The Chicago Bears hold the first-overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and can command the process by auctioning the top selection to the highest-bidder.
Chicago were a team lacking talent around their quarterback Justin Fields in the 2022 campaign, finishing with a 3-14 record, the worst in the league, as a result of the Houston Texans’ stunning final week win over the Indianapolis Colts on the last play of the game.
The Bears can now have their pick of the top players in the college game or opt to collect picks and build around Fields. It is a decision that will hold huge ramifications for the NFL in the 2023 season and beyond.
Learning From Philadelphia
Chicago are unlikely to be challenging for the Super Bowl in the 2023 season. According to NFL odds to win the Vince Lombardi Trophy, they are backed at a best price of +10000 to win. It would be a remarkable turnaround for a team that struggled to find a balance between offense and defense. However, the Bears could look to the prime example of the Philadelphia Eagles on how to build a team around a running quarterback.
The performances of Jalen Hurts have secured the Eagles the best record in the NFL and sent the team to the Super Bowl. Philadelphia have manged their roster to perfection, with Howie Roseman rightfully earning the plaudits, while head coach Nick Sirianni has brought out the best in Hurts on the field. Hurts was not expected to be a starter in the NFL, never mind an MVP candidate.
The quarterback’s reputation took a huge knock in the 2018 National Championship Game for Alabama when he was replaced by Tua Tagovailoa, who rallied the Crimson Tide to victory over the Georgia Bulldogs. Hurts was a late second-round pick for Philadelphia in 2020 and played sparingly in relief of Carson Wentz in his rookie season. Sirianni’s arrival in 2021 paved the way for Hurts to replace Wentz, who was traded to the Indianapolis Colts. Hurts was steady in his first season, which ended in a Wildcard Round defeat to Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Hurts proved he was a fast learner and, armed with two top-tier wideouts in Devonta Smith and A.J Brown, as well as a dominant offensive line, he and the Eagles have charged towards the Super Bowl. Fields is arguably more talented than Hurts, so the Bears have a lot to learn from their NFC rivals.
Building A Team Around Fields
Hurts was surrounded by a veteran team that needed the offensive mind of Sirianni, and tweaks by Roseman to trade for Brown and other free-agent signings. The one element that the Eagles have that the Bears do not, is a tough and hardened offensive line.
It might be a boring choice, but the 2023 NFL Draft is stocked with excellent offensive tackles. The Bears could easily trade out of the top pick with any host of teams, acquire multiple picks for later years, and still get the best offensive tackle in the 2023 Draft, which could be either Peter Skoronski, Broderick Jones or Paris Johnson.
Protecting and paving the way for Fields has to be the way forward for the Bears. The 24-year-old was running for his life at times last season. Although Fields is an incredible athlete and rushed for over 1,000 yards, he still needs to be protected. Chicago have talented running backs too, which would further alleviate the pressure on Fields to do it all. It starts in the trenches, and sound selections would provide the foundation to further fill out the roster.
Chicago are not in the place to be able to trade away selections for finishing touches such as Brown. They need young players who are ready to develop alongside Fields for the journey ahead. The Bears can also add pieces in free agency due to their healthy amount of cap space, but defense could be the priority when options are thin on the ground.
The blueprint is there for Chicago and they have an excellent chance to emulate a model that has brought so much success to their rivals.