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After Lovie Smith left a flaming bag of No. 2 pick on the Houston Texans’ porch on his way out the door, the Chicago Bears now own the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. The immediate thought is that with Justin Fields in place at quarterback, the franchise could draft the best non-QB available or trade the Bears No. 1 pick to a more quarterback-needy team. However, Bears general manager Ryan Poles did leave the door slightly ajar and didn’t completely shut down the notion the organization could take a signal-caller No. 1 on April 27.  

Justin Fields had a breakout season

Two years after trading up in the first round for the second time in four years to draft a quarterback in the first round, it looks like the Bears have finally found a franchise QB.

Justin Fields, the No. 11 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft, had a breakout season in 2022. In 15 games, he threw for 2,242 yards with a 60.4% completion rate, 17 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. He also ran the ball 160 times for 1,143 yards, leading the league in yards per attempt (7.1) and scoring eight rushing touchdowns.

It wasn’t a perfect season, but Fields had almost no talent around him on offense.

To become a true franchise QB, Fields needs to get the completion rate up, the interceptions down, and protect the ball more, as he also led the league with 16 fumbles. However, once Matt Eberflus and the Bears coaching staff let Fields run, he became a dynamic signal-caller.

The only problem with the running is that, even at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds, Fields took a lot of punishment. He missed two games and went out or looked banged up in several more.

Now the Bears have a decision to make. They have the No. 1 pick, which means the absolute best QB prospect in the draft (whoever they believe that is) is available to them. Do they make a move for that player or stick with Fields?

Bears general manager Ryan Poles didn’t completely shut down picking a QB

Bears No. 1 pick, Bears general manager, 2023 NFL Draft, Justin Fields, Ryan Poles
Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles | Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Now the Bears have a decision to make. The No. 1 pick doesn’t come around all that often. In fact, Chicago has only had it twice, and that was back in 1947 and 1941. Do they use that to find a franchise QB — something they’ve never truly had — or do they continue to build around Fields?

The man in charge of making that decision is 37-year-old Bears general manager Ryan Poles.

Poles came in last offseason, so he wasn’t the one who drafted Fields. This possibly explains why he did nothing to help his QB in last year’s draft. Yes, he was without a first-round pick because previous Bears GM, Ryan Pace, traded it to move up to draft Fields. However, Poles didn’t take an offensive player until pick No. 71 (WR Velus Jones Jr.) and didn’t take a much-needed offensive lineman until pick No. 168 (OT Braxton Jones).

Now Poles must decide whether to take the best non-QB available, trade back, draft a QB and trade Fields, or take a QB and keep Fields.

The one thing we know right now is that Poles is keeping the door open in regard to drafting a QB at No. 1. While talking to reporters after he got the top pick, Poles did say (per Adam Jahns on Twitter), “he plans” on having Fields as the starter next season and “that he has to be ‘absolutely blown away’ to take a QB at No. 1.”

That does sound like (the sometimes dreaded) vote of confidence in Fields from the Bears general manager. It also doesn’t sound like a “no” when asked about taking a QB with the Bears No. 1 pick.  

What the Bears No. 1 pick should yield the team 

The tough part right now for the Bears general manager and the whole organization is that we don’t know enough about the 2023 NFL Draft prospects. After the NFL Combine (February 28 to March 6), we’ll know a lot more. 

What we do know now about the Bears No. 1 pick is that the team has three main options, with several sub-options off each one. 

Option one is making the pick and taking the best all-around non-QB on the board. That player is likely Alabama pass-rusher Will Anderson Jr. or Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. Unfortunately for Ryan Poles and the Bears (and Justin Fields), there isn’t an offensive lineman who is worthy of No. 1 this year. 

Option two is taking the best QB in the Class of 2023. Right now, the consensus QB1 is Alabama signal-caller Bryce Young, but Ohio State’s CJ Stroud or Kentucky’s Will Levis could jump up during the pre-draft process. 

Finally, the third option is trading back for a team that needs a QB more desperately than the Bears. Poles could trade back as far as No 16 with the Washington Commanders to get the most draft capital. However, the most likely move is trading back to No. 4 with the Indianapolis Colts. In that scenario, some combination of Young, Stroud, or Levis goes first and second, and the Bears get either Anderson or Carter at No. 4.

The Bears No. 1 pick in 2023 could be a great thing for the franchise, but Ryan Poles likely won’t get much sleep between now and April 27 because of it. 


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