CHICAGO – Minutes after the Chicago Bears suffered their franchise-worst 10th straight loss on Sunday, Houston Texans coach Lovie Smith had a decision to make in Indianapolis: go for two and the win over the Colts, which would hand the No. 1 overall draft pick to the Bears, or go for the tie.
Smith, who coached the Bears from 2004 to 2012, went for the win, and Davis Mills and Jordan Akins connected on the conversion as the Texans won the game. The Bears won the day with their first No. 1 overall pick since 1947.
“Whoever we get, hopefully it’s somebody great,” said Bears safety Jaquan Brisker, who finished a strong rookie season with 10 tackles and a defended pass in the loss to the Minnesota Vikings. “It’s time to turn it around.
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“Really don’t want to be on the side of having the No. 1 pick, but since we’re here, it’s that time to make the team better, get the organization better and change this thing around.”
A tumultuous season in Chicago ended with a 3-14 record, but with the promise of great opportunity. With the top pick and over $108 million in salary cap space, no team appears better suited to take a major leap forward in 2023 than the Bears.
The Bears have one of the worst rosters in the NFL. There are needs everywhere, but the most pressing are along the defensive and offensive lines, and at wide receiver. And it just so happens, defensive linemen are considered among the top draft prospects.
When it looked like Houston was going to get the top pick, ESPN NFL draft analyst Jordan Reid had the Texans taking Alabama QB Bryce Young, and the Bears selecting Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at No. 2. Reid had Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. going third (at the time to the Seattle Seahawks).
Carter and Anderson would seem to be perfect fits for a defense that registered the fewest sacks per game (1.3) of all NFL teams and pressured opposing quarterbacks on 20.9% of dropbacks, which ranked 31st.
“Whoever we [get] needs to make an impact now,” said Brisker, who led the Bears with four sacks. Brisker is the second defensive back in league history to lead his team in sacks, further pointing to the need for Chicago to dedicate ample resources to the D-line in free agency and the draft.
With the emergence of quarterback Justin Fields, who finished his second season 64 yards shy of the single-season quarterback rushing record, the Bears believe they’re set at that position. That would give Chicago general manager Ryan Poles the leverage to trade the top pick to a quarterback-hungry team such as Houston or Indianapolis (picking fourth), and still get one of the elite defensive linemen and a quality extra pick.
Poles proved he’s not afraid to pull the trigger on trades after dealing assets such as Khalil Mack, Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith for draft capital.
Of course, Poles will have to do his due diligence about the possibility of keeping the pick. While the Bears are pleased with Fields, the GM has no choice but to weigh the options available at quarterback in the draft and decide whether it’s worth taking a quarterback and trading Fields for a haul that could come in the form of multiple first-round picks.
Poles’ first season with the Bears was all about the teardown. His second chapter is all about his ability as an evaluator and decision-maker, something coach Matt Eberflus views with optimism.
“High confidence, no question,” Eberflus said. “The first thing of a personnel manager is the ability to pick players, and he can do that.”