Updated: Jun 28
When the Chicago Bears traded the first overall selection to the Carolina Panthers, they cemented Justin Fields as their quarterback of the future. The team also added picks nine and 61 in 2023, Carolina’s first-round pick next year, their second in 2025, and wide receiver D.J. Moore.
The Bears would eventually trade down one spot on draft night, swapping positions with the Philadelphia Eagles and picking up an additional fourth-rounder in 2024. In the end, Chicago selected offensive tackle Darnell Wright out of Tennessee.
With the No. 10 overall pick in the 2023 @NFLDraft, the @ChicagoBears select Darnell Wright!@NewEraCap | #DaBears 📺: 2023 #NFLDraft on NFLN/ESPN/ABC 📱: Stream on NFL+ https://t.co/D3EqkrKdIw pic.twitter.com/zHRS8n3EST — NFL (@NFL) April 28, 2023
With the first round in the books — here are three post-draft takeaways on the Bears’ selection.
Keeping your franchise quarterback safe should be a top priority for NFL teams. That wasn’t the case last season in Chicago. Justin Fields got sacked 55 times, tied with Russell Wilson for most in the NFL.
Adding Wright to the mix should help to reduce pressure on the quarterback. The 21-year-old received a pass-blocking grade of 80.2 last season from Pro Football Focus. He also allowed zero sacks.
Spotrac estimates Wight’s contract to be worth over $20.9 million fully guaranteed, with an expected cap hit this season of $3.8 million. Wright’s four-year rookie contract makes him the foundation of what should be an improved offensive line.
Happy To Be A Bear
After NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell called his name, the TV broadcast cut to Wright celebrating at home with family and friends, wearing a Bears hat and grinning ear-to-ear. The smile remained during his post-draft press conference.
“If I tried to describe it, I don’t even know what I’d say,” Wright said when questioned about getting the call from the Bears on draft night. “I’m really happy.”
Wright displayed confidence when asked if he was surprised to be taken tenth overall. “I knew as far as my talent, and what I could do, I knew I could go this high,” he said. “It took the right team to just see that, the right coaches that know what they’re looking at. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I can be.”
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The First Time In Ten Years
It’s been a decade since the Bears last used a first-round pick on an offensive lineman, selecting Oregon tackle Kyle Long 20th overall in 2013.
Long went on to play 77 games in seven seasons with the Bears. He made the Pro Bowl in all of his first three years. The Virginia native was almost named second-team all-pro in 2014.
The last offensive lineman to go to the Pro Bowl for Chicago was Charles Leno in 2018. Leno was a seventh-round pick by the Bears in 2014. He played over 6,100 snaps in 102 games for Chicago before heading to Washington in 2021. In his Pro Bowl season, Leno allowed five sacks on 1,067 snaps.
If Wright can make the Pro Bowl in his rookie season, the Bears would be more than pleased.
When Kansas City lost Super Bowl LV to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chiefs’ offensive line allowed three sacks and ten quarterback hits. They spent the next offseason strengthening their line. Two years later, Mahomes was lifting his second Lombardi Trophy. The moral of the story, a poor offensive line can be the downfall of any football team.
Justin Fields has shown flashes of excellence during his first two seasons in Chicago. The additions of D.J. Moore and Darnell Wright are the beginning of a talented roster the Bears are attempting to build around him. In an NFC North that is wide open, don’t be surprised if Chicago is in the mix late into the season.