The Chicago Bears defensive unit is flat out bad. While this is to be expected, as we dealt all our talent on that side of the ball, it’s still frustrating to see the defense drag its feet while the offense begins to take off.
The defense has allowed a league high 38.3 points through its last 3 games. That’s an unacceptable stat, regardless of the talent available on the roster.
It’s becoming increasingly more likely that the Bears continue their trend of focusing heavily on defense within the draft. With the Bears projected to draft anywhere from 3 to 14, let’s take a look at some of the best defensive prospects the Bears can target in the first round.
Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia
Perhaps the fan favorite for the Bears to draft, Jalen Carter is an absolute monster on the defensive line. Standing at a whopping 6”3’, 300 pounds, Carter has the pure strength and size to just overpower offenses at the line.
Because of his position, his numbers are not eye popping — however, they don’t need to be. Carter is disruptive, who is used to taking on double teams on a snap to snap basis. Offenses game planning around how they’ll stop Carter is great for the rest of the defense, and it’s shown this year at Georgia. Before his injury, Georgia EDGE prospect Nolan Smith was averaging a sack a game. Carter is a game changer in every aspect of the word.
Carter is like Jordan Davis with stamina. Carter can stay out there possessions at a time and be a force for the whole game. His biggest strength that will translate to the NFL is the ability to stuff the run, as his ability to shed blocks has been second to none since his breakout last season. This will fare well for the Bears, who are the worst defense in the league when defending the run. If he’s available when the Bears are on the clock, there should be no questions asked.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
Perhaps the most versatile player in the upcoming draft is linebacker Trenton Simpson out of Clemson. While he is best suited and most comfortable taking snaps at outside linebacker, Simpson plays all over the field. He is reminiscent of former Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons, in terms of how many different positions they play on the field. Simpson can be found playing back at safety, playing the EDGE, and even sometimes covering slot receivers in man. On the season, Simpson has 57 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and 3 passes defended, in limited action with an injury.
A reason why he’s able to do all of this is because of his athletic frame. He’s 6”3’, 240 with a sub 4.40 time. His freak athleticism fits perfectly in the Bears defensive scheme that relies on off ball linebackers to make plays in space. If trading back is within the realm of possibility, a mid to late first round pick would be perfectly in range for a player of Simpson’s caliber.
Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama
Will Anderson is perhaps the most naturally gifted athlete in college football. A long and strong rusher, Anderson is 6”4’ and 243 pounds who can run a 4.56 40 yard dash.
Anderson’s 2021-2022 season was one of the most dominating single seasons by a defender in recent memory. His 17.5 sacks, 101 tackles, and 33.5 TFL’s netted him a Bronko Nagurski Trophy for the nation’s best defender, and made him a finalist for the Heisman. This year, Anderson is tied for 9th in the nation with 8 sacks.
Anderson would be a starter day 1, as the Bears pass rush has been incredibly mediocre. The defense currently does not generate enough pressure in the pass rush, as they rank in the bottom of the league in sacks. A lengthy, strong, and quick rusher in Anderson would immediately help the defense. The only question is if a player like Anderson will even still be available by the time the Bears make their selection.
Kelee Ringo, DB, Georgia
The hero of the 2022 National Championship Game is having another fantastic season, building off his strong redshirt freshman campaign. A strong and compact corner, he sits at 6”2’ and weighs in at 205 pounds. He has great length that makes him effective against X receivers. As an SEC corner, he consistently plays against the toughest receiver competition in the country and would make the transition well to the NFL. With sneaky speed, he’s a ball threat and already has 3 interceptions in his college career.
He would immediately project as a starter in the Bears cornerback room, which has not had the best year. The inconsistent play of Jaylon Johnson as well as the struggles of Kindle Vildor and Kyler Gordon has created some concern about their ability to hang with modern offenses. Ringo would provide insurance to a room that needs it. Many would label the secondary as less of a need, but don’t count out Ryan Poles on taking Ringo, a corner that fits his build of an ideal defender.
Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech
Tyree Wilson is a name everybody needs to be familiar with. The EDGE out of Texas Tech is a towering presence at 6”6’ and 275 pounds. You can teach technique, but you can’t teach size. He has already almost doubled his tackle total from last year and has matched his sack total. An under the radar guy up until recently, Wilson has played college ball at both Tech and Texas A&M. Matched up against some top offensive lineman in the country, Wilson has fared well. He has 61 total tackles, 7 sacks, and a forced fumble.
The only concern for Wilson is that the Bears are not exactly a scheme fit, as Matt Eberflus runs a 4-3, and Wilson is having his best season under new head coach Joey McGuire, who runs a 3-4. Still, he has shown vast improvement from recent seasons and should continue to grow as a pure rusher. A massive EDGE prospect would greatly help the Bears pass rush.
At the end of the day, nobody knows the direction in which the Bears will go when it’s their turn to pick in the draft. The offense still has some glaring issues that need to be addressed, and perhaps that’s the direction Ryan Poles will prefer to go. However, there are real game changers on the defensive side of the ball that will be there when the Bears are ready to draft.