LAKE FOREST — The Bears drafted Zacch Pickens with the No. 64 overall pick in the third round of the 2023 NFL Draft on Friday night. The defensive lineman from South Carolina gives the Bears another versatile interior lineman to go along with fellow rookie Gervon Dexter Sr.

Pickens registered 42 total tackles, three passes defensed and 2.5 sacks last season for the Gamecocks. According to Pro Football Focus, Pickens lined up primarily in the B Gap last season (483 snaps) and 96 times in the A gap.

“And then at 3-61 as we made the turn into third, Zacch Pickens was another guy that we had really close to (Gervon) Dexter and he was still there for us, so another opportunity to add a big interior player who has length, very good athlete,” Ryan Poles said in his Friday press conference. “That’s one space we wanted to get better, we want to be more stout. But at the same time in this defense you’ve got to be able to run, and both those guys can do that. So made some good progress today.”

Since his freshman year at South Carolina, Pickens has seen an increase in his total number of tackles (16, 35, 38, 42). For Pickens, stopping the run is a huge priority for the 6-foot-5, 300-pound defensive lineman.

“My desire to run stop. That’s the only thing I care about,” Pickens said. “I feel like once you stop the run, you can always be able to pass rush. And a lot of people don’t really think about it until it’s too late. I get mad and aggressive about stuff in the run and that’s one thing I know y’all like doing and that’s one thing I’m going to bring. I’m going to bring my juice, bring everything — my happiness, my smile, my everything to the team.”

Pickens and No. 53 overall pick Dexter will give the Bears’ defense two interior defensive linemen to help a unit that struggled immensely to apply pressure on opposing quarterbacks and to stop the run. Poles said he sees both players as being interchangeable, having the ability to play the nose and 3-tech, which just gives the defense more versatility.

As for Pickens, he sees himself being “10 times better” than he was in college, especially since he had such inconsistent coaching throughout his high school and college career. But that gives Pickens optimism of how great he can be in the NFL.

“I can be one of the greatest if I check all my boxes,” Pickens said. “If I do everything right and I know I will, I can be one of the greats. And I’m not holding that back. I’m so for real. If I check all the boxes and when I do check all the boxes, I promise you I’m going to be the best defensive interior tackle. And that’s exactly what I’m going to bring. My best each and every day.”


Nicholas Moreano is the Bears beat reporter for CHGO Bears. He has a master's degree in Communication from DePaul University and obtained his bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa.