Chicago, which held the No. 2 pick entering Week 18, jumped Houston in the draft order after the Houston Texans beat the Indianapolis Colts 32-31. The Bears needed to lose and have the Texans win in order to secure the top spot in the draft.
The Bears finished 3-14, their second three-win season since 2016. Quarterback Justin Fields did not play in the season finale due to a hip injury sustained last week at Detroit. Fields finished his second season 64 yards shy of the single-season quarterback rushing record. Chicago owned the league’s top rushing offense and were last in passing in 2023.
Bolstering the defensive and offensive lines are among Chicago’s top priorities this offseason. The Bears registered the fewest sacks per game (1.3) of all NFL teams and pressured opposing quarterbacks on 20.9% of dropbacks, which ranked 31st. In his latest mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Jordan Reid has Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter going No. 2 to Chicago, Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson being selected third by Seattle and Texas Tech defensive end Tyree Wilson off the board at No. 4 to Arizona. All three players could be options to help fix Chicago’s pass rush.
The Bears also have pressing needs at wideout. Darnell Mooney, who sustained a season-ending injury in Week 11, finished as Chicago’s leading receiver with 493 yards and two touchdowns. Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, Chase Claypool and Velus Jones Jr. are the only Bears receivers currently under contract for the 2023 season. St. Brown signed a one-year extension with Chicago last week.
The Bears find themselves in a high-leverage position should they decide to trade back from the No. 1 overall pick. Chicago is not currently among the quarterback-needy teams drafting early in the first round, which include Houston, Indianapolis, the Detroit Lions and Carolina Panthers. Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis and Florida’s Anthony Richardson are all off the board in Reid’s latest mock by the ninth overall pick.
Chicago has drafted first overall twice in franchise history, but it hasn’t happened since the 1940s.
In 1940, the Bears selected Michigan halfback and Heisman Trophy winner Tom Harmon No. 1 overall. Harmon never played for the Bears. After serving in the military during World War II, Harmon played two seasons for the Rams (1946-47).
Chicago also had the No. 1 overall selection in 1947 and drafted halfback Bob Fenimore from Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State). Fenimore played one NFL season and appeared in 10 games for the Bears in 1947.
The NFL has several recent examples of teams falling out of the No.1 draft spot with wins in the season finale.
Entering the last week of the 2021 season, the Jaguars were 2-14 and the Lions were 2-13-1. Both teams won their Week 18 games, which led to Jacksonville earning the No. 1 pick and the Lions securing the second overall pick. In 2006, the Lions beat the Cowboys in the finale and fell to No. 2 in the draft, while the Raiders got the No. 1 pick. Oakland took JaMarcus Russell with the first pick, and Lions took Calvin Johnson. In 2003, the Chargers and Cardinals both entered Week 17 with 3-12 records and both walked away with wins. The Chargers still got the No. 1 pick and took Eli Manning before swapping him for Philip Rivers on draft day. The Cardinals would’ve gotten the No. 1 pick with a loss but fell to No. 3.