The Chicago Bears lost starting David Montgomery in free agency to their NFC North arch-rival Detroit Lions on Tuesday. Bears general manager Ryan Poles has a new-found hole at a position he must address. One potential outcome includes the Bears drafting elite running back prospect Bijan Robinson in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Bears recently traded the No. 1 overall selection to the Carolina Panthers in a blockbuster deal that sent D.J. Moore and multiple picks back to Chicago. Moving down to ninth overall is prime Robinson territory. Despite the fit and need lining up, the Bears should bypass an opportunity to draft Robinson. Poles has larger holes to address.
If the Bears kept the No. 1 overall pick, which was never going to happen, many expected them to draft Alabama’s Will Anderson Jr. Poles ushered in the future upon becoming Chicago’s decision-maker by quickly parting ways with aging defensive studs like Khalil Mack and Robert Quinn.
The Bears recorded a league-low 20.0 sacks throughout 17 regular-season contests in 2022. That’s not going to cut it, and little has been achieved in free agency to upgrade the situation. Poles added a solid rotational rusher in DeMarcus Walker, but Chicago needs more talent on the defensive line. The Bears shouldn’t be targeting a running back with the No. 9 overall selection despite Montgomery’s departure. They should be targeting a defensive difference-maker like Jalen Carter, Myles Murphy, or Tyree Wilson.
Alternatively, the Bears could target an offensive lineman in the top 10. They entered free agency with multiple question marks across the starting five. Signing Nate Davis to man right guard is a start, but more is required. The Bears whiffed on their premier right tackle target, Mike McGlinchey. Responding by drafting one of Broderick Jones, Peter Skoronski, or Paris Johnson Jr. is firmly on the table.
Montgomery’s departure does add a draft need to Chicago’s list. The former Iowa State standout accounted for 3,609 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns throughout his four-year rookie contract. The Bears can’t move forward with just Khalil Herbert, Trestan Ebner, and Travis Homer. But Herbert has shown enough in limited opportunities as a bellcow to delay drafting a running back until the third or fourth round at the very earliest. This draft is blossoming with mid-round ball-carriers. Kendre Miller, Zach Charbonnet, Chase Brown, and Zach Evans should be among Chicago’s options.
It’ll be interesting to monitor how Poles utilizes the ninth overall selection. There’s an excellent chance that Robinson will be the best player available when Chicago comes on the clock—Robinson is a top-three overall talent in the 2023 NFL Draft. If Poles theoretically took a best-player-available approach, that choice would almost certainly be Robinson.
It’s been difficult to pinpoint a logical draft fit for Robinson. Depending on how the Bears view Montgomery’s departure, a new potential suitor may have emerged. The Bears should stick to their original draft plan, however. Landing a sack artist or a high-quality offensive lineman remains of the utmost importance.
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