Sunday, April 30, 2023

Chicago Bears 2023 NFL Draft Grades Roundup

The 2023 NFL Draft is now in the rearview mirror, and we have compiled a consensus ranking using NFL draft grades from a variety of sites.

What draft grades have the media given to the Chicago Bears? What are they saying about the Bears' 2023 draft haul?

MORE: 2023 NFL Strength of Schedule - Grade: A-

Chicago received a bounty from the Panthers for the No. 1 pick, then traded down one spot in the first round while still getting the lineman it needed in Wright. Dexter and Pickens bolster the defensive line when on their game and Stevenson could start as a rookie. The value of trading a second-rounder for receiver Chase Claypool is to be determined.

Johnson looks like a power back but can avoid defenders as well as run through their tackle attempts. Scott's agility and burst after the catch made him a nice fourth-round find. Sewell is a much better football player than his fifth-round status might indicate. Smith has the athleticism and cover skills to contribute as a rookie.

ESPN - Grade: B+

The Bears received a spectacular haul when they traded down from No. 1 with the Panthers, adding pick Nos. 9 and 61 plus a 2024 first-rounder, a 2025 second-rounder and wide receiver DJ Moore. They got help for now and later, setting themselves up to fill crucial needs in this draft. Even though they traded at midseason what ended up as the top pick of Round 2, they still had four selections in the top 64. So how did they do?

Chicago had been connected with Darnell Wright (9) for months -- I matched this one in my two-round mock draft -- mostly because of its gaping void at right tackle. Wright is the best right tackle in this class, a 333-pound lineman who started 42 games in college. He is ready to play right now. I was more down on two of its Day 2 picks, as I mentioned Friday, but I get building through the trenches. It's just that both Gervon Dexter (53) and Zacch Pickens (64) were a round early based on my rankings. Some of this had to do with getting ahead on the DTs early in a thinner-than-normal class, but I'm grading each class on value, and so the Bears have to get dinged.

As for the rest of this class? I'm a fan. Running back Roschon Johnson (115) played behind Bijan Robinson at Texas, but Johnson probably would have started at most other FBS schools. He is powerful between the tackles. Tyler Scott (133) is a slot wideout who runs after the catch like a tailback. Linebacker Noah Sewell (148) was a tackling force in college, and now he'll get to try to blitz past his brother, Penei, in the NFC North. Terell Smith (165) is my 14th-ranked cornerback, and the Bears got him a round later than I had him going.

I like what general manager Ryan Poles is building in Chicago, and 2024 draft capital he acquired combined with another step forward from quarterback Justin Fields means this team will challenge in the NFC quickly -- just not this season.

SI - Grade: B

The Bears wisely upgraded the protection for quarterback Justin Fields, who was sacked a league-high 55 times last season. Wright plays with an edge, and he's a polished right tackle. He does have experience playing on the left side, but he had better results as a right tackle in college. Chicago addressed its second biggest need drafting defensive tackles Dexter and Pickens during Day 2. Johnson, who was Bijan Robinson's backup at Texas, could be a quality change-of-pace back.

PFF - Grade: B+

Day 1: Wright fills a need for the Bears, but he is just the 22nd-ranked player on the PFF draft board. He produced a PFF grade of just 71.4 in 2022 but has some really good reps on tape where he just overpowers people. He allowed just eight total pressures in 2022.

Day 2: Dexter's 4.88-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds ranked in the 83rd percentile among interior defenders in PFF's database, but he needs to turn that athleticism into more production at the next level. Dexter is young at just over 21 years of age. He offered very little as a pass-rusher in 2022 with just a 55.2 grade, but his explosiveness is evident.

He's not an elite athlete at the position, which is likely why he's a mid-second-round player, but he does have the size and production to make this an intriguing pick. After starting his career at Georgia, Stevenson really came into his own at Miami. He still has a lot to learn and develop but produced a 79.5 PFF coverage grade in 2022.

After taking Florida interior defender Gervon Dexter Sr. late in the second round, the Bears add more beef to the interior of their defense with a player with more pass-rush juice. Pickens put up an 11.5% pass-rush win rate last season, with his 91st-percentile broad jump showing up on tape. The Bears' defensive interior ranked 32nd in the league in PFF grade last season, so the team is investing a lot to change that.

Day 3: Johnson was overshadowed by Bijan Robinson in the Texas backfield but brings plenty to the table for a team that should run more than just about any team in the NFL next season. Johnson earned 80.0-plus PFF rushing grades in four consecutive seasons with the Longhorns.

This is great value for a player like Scott. He's not the biggest player, and as a converted running back, he's still learning the position. Still, he can fly, and he averaged 16.4 yards per catch with Cincinnati in 2022. He did drop 11.3% of the passes thrown his way, but the big-play ability he offers makes sense here.

Sewell is one of the more physical linebackers in this draft, but his lack of change-of-direction ability is going to be an area of concern in the NFL. Sewell recorded PFF grades between 70.0 and 72.0 in three consecutive seasons at Oregon and now joins a revamped Bears' linebacking corps.

Everything came together for Smith in 2022 (80.9 overall grade) after generally poor grading the previous three years. Smith has the size and straight-line speed to play corner but lacks agility. His build and play strength could facilitate a move to safety, where he could learn the position behind Eddie Jackson and Jaquan Brisker.

Bell is an undersized interior defensive lineman at just 6-feet but displayed upper-body strength with 30 reps on the bench press and good explosiveness with a 33-inch vertical. Bell earned an 88.9 run-defense grade in 2022, which is needed on a Bears defense looking to continue to bolster the interior of their defense against the run.

Williamson has plenty of experience, with 2,608 snaps over the past five seasons, but never produced a PFF grade above 70.0 in those seasons. He missed 20.0% of the tackles he attempted this past season.

Fox Sports - Grade: A-

I spent a lot of time talking about how former offensive lineman and current general manager Ryan Poles could wait to get a tackle given his evaluation acumen for the position, but the Bears didn't take any chances. They went into the draft wanting Tennessee's Darnell Wright and they got him. He'll likely round out the offensive line at right tackle, giving Fields a solid bubble of protection as the Bears try to evaluate him and his future with the franchise.

My favorite pick of the draft for the Bears, though, may be Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson. He's an incredibly smart player who tries to isolate receivers and can anticipate their options and routes. If that doesn't work, he's big, fast and long at 6-foot and nearly 200 pounds, and can play physical to get his hands on the ball one way or the other.

USA Today - Grade: B+

It wasn't sexy — three of the their top four picks were linemen, most notably first-round OT Darnell Wright — and GM Ryan Poles might ultimately regret the midseason deal for Claypool, which cost him the top pick of Round 2. But this was probably the draft Chicago needed to bulwark a talent-deficient roster around QB Justin Fields — and don't forget the package from Carolina for the No. 1 pick also brought WR1 Moore, who's under contract for three more years.

The Ringer - Grade: A

The Bears added a massive amount of sheer size to both sides of the trenches. Chicago grabbed a mauling offensive tackle in Tennessee's Darnell Wright in the first round, giving quarterback Justin Fields a talented pass protector who can also help open up holes in the run game. Chicago turned around on day two and addressed the defensive line, taking a pair of two-gapping block-eaters in Gervon Dexter Sr. (Florida) and Zacch Pickens (South Carolina), to add some much-needed beef to a run defense that gave up 157 rushing yards per game (second worst) and a league-worst 31 rushing touchdowns in 2022. The team also added a pair of highly athletic, aggressive corners in Miami's Tyrique Stevenson and Minnesota's Terell Smith, adding to their up-and-coming cornerback group that already includes Kyler Gordon, Jaylon Johnson, Kindle Vildor, and Jaylon Jones. I also liked their selection of Texas running back Roschon Johnson in Round 4, giving the team a rock-solid and versatile back who breaks tackles, catches the ball well, and excels in pass protection. Add in Cincinnati receiver Tyler Scott, a speedster with running back-like toughness after the catch, and the Bears got better this weekend.

Sporting News - Grade: A

GM Ryan Poles didn't do anything sneaky. He had to jump on the offensive tackle early to better protect Justin Fields and then focus mostly on replenishing the defense on every level. The front seven may have three new starters soon in Dexter, Pickens and Sewell. Watch out for Stevenson's shutdown potential, too. Poles also didn't forget to further upgrade the power running game with Johnson and add more big-play receiving pop with Scott.

Touchdown Wire - Grade: A

The Bears had all kinds of needs along their offensive line, and they started this start by trading down with the Eagles and still getting Wright, the best offensive tackle in this class. Wright is coming off a season in which he erased Will Anderson Jr., BJ Ojulari, and Bryan Bresee, so he projects pretty well to the NFL. On the other side of the line, Dexter is a formidable athletic prospect with some technique work to do, and Zacch Pickens is another guy with hybrid size who can get things done on the move. General manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus clearly have a type here.

Tyrique Stevenson is a nice developmental cornerback, but it's the third day where the Bears' draft REALLY gets interesting. Roschon Johnson probably would have been a second-day guy were he not backing up Bijan Robinson, Tyler Scott is one of the more underrated receivers in this class, Noah Sewell is a fine two-down linebacker who can thump, and Terell Smith is a big cornerback who locked his opponents down in 2022 to the tune of an opponent passer rating of 68.2.

This is a great combination of guys who are ready to contribute, and guys who need a bit of work, but were drafted about where they should have been. A great haul for a team under construction.

More: 2023 NFL Draft Grade Roundups

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