot below shows all 32 NFL teams last season by passing and rushing yards per game.

You see the Bears are all alone in the top left. This means they led the league in rush yards per game but were last in the league in pass yards per game. Justin Fields was incredible to watch and has the ability to change games on the ground. But the Bears need to be able to pass too. The red dots on the plot represent playoff teams. You’ll notice all the teams in the bottom right (pass heavy teams) made the playoffs. In order for the Bears to be a playoff team, they can’t be so reliant on the rush. They need to be able to have a true passing attack.

Offseason Moves

The Bears have already made a few moves to address some of their weaknesses. Arguably the biggest was trading out of the 1st overall pick. The 1st overall pick is the riskiest pick in the draft. If you draft right, you can get a franchise player. But if you draft wrong you can really put a franchise in a terrible spot for years.

The top pick commands the highest salary, whether the player becomes a franchise player or not. If you are giving that pick the allotted salary, that means you can’t spend it elsewhere. The opportunity cost of selecting a player with the 1st pick is the highest and therefore the riskiest. By trading down you can select players you do not have to pay as much, while getting comparable on-field performance. In terms of performance per dollar, second round picks are actually more valuable than first round picks.

The Bears got the 9th overall pick, 61st overall, a 2024 1st rounder and a 2025 2nd rounder along with wide-receiver DJ Moore.

That is the type of trade that can jumpstart a rebuild for one franchise and potentially destroy one for Carolina.

The Bears addressed the defense by signing linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and TJ Edwards and defensive end DeMarcus Walker.

Offensively, the Bears signed guard Nate Davis.

Draft Strategy

As far as NFL Draft Strategy goes, I’ve written a piece on the importance of trading down for Renegade Sports Analytics here. The Bears know which positions they need (below). As long as the Bears take the next guy they have on their board at one of the needed positions (Tier 1 1st, below), I’m happy as a fan.

If we can trade down and pick up extra players that we don’t have to pay as much, but give the Bears higher return on investment, then I’m all for it. I think the Bears front office has done well so far and shown they have the right process in place for rebuilding a team the correct way. If the Bears do keep the 9th pick, I’d be good with any of the guys below. But if we can trade back to the mid-1st round and still get one, I’d be happier.

The Bears have already started the path toward a winning draft by obtaining and trading the 1st pick. Now they’ve got a ton of freedom with multiple picks and largest available cap space in the League. I’m excited to see what they do with it!

Published by Will McClaughry

Sports fan, data enthusiast and former division 3 college basketball player

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