The Chicago Bears “earned” the No. pick in the 2023 NFL Draft by finishing with the worst record in the NFL on Sunday, a half-game ahead of the Houston Texans.
On Tuesday, Bears GM Ryan Poles told reporters he would have to be “absolutely blown away” by a quarterback prospect to select one with the No. 1 pick.
Soon after Chicago secured the top pick, the debate commenced: Should the Bears build around quarterback Justin Fields or draft his replacement?
Four of our analysts — Mike Tannenbaum, Dave Wannstedt, Joe Banner and Rick Spielman — weighed in with strong and varied opinions:
Mike Tannenbaum: Trade Fields, Draft Young
Taking nothing away from Justin Fields, but I would trade him. I think Fields has a chance to be a top-10 quarterback, but if you could get at least a first- and third-round pick, which I believe you can because so many teams need a quarterback, then I would trade him.
I would then draft Alabama’s Bryce Young, who I think is going to be a better quarterback than Fields.
So, to recap:
I get a first and a third for Fields. I reset with Bryce Young’s rookie contract and pick up two additional years. And I get multiple starting-caliber players in the draft with five picks in the first three rounds.
Look at what happened in Jacksonville. They get Trevor Lawrence on a rookie deal, go out in free agency and sign wide receiver Christian Kirk, guard Brandon Scherff, and tight end Evan Engram, among others.
So, if I can turn Justin Fields into multiple quality players, and get Bryce Young, who I think will be better than Fields, I’m making that move if I’m the Bears.
Dave Wannstedt: Fields is Bears’ QB of Future
I was involved in taking the first pick twice. We didn’t have a quarterback in Dallas, so we took Troy Aikman. That was outstanding. A no-brainer. The next time, we drafted Russell Maryland, a defensive tackle out of Miami, but there wasn’t a quarterback available. The first quarterback, Dan McGwire from San Diego State, went 16th.
Now, we’re sitting here and everyone wants to compare. They always think the grass is greener. They’re saying, “Oh, let’s take Bryce Young from Alabama. He’s better than Justin Fields. Let’s take C.J. Stroud from Ohio State. He’s better than Justin Fields.”
You know what? Justin Fields is fine. He’s the Bears’ quarterback for the future. He proved that this year with a limited, inexperienced offensive line and with limited receivers. He was able to move the pocket, throw the football accurately, run the offense by running the football, execute the running game. and in the process he didn’t make a lot of crazy mistakes.
Overall, Justin Fields is going to be fine. As [the Bears] get better in those other areas, the drop-back game will come. I think coach Matt Eberflus has set a good foundation for this team. They led the league in rushing, they cut down on penalties, and they cut down on turnovers. This team gives great effort. Week 18 against Detroit is the only game I personally think they didn’t come out of the locker room ready to play.
The foundation is set. Let’s have some fun with that $120 million in cap space and draft picks and see if the Bears can build a Super Bowl team around Justin Fields.
Joe Banner: Draft Franchise-Altering QB
Given the quality of quarterbacks in the 2023 draft, it seems like a difficult decision. But I don’t think it is. As a matter of fact, I don’t think it’s hard at all. If I were the Bears, I wouldn’t budge. I’d draft a quarterback.
It could be Bryce Young. It could be C.J. Stroud. It could be someone else at the top of my board. But it would be a prospect I believe can be – no, will be — a difference-making quarterback. And that’s the key. It must be a quarterback I believe has the ability to get me where I want to go, which is the Super Bowl.
From what I’ve seen of Fields, he’s not that guy. I’m not trying to disparage him. I’m simply looking at what’s the strongest – and wisest – move for the Bears. The future of the franchise depends on what they do with this pick, and, with rare exception, teams that go to Super Bowls – even teams that make the final eight of the playoffs – almost always get there with a difference-making quarterback.
This decision affects the Bears not just for the immediate future but the next decade. Essentially, they must decide if Fields is a quarterback capable of taking them deep into the playoffs. If he’s not, they can’t waste this opportunity.
They must find a better option in this year’s draft. Then take him.
Rick Spielman: Auction No. 1 Pick, Keep Fields
I believe the Chicago Bears have their franchise quarterback. The reason people might be saying they don’t is because they have a newer head coach and general manager, and they have the first overall pick in the draft, but do you really want to start over?
Justin Fields this year was able to show the playmaker he is with his legs, and he improved as a passer. The issue in Chicago isn’t Justin Fields. The issue is getting enough playmakers around that quarterback and supplementing that roster, which needs supplementing all across the board.
What I would do if I was in Chicago’s situation with the No. 1 overall pick is try to trade out of that position to accumulate more draft picks. What hurt a little bit was they had the first pick in the second round [of the 2023 draft], but they traded it to the Pittsburgh Steelers for Chase Claypool.
They’re gonna have to try and make up for that because that is a valuable pick to be at the top of the second round and get the best of the rest. I would trade back and try to get as many playmakers and improve that roster because the Bears have a ways to go. And they should build it around Justin Fields because of what he showed this year.