It's been nearly 40 years since the iconic 1985 Bears won the Super Bowl. While that team continues to be revered by Bears loyalists, rest assured that the fan base wants nothing more than for the franchise to field another team that can stand beside that team as a world champion.
In the second year of their rebuild, the Bears made a major leap on Friday after trading the No. 1 overall pick in April's draft to the Panthers. Along with two picks in this year's draft, the Bears also receive the Panthers' first-round pick in the 2024 draft and a second-round pick in the 2025 draft. They also gave Justin Fields another weapon in wideout DJ Moore, who was also part of the trade.
The trade was a big step in the Bears' 2023 offseason, but there is still work to be done. Here's what the general manager Ryan Poles can do during the draft to further improve the Bears' roster.
Before we do, here's a reminder of what draft picks the Bears currently own following Friday's trade.
Bears 2023 draft picks
Round 1, No. 9 overall (from Panthers)
Round 2, No. 56 overall (from Ravens)
Round 2, No. 61 (from Panthers)
Round 3, No. 65 overall
Round 4, No. 103 overall
Round 4, No. 134 overall (from Eagles)
Round 5, No. 136 overall
Round 5, No. 149 overall (from Ravens)
Take best available player with first-round pick
When you're coming off a 3-14 season, just about every position can use an upgrade. That's why the Bears would be wise to take the best-available player who is still available when they are on the clock with the No. 9 overall pick, regardless of position (except quarterback, of course).
Chicago will likely use the pick to select either a receiver, defensive lineman or a pass rusher. Possible options may include pass rusher Tyree Wilson, defensive linemen Jalen Carter and Myles Murphy and wideout Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Fields knows Smith-Njigba well after playing with him at Ohio State.
The Bears could also choose to use the pick on an offensive tackle. Options here may include Georgia's Broderick Jones and Ohio State's Paris Johnson Jr. Like Smith-Njigba, Fields played with Johnson during his time with the Buckeyes.
Address WR and OL
Similarly to what the Bengals did last offseason, the Bears would be wise to use free agency to address the offensive line. Chicago can't afford to gamble on drafting linemen tasked with protecting Fields, who was sacked 55 times last season. Veteran tackle Orlando Brown Jr. will surely be on Chicago's free agent radar. That doesn't mean, however, that the Bears should completely ignore the position during the draft. As noted above, the Bears may choose to address this need in the first round.
Unless you are former Steelers GM Kevin Colbert (whose resume includes the draft selections of Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson and George Pickens), selecting a future star receiver is a crapshoot. That's why the Bears should use several picks on the position. Look for the Bears to use at least one of their Day 2 picks on a receiver while further adding to their receiving corps on Day 3 of the draft. Possible Day 2 options include Tennessee's Jalin Hyatt, SMU's Rashee Rice and Oklahoma's Marvin Mims.
Hyatt burst on the scene last year with 15 touchdown catches for the Volunteers. Rice caught 10 touchdowns while finishing four catches shy of 100 for the season. While his numbers aren't quite as impressive, Mims still caught 20 touchdowns in three years with the Sooners while averaging a whopping 19.5 yards per catch.
Load up on pass rushers, defensive linemen
Some of the league's best pass rushers have been either late round picks or players who went undrafted (examples include Richard Dent, Deacon Jones, Clyde Simmons, and James Harrison). Like receiver, the Bears should invest in this position during the draft after netting just 20 sacks last year.
The Bears could get a steal if Nolan Smith is still available with the 61st or 65th overall pick. Smith, who helped the Bulldogs win back-to-back national titles, played in just eight games last season after suffering a season-ending pec injury.
If Smith is not available, another interesting prospect is Iowa State's Will McDonald IV. An experienced college player, McDonald posted consecutive double-digit sack seasons in 2020-21. His numbers dipped last year, but that was likely due to playing in various spots on the defensive line.
As far as versatility is concerned, Ohio State's Zach Harrison would be an asset to the Bears' defensive front. Along with recording 11 sacks for the Buckeyes, Harrison was effective in pass defense and was also a turnover magnet during his final season in Columbus.