The Chicago Bears selected Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright with the No. 10 overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, giving quarterback Justin Fields more protection after trading back one spot with Philadelphia.
The Bears clearly had no intention of drafting Jalen Carter and allowed the Eagles to switch spots so they could take Georgia's star defensive tackle. Chicago also got a fourth-round pick in 2024.
The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Wright was the second offensive lineman drafted, with Ohio State's Paris Johnson Jr. going to the Arizona Cardinals at No. 6. The Tennessee Titans took Northwestern's Peter Skoronski with the 11th pick.
Wright played a big role in Tennessee going 11-2 and finishing sixth in the final AP poll. He delivered a memorable performance in containing Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. in a 52-49 win over the Crimson Tide, and was first-team, All-SEC as a right tackle last season. He played left tackle in 2021.
The Bears finished with the worst record in the league and set a franchise mark for losses while going 3-14 in their first season under Poles and coach Matt Eberflus. But their frustrated fans are feeling at least a little more optimistic after some big offseason moves.
The Bears hired Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren as their new president and closed on a 326-acre tract of land in suburban Arlington Heights where they hope to build an enclosed stadium.
Poles pulled off a blockbuster trade for a play-making receiver in March when he acquired DJ Moore from the quarterback-needing Carolina Panthers. The Bears moved down eight spots and also got a haul of selections in return; Carolina took Alabama's Bryce Young at No. 1.
Wright is the first offensive lineman drafted by Chicago in the first round since Kyle Long in 2013. He is also Poles' first opening-round pick. The Bears did not have one in 2022, after former GM Ryan Pace dealt it to the New York Giants the previous year to move up for quarterback Justin Fields.
Chicago's two most prominent additions in free agency were at linebacker, where they signed Buffalo two-time Pro Bowler Tremaine Edmunds (four years, $72 million, $50 million guaranteed) and former Eagle T.J. Edwards (three years, $19.5 million, $12 million guaranteed).
But they still had plenty of issues to address in the draft, including an edge rusher to boost a pass rush that finished with a league-low 20 sacks as well as a disruptor on the interior of the defensive line. They also needed to beef up the blocking to protect Fields, after he was sacked 55 times and tied Denver's Russell Wilson for most in the NFL.
The Bears came into the draft with 10 picks, including two second-rounders at 53 and 61 and the first pick of the third at No. 64. They also had two picks each in the fourth (103, 133), fifth (136, 148) and seventh (218, 258) rounds.
The Green Bay Packers’ lack of pass-rushing depth was apparent when they struggled to get to opposing quarterbacks after Rashan Gary tore his anterior cruciate ligament last November.
They are confident Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness can help change that.
Rather than getting a pass catcher for new starting quarterback Jordan Love in the opening round, the Packers selected Van Ness with the 13th overall pick in the NFL draft Thursday night. Van Ness was in Wisconsin when he got the news while watching the draft from Fontana, where his parents have a home.
Green Bay began the week with the No. 15 overall pick in the draft, but they moved up two spots as part of the blockbuster trade that sent four-time MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets.
That trade also brought the Packers a second-round selection (No. 42 overall) and sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, plus a conditional 2024 second-round pick that could become a first-rounder if Rodgers plays 65% of the Jets’ snaps this season. The Packers are sending a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft to the Jets.
Green Bay's pass-rushing ability took a hit late last season without Gary, whose status for the start of the upcoming season remains uncertain. Gary had six sacks in nine games, Preston Smith had a team-high 8 ½ sacks and nobody else had more than four last season.
Van Ness showed his explosiveness by getting a combined 13 1/2 sacks and 20 tackles for loss in two seasons at Iowa. Van Ness did all that without starting a single game for the Hawkeyes.
Van Ness’ versatility intrigued the Packers since he played both tackle and end for Iowa. Gutekunst said the Packers could use him as an edge rusher while also occasionally having him work inside.
After going 8-9 and missing the playoffs last season to end a string of three straight playoff appearances, the Packers are entering a new post-Rodgers era with Love as their starting quarterback.
Love could use some more weapons.
Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are the only Packers wideouts under contract who had at least 100 yards receiving in 2022. Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis, the top tight ends under contract, had a combined 17 catches for 140 yards.
But it shouldn't come as a surprise the Packers addressed defense instead in the first round.
Green Bay hasn’t selected a wide receiver in the first round since taking Florida State’s Javon Walker 20th overall in 2002 and hasn’t used a first-round pick on a tight end since selecting Miami’s Bubba Franks at No. 14 in 2000.
The last offensive player Green Bay drafted in the first round was Love himself, who went 26th overall in 2020 when the Packers traded up four spots to get him. He was the first offensive player the Packers had taken in the opening round since selecting Mississippi State tackle Derek Sherrod at No. 32 overall in 2011.
The Packers have three of the top 45 overall selections in the draft, giving them plenty of opportunities to boost a roster that has more holes than usual since salary-cap issues prevented them from being very active on the free-agent market.