Ohio State tackle Paris Johnson Jr. plays against Northwestern in November.

Ohio State tackle Paris Johnson Jr. plays against Northwestern in November.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The final Sun-Times mock draft: Whom will the Bears pick?

With the NFL draft nearly upon us — the first round is Thursday in Kansas City — here’s a look at the Sun-Times’ latest mock draft:

With the NFL draft nearly upon us — the first round is Thursday in Kansas City — here’s a look at the Sun-Times’ latest draft:

1. Carolina Panthers — Alabama QB Bryce Young

The Panthers wouldn’t have traded for the Bears’ No. 1 overall pick unless they were already comfortable that Young’s slight build — he’s barely 5-10 and plays at 190 pounds — was no impediment to future stardom. His skillset stands out above the rest of a decent quarterback class.

2. Houston Texans — Ohio State QB C.J. Stroud

Rumors are swirling that the Texans aren’t in love with any quarterback but Young. Color us skeptical; if that were true, wouldn’t they have made a stronger pitch to trade with the Bears? There’s no way the Texans can leave this draft with Davis Mills remaining their starting quarterback.

3. Arizona Cardinals — Alabama EDGE Will Anderson

The Cardinals should trade and hope the run on quarterbacks continues. Absent that, taking Anderson — as close to a can’t-miss prospect as exists in this draft — is the easy move.

4. Indianapolis Colts — Florida QB Anthony Richardson

Never underestimate desperation. Richardson wasn’t a particularly good college quarterback in his only season as a starter — he completed barely half his passes last season — but is an absolute physical marvel. His running ability will help keep him afloat as a rookie.

5. Seattle Seahawks — Georgia DT Jalen Carter

The most talented player in the draft, Carter’s stock fell after he was arrested for racing his car in a January incident that left two people in a different vehicle dead. Appropriately, teams are questioning his maturity on the field and off.

6. Detroit Lions — Texas Tech EDGE Tyree Wilson

Some think Wilson has a higher upside than Anderson; if he’s even close, he’ll thrive when the Lions place him opposite last year’s No. 2 overall pick, edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson.

7. Las Vegas Raiders — Oregon CB Christian Gonzalez

The Raiders need to make their defensive Patrick Mahomes-proof — and Justin Herbert-proof. Gonzalez, whose 6-1 frame and strong man coverage skills fit the modern prototype, is another step in that direction.

8. Atlanta Falcons — Illinois CB Devon Witherspoon

If Gonzalez has the perfect size, Witherspoon has the right temperament — nasty — needed in a league that has become increasingly reliant on tackling outside the hash marks.

9. Bears — Ohio State OT Paris Johnson Jr.

With their choice of offensive tackles, the Bears will have to pick between Johnson and Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, whose short arms have left some draftniks wondering if he’d be better suited at guard. Drafting a star guard this early isn’t as verboten as it used to be — but the Bears need a tackle.

Johnson is less of a sure thing than Skoronski, but he’s two inches taller and can be developed into a Pro Bowl player by offensive line coach Chris Morgan, whom the Bears consider to be one of the league’s best at molding players.

10. Philadelphia Eagles — Texas RB Bijan Robinson

Robinson is the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley. Drafting him here is the ultimate luxury pick — and a perfect fit for the defending NFC champs who just lose Miles Sanders to free agency.

11. Tennessee Titans — Kentucky QB Will Levis

Peyton Manning thinks Levis looks like he was “genetically engineered” to be a pro quarterback. With a big arm and sneaky athleticism, he’ll take over for Ryan Tannehill by the middle of the season.

12. Houston Texans — Ohio State WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba

Two years ago, Smith-Njigba caught an eye-popping 95 balls for 1,606 yards. His quarterback: Stroud, whom the Texans took second.

13. New York Jets — Northwestern OT Peter Skoronski

The Jets are retrofitting their offense around Aaron Rodgers, and the Maine South alum is a Day 1 starter.

14. New England Patriots — Georgia OT Broderick Jones

Jones, who’s started the fewest games of any tackle in this class, will benefit from the Patriot Way.

15. Green Bay Packers — Utah TE Dalton Kincaid

The Packers have someone named Josiah Deguara slotted as their starting tight end. It’s their worst offensive position — except for quarterback. (Sorry, Jordan Love).

16. Washington Commanders — Tennessee OT Darnell Wright

The last of the four-man tackle class in Round 1, Wright is a prototypical road grader on the right side.

17. Pittsburgh Steelers — Penn State CB Joey Porter Jr.

The laws of mock drafts demand this: his dad was a former Steelers star at outside linebacker.

18. Detroit Lions — Clemson DT Bryan Bresee

No team in the NFL gave up more yards last season than the Lions, who have now added two key defensive linemen.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Notre Dame TE Michael Mayer

Mayer is immediately an upgrade over starter Cade Otton, but the Bucs could trade up if one of the quarterbacks fall.

20. Seattle Seahawks — Georgia EDGE Nolan Smith

He’s best-suited for an outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense — which the Seahawks play.

21. Miami Dolphins — Pick forfeited

The Dolphins were stripped of their pick for tampering with quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Sean Payton.

22. Los Angeles Chargers — Boston College WR Zay Flowers

He’ll be an explosive third receiver next to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

23. Baltimore Ravens — USC WR Jordan Addison

The Ravens take another step toward making Lamar Jackson happy.

24. Minnesota Vikings — Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker

Kirk Cousins turns 35 in August and will be a free agent after this season. The Vikings need a backup plan.

25. Jacksonville Jaguars — Iowa edge rusher Lukas Van Ness

The Barrington High School alum is one of the draft’s most intriguing mysteries — he never started a game in college but profiles as a strong inside/outside rusher.

26. New York Giants — Clemson EDGE Myles Murphy

There’s not much projection needed here: he played 38-straight games before opting out of Clemson’s bowl game.

27. Dallas Cowboys —Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs

Yes, this is too early. But Gibbs is going to be a star pairing with Tony Pollard.

28. Buffalo Bills — TCU WR Quentin Johnston

The best landing place possible: with quarterback Josh Allen.

29. Cincinnati Bengals — Alabama safety Brian Branch

The Bengals lost safeties Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates III to free agency.

30. New Orleans Saints — Georgia Tech EDGE Keion White

The former Old Dominion tight end moved to defensive end three years ago and started every game for the Yellow Jackets last year.

31. Philadelphia Eagles — Florida G O’Cyrus Torrence

The Eagles can afford to take another luxury pick in the best player available.

32. Kansas City Chiefs — Ohio State OT Dawand Jones

After losing both starting tackles to free agency — and replacing one with big-money free agent Jawaan Taylor — the Chiefs will try to develop the 6-8, 374-pound goliath.

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