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Emma: How Bears’ 10-man draft class projects for key roles in 2023

11 months agoChris Emma

Bears head coach Matt Eberflus has made it clear that he’s willing to play rookies.

While many coaches around the NFL – if not most – shy away from anointing a young player with playing time, Eberflus and the Bears have a refreshing take on the matter. They don’t get lost in semantics, choose not to create some unnecessary position battle and elect instead to get a rookie accustomed to their respective role.

The Bears will once again be counting on rookies this season, believing their 10-man class from the 2023 NFL Draft can help elevate this team towards greater success. When the offense broke the huddle for the first snap of OTAs back in May, rookie Darnell Wright was lined up as the starting right tackle – a position previously held by a revolving door of veterans.

With training camp around the corner, here is how the Bears’ 10-man draft class projects to contribute as rookies in 2023:

Darnell Wright, right tackle – 1st round, No. 10 overall pick

2023 projection: Day 1 starter

Frankly, it would’ve been very concerning if Wright wasn’t locked in as the starter heading into training camp. The Bears selected Wright in the first round confident in his fit for their future but also firmly believing he would offer a significant upgrade to their offensive line.

Wright was the top player available on the Bears’ draft board, who just so happened to fit the most glaring need for the offense. This pick was a slam dunk at the time as Wright should help quarterback Justin Fields considerably this season.

Gervon Dexter, defensive lineman – 2nd round, No. 53 overall pick

2023 projection: Day 1 starter

The Bears found their potential anchor for the defensive line in their second selection of this draft with Dexter, whom they believe is an excellent scheme fit for Eberflus’ defense. With roles on the defensive line far from settled, Dexter has the opportunity to step in and prove himself as a starter. I believe that he will.

Eberflus sees Dexter working at the nose tackle and 3-technique positions for the defensive line and lauded his hustle and athleticism at 6-foot-5 and 308 pounds.

Tyrique Stevenson, cornerback – 2nd round, No. 56 overall pick

 2023 projection: Day 1 starter

Ever since releasing Kyler Fuller two years ago, the Bears have not truly solidified the cornerback position opposite Jaylon Johnson. They hope to have done that with the second-round selection of Stevenson. Throughout the course of the offseason program, the Bears trusted Stevenson in a starting role and he looked plenty comfortable.

“It seems more like a veteran to me than it does a rookie, which is kind of cool to be able to watch that,” Eberflus said. “And he’s very confident.”

Zacch Pickens, defensive lineman – 3rd round, No. 64 overall pick

2023 projection: Key role player

If Eberflus were pressed to the truth, he would probably admit that the Bears expect more from Dexter as a rookie than Pickens. They selected Pickens with the top pick of the third round believing in his athleticism but also recognizing he’s a raw player, especially against the run.

Pickens will certainly see his strong share of playing time as a rookie this season and will likely be starting in that defensive line rotation at some point. But he’ll have to prove himself as a reliable player as a rookie to latch on as a key starter.

Roschon Johnson, running back – 4th round, No. 115 overall pick

2023 projection: Eventual starter  

The Bears believe in working with a committee at running back to open this season, with the rookie Johnson sharing carries with Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman. But the reality is that if Johnson is every bit the player that the Bears hope they are getting, he will be the lead back at some point this season.

Johnson was the second running back at Texas, working behind the dynamic Bijan Robinson, and he was previously a quarterback. He’s never been that lead running back. The Bears see him stepping into that role over time, perhaps during his rookie campaign.

Tyler Scott, wide receiver – 4th round, No. 133 overall pick

2023 projection: Key role player

Scott boasts blazing speed for the Bears’ offense. But during the offseason program, he proved that there’s much more to his game than just that. Scott looks to be a savvy route runner who can use instincts and athleticism to beat defenders. 

The Bears believe they are well situated at wide receiver with DJ Moore, Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool as the leading threesome. Scott should also factor into the offense for a key role as a rookie.

Noah Sewell, linebacker – 5th round, No. 148 overall pick

 2023 projection: Reserve/special teams

A prized high school prospect, Sewell was once believed to be going into the NFL with top potential. He instead fell to the fifth round after struggling at times in college. He landed with the Bears, who are set well at linebacker with Tremaine Edmunds, T.J. Edwards and Jack Sanborn at the three starting positions.

Sewell will get the opportunity to develop behind the scenes and grow as a player in the NFL, all while being that next man up on the depth chart and working into special teams.

Terrell Smith, cornerback – 5th round, No. 165 overall pick

2023 projection: Reserve/special teams

Bears co-director of player personnel Trey Koziol said that the team’s scouting brass took note of the “steady ascent” that Smith made over his five years with the Golden Gophers program. There’s more growth needed as he steps into the NFL, but this was a worthwhile draft investment.

Travis Bell, defensive lineman – 7th round, No. 218 overall pick

2023 projection: Reserve

The Bears have praised Bell’s work ethic, having recognized his journey as the first selection ever from Kennesaw State – and a player who operated a full-time job with a medical supplies company as he played college football. General manager Ryan Poles said there’s “something different” about this guy, so he shouldn’t be counted out for anything with the Bears.

Kendall Williamson, safety – 7th round, No. 258 overall pick

2023 projection: Reserve

The penultimate selection in this NFL Draft, Williamson was a five-year player at Stanford who will get the opportunity to compete for a reserve role. Last season, seventh-round safety pick Elijah Hicks played in 15 games and started a pair – hope for Williamson as he works as a rookie.

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