The best friend of any young quarterback is a blue-chip left tackle. For Chicago Bears quarterback Justin Fields, his starting left tackle is trending to be rookie fifth-round pick, Braxton Jones, in 2022.
Perhaps, Jones (Southern Utah) will be the steal of the 2022 NFL Draft. Maybe he emerges as a decade-long starter who becomes general manager Ryan Poles’ greatest draft hit. But there’s a chance he’ll be nothing more than a barely average starter, which will force the Chicago Bears back into the left tackle market this offseason.
One way the Bears can upgrade the offensive line is through the 2023 NFL Draft. In the latest 2023 mock draft from The Draft Network, senior draft analyst Joe Marino sends Chicago a quality prospect in Maryland left tackle, Jaelyn Duncan, with the fourth overall pick.
“After studying the top tackles this summer, the one I’m most enamored with is Jaelyn Duncan,” Marino wrote. “I love his blend of size, length, mobility, power, and control. He possesses the highest ceiling of any offensive line prospect I have evaluated for the rising class to this point and would provide a much-needed piece for the Bears’ offensive line to build around.”
Duncan has a chance to be a riser during the 2022 college football season, but he isn’t a sure-thing at this point in the process. Sources tell Bears Talk that Duncan is viewed by league scouts as more of a late first-round pick right now, in part because of his verified weight — 288 pounds. He’ll need to add about 20 pounds before he can be considered a top-10 prospect.
Duncan’s arm length checked in at 33 1/4″ during the spring, too; it’s a number that’s about average for NFL tackles by today’s standards. His size is a bit concerning, but there’s no doubt he has the movement skills usually reserved for guys much smaller than him.
Quality offensive tackles are hard to come by, so anytime a player with a fringe first-round grade like Duncan comes along, he gets pushed up the first round. If he packs on more weight and adds more power to his game in 2023, there’s a chance he does, in fact, become a Chicago Bear next April.