Considering that the Chicago Bears just finished one of the worst years in franchise history, it’s no surprise that the team has a lot of needs that it could fill with the No. 1 pick in the draft.
However, selecting a quarterback first generally seems highly unlikely.
Bears general manager Ryan Poles endorsed Justin Fields as Chicago’s starting quarterback heading into the 2023 season and said a QB prospect would have to completely surprise him for the Bears to draft him with the No. 1 pick. .
“We’re going to do the same thing we’ve always done,” Poles said Tuesday. “We’re going to evaluate the draft class, and I’d say this: You’d have to be absolutely blown away to make that kind of decision.”
Fields was one of the few bright spots on a Bears team that finished the 2022 season on a franchise-worst 10-game losing streak and clinched the No. 1 pick by finishing 3-14.
The abysmal record didn’t come as much of a surprise, however, considering the team went through a midseason teardown by trading defensive standouts Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn and lacked significant talent in the offensive skill positions while the line offensive was considered lacking.
Although Fields emerged as one of the most exciting players in the NFL, capable of generating a breakout run on any play, the second-year quarterback failed to make many game-changing plays with his arm.
There are also questions about how Poles assesses his skill set given that Fields was drafted by the previous regime.
With 1,143 rushing yards, Fields, the 11th overall pick in the 2021 draft, averaged a league-leading 7.14 yards per rush and had an NFL-best four rushing touchdowns of 50-plus yards. He flirted with breaking the NFL single-season career quarterback record set by Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in his 2019 MVP season if he hadn’t missed Sunday’s finale with a hip strain. .
“I think Justin did a good job,” Poles said. “I think we changed a lot, we adapted, we tried to put him in a position to be successful, he showed the ability to be a midfielder. Be impactful. He can change games quickly. Does he have room to grow? He has to improve as a passer and I’m excited to see him take those steps as we move forward.”
Despite being one of the most dangerous running backs in the league, Fields and the Bears had trouble moving the ball through the air.
Among 32 quarterbacks with at least 250 attempts, Fields ranked 25th in passer rating (85.2), 31st in completion percentage (60.4) and 32nd in yards per game (149. 5).
You could argue that he didn’t have enough support around him, and that’s where having the No. 1 pick works in the Bears’ favor.
The Poles could decide to use the first pick to fill a need or trade to a team looking for a quarterback to get more draft picks.
Alabama’s Bryce Young, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud are the three quarterbacks projected to be drafted in the top 10, with some combination of them possibly going 1-2.
The Bears also have about $118 million in salary cap space to restock the roster.
“I think we have very good flexibility to help this team, regardless of whether they make the pick there or go back a little bit or go back a lot,” Poles said. “We will be open to everything.”