The Chicago Bears Got The First Pick In the NFL Draft. Now What?

By securing defeat in their final regular season game, along with some absolute god tier coaching by now former Houston Texans coach Lovie Smith, the Chicago Bears hold all of the proverbial chips in the NFL off-season, as they now have the first pick in the NFL draft to go along with 100+ million dollars in free agent money.

How quickly can a team turn around by having the number one pick and the most cap space going into the off-season? Well, to find out, we have to go all the way back to…last off-season. The Jacksonville Jaguars were in the exact same position last season. An exciting, young quarterback from the 2021 draft? Check. Top pick in a draft where they don’t need to draft a quarterback? Check. Over 100 million in cap space? Check. In one off-season, the Jaguars went from having the first pick in the draft to winning the AFC South and playing a home game in round one of the playoffs.

Is there a path for the Bears to create the same upward trajectory? Maybe. They play in an actual NFL division, whereas the Jaguars play in the Sun Belt Conference, and have gotten most of their wins against afterthoughts like New Mexico State and the Indianapolis Colts. The Minnesota Vikings are inevitably going to fall off of a cliff next year into the purifying waters of Lake Minnetonka. The Packers are in absolute terrible shape in terms of cap space and their quarterback’s head being completely stuck up Joe Rogan’s ass. The Lions are good. Potentially very good. But they are coached by a sentient pair of Zubaz pants.

A series of smart moves could put the Bears directly back into contention in the NFC North, and the biggest of those moves will be what they do with the first pick in the draft. Let’s take a look at what options they have.

Draft the Best Non-Quarterback at Number One

If the Bears choose to hang onto the pick and make a move, the biggest names popping up right now are Alabama defensive end Will Anderson and Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter. It’s obviously early in the process and there will be risers that are going to have great combines and pro days that will insert themselves into the conversation. Keep an eye on Northwestern offensive lineman Peter Skoronski, currently Pro Football Focus’ 7th ranked prospect. A good combine could have him in conversation for the Bears at 1. He was the best pass blocking tackle in college last year, even though the team he played for was ass.

He also fills a massive need for the Bears, whose offensive line were roughly as effective as a condom filled with fire ants. Teven Jenkins looks like he will be an effective guard or swing tackle, but hasn’t shown any great ability to stay on the field. Cody Whitehair and Lucas Patrick are the second and fourth highest paid players on the team even though, as noted earlier, they were ass.

Orlando Brown Jr. figures to be one of the top free agents this off-season after playing 2022 on the franchise tag for the Super Bowl contender Kansas City Chiefs. He is the type of guy who you wouldn’t mind giving 20 million per season from your salary cap cache to mitigate the need to draft an offensive lineman at one. More on Skoronski in a minute, though.

Many people who want to stay at one are going to clamor for Will Anderson, who is at his best defending the run. But is run defense the biggest issue with the Bears? Yes. In fact, they gave up the second most rushing yards this season. But they also had the tenth best run defending edge rushers in the NFL last year? Can you name who it is? Of course not, but it’s Trevis Gipson. The issues for the Bears are on the interior (Justin Jones wasn’t really money well spent last off-season) and at linebacker, where you can only feel confident that undrafted free agent Jack Sanborn will be on this team when they are ready to be contenders again.

This kind of underlies the problem with taking someone with the first pick: there are too many holes that need to be filled that drafting one person at a glamour position isn’t going to save this team. This is often the pitfall of a move like this. Having Will Anderson is nice. But he isn’t going to make your team a contender. He isn’t a franchise altering player. They aren’t any non-quarterback franchise altering players in this draft. A Myles Garrett type player isn’t near the top of the draft board. Teams drafting first overall often need more than one thing, and needing one thing is what you need to justify drafting that type of player.

In fact, over the years, the number one pick has often led to more pitfalls than payoff when it comes to non-skill position players. I’m going to put aside Travon Walker, who was drafted first last year because it’s too incomplete of a grade to make judgement. The last defensive players to go first in the draft? Myles Garrett in 2017, Jadaveon Clowney in 2014, and Mario Williams in 2006. All three were/are good players. All made multiple Pro Bowls. Neither helped their team that they were drafted by to get to the Super Bowl. Garrett was a Pro Bowler for the 2020 Browns to team that won one playoff game. It’s also the only time they have made the playoffs in Garrett’s tenure. Clowney won one playoff game during his time with the Texans. As for Mario Williams, forgive me if you have heard this before, but he won one game during his time on the Texans.

The other option staying at one is…

The Bears Draft a Quarterback At One

I preface this by saying that I respect Hub Arkush quite a bit and always appreciate his measured takes. Additionally, it’s really inspiring what he went through and was able to recover from and the months of recovery and hard work he put in. Now with all of that said he said one of the dumbest possible things on 670 The Score last week, when he said that the Bears might need to think about drafting a quarterback at one and turning Justin Fields into a Taysom Hill type of gadget player.

After the Washington debacle on Thursday Night Football, Justin Fields admitted that he needed to play better. He said that he had to be more decisive and work his progressions better. In the eight games after that, his completion percentage was 66.8%. This season, Tom Brady had a 66.8 completion percentage. Patrick Mahomes had a 67.1 completion percentage. Josh Allen who is most often the person that people compare Justin Fields to, completed 63.3 percent of his passes. We are also aware of his rushing brilliance, especially during that time.

Most people who don’t think Fields can be the quarterback of the future with this team are the type of people who think that quarterbacks can only be one thing, that there is only one style of quarterback that can be successful in the NFL.

Patrick Mahomes is a great running quarterback. Lamar Jackson is a great running quarterback. Cam Newton was a great running quarterback. All three have won the MVP since 2015. Newton also lead his team to the Super Bowl and Mahomes has a Super Bowl win. It’s not outside of the realm of possibility that Fields can get to that level especially if the Bears invest as heavily in their offensive line as the those teams did.

It’s easy to criticize Fields’ play, but he had exactly one wide receiver worth a dam to throw to, and only one tight end worth a damn to throw to. And he rarely had time to find them at the top of their routes because his offensive line stopped opposing defenses with the same efficiency as DC Police trying to stop a bunch of hillbillies from storming the capitol.

You are going to hear a lot of stories in the coming months about general manager Ryan Poles going to see Bryce Young, Will Levis, and CJ Stroud’s Pro Days. I’m willing to bet he is doing this to drive up the value of the top pick, because…

The Bears Trade the Number One Pick

Remember how I said that the Bears have a lot of needs, and drafting a defensive lineman with the first pick will not solve everything? The best way to improve quickly is to have as many draft picks as possible to acquire cheap talent. They already wasted their second round draft pick on Chase Claypool, who seems to just be an absolute horses ass. While the Ravens backsliding at the end of the season helped with the draft positioning of the pick they received for Roquan Smith, they need more picks in the top 100 over the next couple seasons. Here are a few of the trade scenarios out there in the ether.

Houston Texans trade the 2nd and 12th picks for the 1st pick

This basically only works if A: you can convince the Texans you might draft a quarterback, or B: you can convince the Texans another team is about to jump up to the first pick.

The Texans fired their coach and General Manager and most likely pushed them out of the team plane somewhere over Arkansas. This could go one of two ways. Many teams are moving forward with analytics driven executives who understand the value of draft picks and might not want their first move to be a massive overpay to move up one spot in the draft order.

Of course, this is the Texans. Their hatred of math is palpable and they will probably hire some retread candidate that will want to make a big, splashy move to start their tenure. If the Bears are able to get the 2nd overall pick, the 12th overall pick, and the Texans 2024 second round pick, then they need to pull the trigger on the deal.

Indianapolis gives up their first and second round picks each of the next two seasons for the number one pick.

The Colts spent 2020 and 2021 with a great offensive line and above average defense, but a couple beat up has beens at quarterback. For three consecutive seasons, they have tried to slap their proverbial thumb into the dam by having Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan QB their teams. This has absolutely not worked and it’s time for them to actually draft a QB.

Matt Ryan can be cut and owed just 12 million if he is released by mid March. They will owe considerably more if they wait so Ryan is gone. Sam Ehlinger is terrible. Nick Foles is about as serviceable as a used car lot Jeep Wrangler. They need to look to the future.

With the Bears sitting at 1, it gives that franchise the ability to reset and rebuild. The Bears would move to four where they would likely still get whoever they targeted at one.

There is another option, though…

The Bears trade the first pick to the Texans, then trade the second pick to the Colts.

This is a fun thought experiment: what if the Bears can get everything they want? What if the threat of the Bears trading out of the 2nd to a different top ten team that needs a QB like the Raiders, or the possibility of Arizona, with the third pick, trading to a QB needy team? The Bears would move from one to four, gain the 12th pick this year, add a high second round pick this year, and an additional first and two second round pick next year, all to move back three spots.

Odds are likely that every player you would draft at one would be there at four. You can use the 12th pick on a linebacker or wide receiver. If you trust your scouting, then the Bears would snag two of the 12 best players in the draft, and with the Raiders drafting in there, odds are very high they would do something dumb and not take a player on your board, anyway.

There is an absolute dream scenario in play where the Bears could use the four and 12 on the two best offensive lineman in the draft in Skoronski and Paris Johnson out of Ohio State, and build a centerpiece offensive line to protect Fields, and using their salary cap windfall on retaining David Montgomery, extending Darnell Mooney, and sign Daron Payne and Dre’Mont Jones to fix the interior of the defensive line.

The quickest way to relevance is to rebuild through the draft and the Bears have a unique opportunity to leverage where they are into a team that could be battling for a playoff spot as soon as next season.

Or they can draft a massive talent at one. Or they can trade with other teams. That’s the fun thing about the next few months: the justification of the 2022 Bears season.

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