The Chicago Bears may have already publicly declared that Andy Dalton will be their starting quarterback next season, but the hope that they can still dream bigger in the 2021 NFL draft hasn’t died yet.
Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields held his second Pro Day on Wednesday at the Buckeyes’ facilities, where he went through a workout run by NFL coaches who had come to scout the presumptive first-round quarterback prospect.
Earlier in the day, Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated had confirmed at least six NFL teams would be in attendance for Fields’ second workout, but the list of attendees did not originally include the Bears until head coach Matt Nagy was spotted in pictures shared to Ohio State Football’s official Twitter account.
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Due Diligence or Genuine Interest From Bears?
The pre-draft process is filled with lots of misdirection and smokescreens, especially in the final weeks leading up to a draft, but did the Buckeyes’ social media team accidentally give away something the Bears were hoping would fly under the radar?
The Bears have been understandably criticized this offseason for trying to solve their desperate need for a quarterback with a one-year, $10 million deal for Dalton — who made considerably less last year to be Dak Prescott’s backup in Dallas. At the same time, Bears general manager Ryan Pace didn’t rule out the possibility of drafting another passer when speaking with reporters last month.
The Bears have sent representatives to the Pro Days of both Trey Lance and Mac Jones over the past month, each of whom could be selected as early as the top three during April 29’s first round. The same goes for Fields, which means the Bears would have to trade up from No. 20 overall to target any of them.
How far would the Bears have to move up to land Fields, though?
Current State of Fields’ Draft Stock?
Fields’ exact draft stock has been difficult to nail down. There have been some draft experts who think he could fall as far as No. 15, where the New England Patriots could have a good shot of drafting him. There are also the Carolina Panthers at No. 8 and the Denver Broncos at No. 9, both of which also saw Fields throw on Wednesday.
Even if the Bears moved up to No. 8 overall, there are still no guarantees which quarterbacks would still be around by the time they pick. Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are expected to go 1-2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Jets, respectively, but it is entirely possible two of the three next-best quarterbacks (Fields, Jones, Lance) could be gone before the fifth pick.
All things considered, the Atlanta Falcons would make for the safest trade partner if Chicago was serious about getting one of the Big Five, but the cost of doing business would be another massive hurdle to overcome. The Bears would most likely have to package multiple first-round picks, including this year’s 20th overall pick, along with several Day 2 or 3 assets to leap that far.
Many Bears fans would argue the cost, whatever it is, would be worth it for a talented starting quarterback, but Pace might not agree. He went out and signed Dalton and decided against moving on from Foles when cost-saving opportunities presented themselves this offseason. His quarterback scouting could simply boil down to necessary due diligence in case one of them falls closer into their range.