After finishing the 2022 season with a 3-14 record, including losing their final 10 games, the Chicago Bears own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
This is the first time in the Super Bowl era, and the first time since 1947, that the Bears have had the first pick in the draft.
Chicago is a team full of holes, and GM Ryan Poles has a plethora of options on what to do to kickoff the draft. The Bears are officially on the clock, and these are the three most ideal ways they can go with the first overall pick.
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Chicago trading back in the draft makes the most sense. They are a team in a complete rebuild and need all of the draft compensation they can get their hands on. Eight draft picks is a solid number to have, but after trading what turned out to be the No. 32 pick to the Steelers for Chase Claypool, only three of those eight picks are in the top 100.
A team like the Houston Texans would give multiple picks to move up from No. 2 to prevent another quarterback-needy team from doing so. They hold the No. 12 pick, as well, so packaging those two picks together, or trading the second overall pick and the No. 33 pick as the main compensation would be perfect for the Bears. They would only be moving back one spot, while gaining multiple picks in the process. Any scenario where the Bears end up with an additional first-round pick or an early second-round pick is a huge win.
Draft Will Anderson
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The junior edge rusher from Alabama is the consensus top player in the 2023 draft class. The 2021 Nagurski Award winner finished 2022 with 17 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. In 2021, he led the FBS in tackles for loss (34.5) and sacks (17.5).
After trading Robert Quinn to the Philadelphia Eagles at the trade deadline, the Bears are without a solidified edge rusher. If the likes of Nick Bosa and T.J. Watt have proven anything, it’s that an elite edge rusher can change the course of a team. The Bears have other needs that can be addressed later on in the draft – there is always good value at skill positions in the mid-rounds. If Chicago does decide to stay put at No. 1, taking Anderson is a no-brainer.
Draft a quarterback
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Now before you start yelling at your screen and get your fingers going on Twitter, just listen. This isn’t to say the Bears should draft a quarterback. However, there are a few important factors to take into consideration when evaluating the possibility of a quarterback being the pick. For starters, the current administration of Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus did not draft Justin Fields. If they decide he isn’t the guy they want going forward, they will absolutely do their due diligence on the likes of Bryce Young, Will Levis, and C.J. Stroud.
The other factor to consider is that Fields was a very inconsistent thrower of the football. He finished the 2022 season ranking 25th in EPA+CPOE (Expected Points Added + Completion Percentage Over Expected), and 22nd in EPA per play. Fields was also 28th in the league in CPOE. Overall, Fields finished 26th in passing yards and 17th in QBR with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions through the air in 15 games.
This isn’t to say that Fields is a bad player – clearly he is not. However, he needs to eliminate games like going 7-of-21 against the Lions, and make vast improvements this offseason as a pocket passer. We saw several examples of legitimately great throws from Fields, specifically against the New England Patriots. He needs to do so on a more reliable, and consistent basis, though. This doesn’t mean he has to take a leap the length of Jalen Hurts, but there needs to be visible improvement from a pure quarterback perspective.
Is it likely that the Bears take a quarterback? Most would say no. Nevertheless, it isn’t a complete impossibility.