There is going to be quite a bit of orange and navy watching from the sidelines on Wednesday at Ohio State’s pro day.
According to Chicago sports insider Daniel Greenberg, the Chicago Bears are sending a group of eight players and scouts — including general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus — to the Buckeyes’ 2023 prospect showcase on March 22, giving them plenty of eyes to scout potential first- and second-round options for them.
Chicago will also have assistant general manager Ian Cunningham, Midwest area scout Ryan Cavanaugh, offensive coordinator Luke Getsy, defensive coordinator Alan Williams, offensive line coach Chris Morgan and defensive line coach Travis Smith in attendance to see some of Ohio State’s best players in action.
While quarterback C.J. Stroud is going to be one of the main attractions, the Bears are more likely to be interested in offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. and wide receiver Jaxon Smith Njigba, both of whom could be options for them with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft next month. Offensive tackle Dawand Jones, defensive end Zach Harrison and center Luke Wypler could also be prospects of interest for Chicago.
The Bears are currently scheduled to have 10 picks in next month’s draft — which begins on April 27 — with four of their selections inside the top 64.
Bears Need Offensive Tackles More Than Receivers
Right now, the expectation is that Johnson and Jones are both higher up on the Bears’ priority list than Smith-Njigba considering the current needs of their roster. The latter is an impressive pass-catcher — perhaps the best one in the 2023 class — and would be an excellent weapon to add for quarterback Justin Fields given their previous connection playing together for the Buckeyes, but the Bears are sturdier at the receiver position after the acquisition of D.J. Moore and still need a starting right tackle.
For that reason, Jones could be slightly more appealing than Johnson. He has played 1,553 snaps over the past two seasons on the right side and is coming off a season in which he allowed zero sacks, zero quarterback hits and just five quarterback hurries over his 419 pass-blocking snaps. The measurables on him are also off the charts with him checking in at 6-foot-8 and 374 pounds while touting an 89.5-inch wingspan.
An important question for the Bears is whether they believe Jones is worth selecting over one of the top three left tackles — including Johnson, his teammate. There is a good chance Chicago will have Johnson, Jones, Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Georgia’s Broderick Jones all on the clock with the ninth overall pick, but Jones might be a better fit for them in the early second round, if they can trade up above No. 53. Targetting Jones in the second would also free up Pick 9 for a defensive selection.
Chicago Also Gets Early Look at Marvin Harrison Jr.
Smith-Njigba is probably just a pipe dream for the Bears in the 2023 draft, but there is one Buckeyes receiver running routes on Wednesday who could be of massive interest to Poles and the Bears’ long-term roster construction plans: Marvin Harrison Jr.
According to Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated, Harrison — a 2022 All-American wide receiver — will be one of three players catching passes from Stroud during his scripted throwing session in front of NFL scouts at Wednesday’s pro day. While Harrison will only be running routes on air, it will provide teams with an early opportunity to see one of the elite prospects projected for the 2024 draft class up close and in action.
Harrison could legitimately be a first-round target for the Bears in 2024, looking ahead at how some of the chips may fall for them over the next year. If Chicago determines that Fields is their quarterback for the long-term future, they will likely be looking to add another premium weapon to his arsenal in 2024, especially with both Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool both looking for new contracts from the Bears. And with an additional first-round pick in his pocket for 2024, Poles will have quite a bit of flexibility in next year’s draft to potentially move up and get a guy like Harrison.