With the 10 players they selected in this year's draft, the Bears filled needs, added talent and depth to their roster and moved closer to contending for a championship.
"We've accomplished a lot," said general manager Ryan Poles. "I wanted to get bigger, faster. I wanted to find areas that we needed to get better and put players that can impact the game in those places and get better, and I think we've done that."
The Bears made six picks on the third and final day of the draft Saturday, selecting Texas running back Roschon Johnson (No. 115) and Cincinnati receiver Tyler Scott (133) in the fourth round, Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell (148) and Minnesota cornerback Terell Smith (165) in the fifth round, and Kennesaw State defensive tackle Travis Bell (218) and Stanford safety Kendall Williamson (258) in the seventh round.
Prior to Saturday, the Bears chose Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright (10) in the first round, Florida defensive tackle Gervon Dexter Sr. (53) and Miami cornerback Tyrique Stevenson (56) in the second round, and South Carolina defensive tackle Zacch Pickens (64) in the third round.
"It's a long journey in terms of getting to the top," Poles said. "I don't know if you ever get the perfect roster, but that's what's we chase all the time. But I think we've done a good job taking the proper steps to improve our football team."
“I wanted to find areas that we needed to get better and put players that can impact the game in those places and get better, and I think we’ve done that.” Bears GM Ryan Poles
The Bears kicked off the fourth round Saturday by trading down 12 spots from No. 103, acquiring a fourth-round selection from the Saints. The deal enabled Poles to recoup the fourth-round pick he had dealt to the Jaguars Friday to move up five spots to take Stevenson. It also allowed the Bears to land Johnson, a speedy and powerful runner who rushed for 554 yards and five touchdowns last year while teaming with superstar Bijan Robinson in the Texas backfield.
"This was a guy I was shocked that he was still on the board," Poles said of Johnson. "He is a really good football player that I know is going to be successful in this league in many different ways. And on top of that, probably you could understand from talking to him over that Zoom call, he's an unbelievable human being as well who is going to enhance our culture, enhance our locker room and continue to meet the standards that we've put in place."
"I think [Johnson] increases the competition in the running back room," Poles said. "But the cool thing about it is if you watch Texas tape, he does a lot. He pass-protects really well. That stands out. He's done some quarterback stuff. He came out of high school as a quarterback. So this is going to allow our offensive staff to maybe do some really cool things with him and keep a defense on their toes."
Poles described Scott, a speedy receiver from Cincinnati, as "another player I did not think was going to be around." The 5-11, 185-pounder, who ran a 4.39 in the 40 at his Pro Day, set career highs last season with 54 receptions for 899 yards and nine TDs.
"We add the speed there," Poles said. "Continues to help our receiving corps go vertical, stretch the field, which again matches our quarterback's skill set. And it's going to help us be more explosive, which is important in this game."
"I called our linebackers coach and said he was spoiled because he's got so many good players in his room," Poles said. "That's going to be a really competitive room with a bunch of good guys, and [Sewell] is going to help us in many different ways."
Smith, a safety from Minnesota, was named Honorable Mention all-Big Ten last year after starting all 13 games and compiling 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and five pass breakups.
Poles called Smith "a guy that really stood out to us at the East-West [Shrine] Game," adding: "He can straight fly on top of having size and length, which is beautiful."
Bell, a defensive tackle from Kennesaw State, received the most effusive praise from Poles.
"This is probably one of my favorite human beings," Poles said. "He is a special person. I didn't want him to leave after his 30 visit and he didn't want to leave, either. There's something different about this guy.
"He is passionate about the game. When you talk about having a full-time job during the season and showing up to the locker room in your clothes, with your ID badge and your little knife from his job, that tells you what the game means to him. He's working and football and practice is recess to him, and those are the guys that we want.
"He plays hard. He goes sideline-to-sideline like he said. That is not a lie, and it stands out on tape. I love the intensity that he plays with. And again, that's going to make us better. Coming out of high school, the guy played d-line, running back, linebacker, fullback, everything. You could see that in the way that he moves."
With the 218th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, the Bears select Kennesaw State DL Travis Bell.
Poles feels that Williamson, a safety from Stanford, possesses size, speed and range, and is "going to be really good on special teams as well."
Mix the 10 draft picks with several key veteran additions this offseason and the Bears are in a much better place than they were a year ago when they had limited salary cap space and no first-round pick.
"I think we've taken a pretty big step forward," Poles said. "With that, I think when you add a lot of rookies in the draft process that are going to play for you, they have to learn to be pros as well, so that's going to take a little bit of time. That's why we've tried to do a nice job kind of balancing in the young guys and this past free agent class.
"I think we've taken a big step. There's a ways to go as well, but I think we're making progress."
Darnell Wright, Gervon Dexter Sr., Tyrique Stevenson, Zacch Pickens, Roschon Johnson, Tyler Scott, Noah Sewell, Terell Smith, Travis Bell and Kendall Williamson. See photos of all the new Bears rookies selected in the 2023 NFL Draft.