The Chicago Bears have been at the center of the NFL rumor mill for weeks, though some clarification on the team’s immediate future has come at the combine.
General manager Ryan Poles said the franchise will do its due diligence but expects Justin Fields to remain the future of the quarterback position in Chicago. The revelation has led to widespread speculation that the Bears will trade the top overall pick in April’s draft. Some theories suggested the team might even move back twice, a notion that has become the expectation of ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. in his newest mock draft released on Tuesday, February 28.
Kiper predicted that the first step will involve the Bears trading back with the Houston Texans, who hold the No. 2 pick.
“This involves Houston moving up just one spot to get its quarterback of the future. It’s risky for the Texans to stay at No. 2 — what if another team makes a deal with the Bears and selects the passer they want? That’s why they might be willing to give up a lot to move up from No. 2 to No. 1,” Kiper wrote.
The next step is to then trade with the Indianapolis Colts, another QB-needy team, and move from No. 2 to No. 4.
“Chicago doesn’t own its second-round pick, and this is not a team that is going to contend in 2023. Why not continue to pick up capital while moving down only three total spots?” Kiper posited. “To do this deal … the Colts are going to have to give up the No. 35 overall selection, along with a few more (they have an extra third-rounder) potentially in the 2024 draft as well.”
“The Bears, meanwhile, are going to have prime picks to build around quarterback Justin Fields — we’re talking a bevy of second-, third- and fourth-rounders — and they can still get one of the top defenders,” Kiper continued.
Bears Can Trade Back Twice, Still Select Top D-Tackle Jalen Carter
The two defenders to whom Kiper is referring are defensive tackle Jalen Carter out of Georgia and edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. out of Alabama. Kiper has them rated as the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects across all positions in this year’s draft class, and both are potentially generational talents.
They are also each fits for the Bears defense, which is in need of a 3-technique to anchor the interior defensive line (Carter) and a pass rushing talent (Anderson) to up the team’s league-worst total of just 20 sacks last season. In Kiper’s latest mock draft, the Arizona Cardinals select Anderson at No. 3 overall, leaving Carter for the Bears at No. 4 even after trading down twice.
“Chicago should be exceedingly happy in this scenario, trading down three spots and adding an elite defender and valuable picks,” Kiper wrote. “Carter is a fantastic player, a game-wrecker from the interior with a 310-pound frame. He’s the top-ranked prospect on my board. In Chicago, he’d immediately upgrade a porous defense.”
The one serious glitch in that plan is that Carter surrendered himself to Athens-Clarke County Police on Wednesday after the department issued arrest warrants for reckless driving and racing stemming from a January incident that resulted in a fatal crash, in which one of Carter’s teammates and a UGA recruiter both died, per ESPN.
Carter was racing another vehicle, which contained the two men who died in the incident, when the crash took place.
Bears Can Trade Down 3 Times, Still Draft Top Offensive Tackle Peter Skoronski
If Carter’s situation is not resolved by the time the NFL puts the Bears on the clock on April 27, or if the resolution of the issue is not to the team’s satisfaction, Chicago could consider trading back yet a third time.
The Las Vegas Raiders hold the No. 7 selection, while the Carolina Panthers pick ninth. Kiper suggested Tuesday that the Panthers will trade with the Seattle Seahawks up to No. 5 in order to secure Will Levis of Kentucky, the third and final top QB prospect on the board should the Texans take Bryce Young of Alabama first, followed by the Colts picking C.J. Stroud of Ohio State second.
Chicago could flank Seattle’s move and allow the Raiders to sneak into the No. 4 spot to draft Levis. The Bears would still be primed to pick left tackle Peter Skoronski at No. 7 overall, who would fill a major need on a porous offensive line, and allow Poles and company to amass even more draft capital via a third trade inside the top seven selections.
The same could apply to a deal with the Panthers, though it is not certain that Skoronski would still be on the board at No. 9.