Reporter NFC North
The Chicago Bears may be holding the 2023 NFL Draft hostage.
As holders of the No. 1 overall pick, they control the board and all the dominoes that go with it. The fate of other teams is what the Bears do at the top of the draft. Do they take the consensus best quarterback in this class in former Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and give up any progress made by their current quarterback, Justin Fields?
Or do they take advantage of not needing a quarterback while filling such a valuable position and take advantage of any number of trade partners willing to get a lot of picks and surround Fields with the talent he needs to succeed?
I think you probably know which camp I’m in.
[Should Bears trade No. 1 draft pick or swap Justin Fields for Bryce Young?]
If the Bears were to make the final pick, and NFL general managers from around the league came calling, who sets Chicago up best with the offer they could make? Let’s take a look, shall we?
1. Indianapolis Colts
A trade up to No. 4 with the Colts, whose owner Jim Irsay may have already tipped his hand, is by far the most popular scenario floating around social media for the Bears. And while this list isn’t based on popularity, I think this option is popular for a reason. That scenario would likely give Chicago the best record of considerable upside while also securing a franchise-changing prospect.
Even though it’s only three spots, I figured the Bears could push for a future first-round pick in 2024 along with a second- or third-round pick this year and a Day 2 or 3 pick next. Keep in mind that the Colts have the 35th overall pick in this year’s draft, which would give the Bears what they lost by trading for Chase Claypool during the season. It would also give them four top-100 picks this season, while giving them two first-round (likely top-20) picks in 2024.
Not to mention, just moving down three spots means you’d get all that capital while taking Georgia’s Jalen Carter or Alabama’s Will Anderson, widely considered the top two defensive prospects in this draft class. The Bears need a ton of help along the defensive line, ensuring either player fills a crucial need. You can never have too many elite pass rushers (the Bears don’t even have one right now) and they should push a three-tech inside their front to turn their defense into the mold of the head coach Matt Eberflus.
Open bones for the No. 1 pick trade?
Colin Cowherd explains that Chicago should move up from the No. 1 pick and predicts whether or not Justin Fields will go away.
2. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers don’t pick until No. 9 and are desperate (once again) for a quarterback. There’s an argument to be made that Carolina would make more sense even because a deal will bring the most capital to the Bears without taking them out of the top 10. With the way quarterbacks are going, there could be four quarterbacks taken before Chicago picks nine, leaving some excellent options still on the table. Yes, I am including Anthony Richardson in those four quarterbacks. Of the scouts and coaches I’ve talked to, many believe he won’t go out of the top 10 and could very well slip into the top five. That means there would only be four other non-quarterbacks taken before the Bears take their swing at No. 9. Sure, Will Anderson and Jalen Carter might be gone, but think Tyree Wilson or Paris Johnson Jr.
There are many opinions around the league that Wilson and Anderson are more interchangeable than we all collectively think. The Bears also need to shore up nearly every position along the offensive line. They have depth, they need starters, and Johnson is one of the best tackles in this class. He should be available at nine, and even if he isn’t, Chicago would only have to pull out of the backyard to get Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski.
The difference between the carry you would get from the Colts and the Panthers will be significant. It’s likely to manifest itself in more Day 2 selections, but there are plenty of starters as well. That would bring the pitching to a 2024 first, plus a couple of later-round picks (they already have two fifth-rounders in 2024) and then Day 2 picks immediately. Carolina has two second-round picks this year; you’re likely to ask for both, and they also have two fourth-round picks. Grabbing one or both would be easy. A combination of these picks would be a win for Chicago. The Bears can’t afford to be super picky and if you think of this as a multi-year process (which you should), the focus should be on getting as much capital as possible. This is the way to do it.
3. Houston Texans
This will obviously give the lowest performance, although not negligible. Consider the fact that the Bears traded up one spot in the 2017 draft to get Mitch Trubisky that included a trade of picks, two third-round picks (one in 2017, one in 2018) and a fourth-round pick in 2017. And that’s to go from the third to the second. The Bears could still get valuable capital to use immediately in a trade like this.
But more than equity, it offers another, potentially ideal possibility: the double-down trade.
This of course depends on a willing partner. But if the Bears could get everything they could out of the Texans and then still pull off the trade with the Colts or even the Panthers, they could get an absolute treasure trove of picks and prospects this year and next. The potential spanner? The Arizona Cardinals sitting at No. 3 overall.
The Cardinals won’t take a quarterback. they can’t They have invested too much in Kyler Murray and the new regime is stuck with him. They know it. The other teams know it. So there’s an opportunity for another quarterback-needy team. Let’s say the Texans move up one spot to first overall and the Bears are now at 2. The Cardinals are at three. The next team in need of a quarterback isn’t until No. 4 with the Colts, so teams don’t have much incentive to move up to the two spot if they can get what they need to move up to the three spot. It’s a wild-card scenario at best, which is why it’s on this list after the Colts and Panthers.
But if they could. If teams don’t want to take chances and want to get to that second spot to secure their guy, the Bears would absolutely clean up.
Will Justin Fields’ bones be moved?
FOX Sports NFC North reporter Carmen Vitali rates the chances of the Bears drafting a quarterback with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders got rid of Derek Carr and don’t exactly have a plan B. They’ve also reportedly “closed the door” on a trade for veteran Aaron Rodgers, which lends itself to the possibility of them rolling the dice in the draft .
If that’s the case, sitting at #7 won’t do. Not even for Anthony Richardson. I had an NFC scout tell me he could see Richardson in the top five. To be sure, if you want Richardson, or Bryce Young or CJ Stroud or Will Levis, you’re probably going to have to part with significant capital for those guarantees. And if you’re going to part with major capital, you might as well go all the way to the top and get your best.
Vegas has nine picks in the 2023 draft as it stands. A pick trade would still cost you a future first, but you could part with two Day 3 picks in the blink of an eye. Throw away your second round pick at No. 38 overall and maybe a second round pick next year? Well, now you’re talking.
And if those four aforementioned quarterbacks go in the top five or six, the Bears could still end up with Anderson or Carter given that there would only be two quarterbacks left untaken before Chicago was on the clock. It would only take one non-quarterback needy team to believe in anyone other than these two. Just wait. Did I just say this is the best case scenario for the bears?
5. Seattle Seahawks
Geno Smith will be a free agent and the Seahawks have Drew Lock waiting in the wings if Smith ends up being too expensive. They are by no means a lock to want to draft a quarterback, let alone with significant capital to do so. But if they did, this would be an excellent option for the Bears. Maybe they’d give up another Day 2 pick, if they were lucky, to drop an extra five spots from the Colts’ stage, though they could probably snag one of their best defensive players.
The problem with this scenario is that it’s much more of a question mark.
Carmen Vitali covers the NFC North for FOX Sports. Carmen had previous stops with The Draft Network and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. She spent six seasons with the Bucs, including 2020, adding the title of Super Bowl champion (and boat parade participant) to her resume. You can follow Carmen on Twitter at @CarmieV.
FOX Sports Top Stories:
Get more from the National Football League Follow your favorites for information on games, news and more