COLUMN: Bears should draft Johnson Jr. or Carter at ninth

By Eddie Miller, Sports Reporter

DeKALB – With the 2023 NFL Draft a few weeks away, general manager Ryan Poles and the Chicago Bears currently hold the ninth overall pick. At the start of the NFL offseason, Chicago held the first overall pick before trading it to the Carolina Panthers.

The Bears traded the first pick for the ninth and 61st overall picks this year, a first round pick in 2024, a second round pick in 2025 along with veteran wide receiver D. J. Moore. 

Although the addition of Moore gives quarterback Justin Fields much-needed help, there are still several holes on the Bears’ roster. With the defensive and offensive line being the most significant need for the Bears, playmakers like Ohio State University offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr. and University of Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter should be at the top of the Bears’ draft board. 


Johnson Jr. is widely considered one of – if not – the best offensive lineman in this year’s draft, the second offensive tackle in NFL Analyst Daniel Jeremiah’s recent draft rankings. Playing in 18 games at Ohio State and starting 15 of them, Johnson Jr. is 6-foot-6, 311 pounds and runs a 5.05-second 40-yard dash. With a 7-foot wingspan, Johnson Jr. has all the physical traits and athleticism to become a starting left tackle in the NFL.

Chicago’s shaky offensive line play has led to Fields being sacked 55 times last season – the third most in the league according to StatMuse. The Bears’ current starting left tackle, Braxton Jones, gave up seven sacks and had 12 penalties in the 2022-23 season. The addition of Johnson Jr. gives the Bears an instant upgrade and an immediate impact at tackle. 

Being able to play both interior and exterior offensive line, a lot of Johnson Jr.’s value comes with his versatility. In his time as a Buckeye, Johnson Jr. was the anchor of an offensive line that was sixth in the NCAA in tackles for loss, giving up only 37. Johnson Jr. rounded out his career with two Ohio State Scholar-Athlete awards and was selected to the All Big-Ten Second Team


At the start of the NFL offseason, Carter was viewed as the first overall pick by Jeremiah in a mock draft from January. After involvement in a fatal car crash in February, there is an increasing chance that Carter will fall in the draft and be available at the ninth pick. 

Despite character concerns, Carter may be the best prospect in the entire draft. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound defensive tackle totaled 32 tackles and 31 quarterback hurries in his three years at Georgia. With three sacks and two forced fumbles, Carter was named to the Associated Press and Coaches All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) first team in 2022.

After trading defensive end Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith in October 2022, the Bears’ defense has just as many holes as the offense. The two starting defensive tackles for the Bears – Justin Jones and Andrew Billings – combined for only four sacks with no forced fumbles last year. The addition of Carter would make an immediate impact on the Bears’ shaky defense. 

The first day of the NFL draft is at 7 p.m. on April 27 in Kansas City, Mo. Poles and the Bears will make their first of ten draft picks with the ninth overall pick.