Ever since the Chicago Bears secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, most mock drafts have had the franchise making one of two moves:
- Sticking at No. 1 and drafting their top defensive-rated prospect (presumably Jalen Carter or Will Anderson Jr.).
- Trading back with a QB-needy team to acquire more draft capital.
Today, we'll explore a third option -- one that many Bears fans surely won't be happy with: Trading Justin Fields and taking a QB with the first selection.
It's understandable to scoff at this notion after Fields' electric final 10 games of the 2022 campaign. He established himself as one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL while making strides in the passing game despite an uninspiring cast of pass-catchers. With another year of Chicago molding its offense to Fields' strengths, in addition to surrounding him with capable playmakers, who knows how good he could be in Year 3!
All of that makes sense. Now here's the other side of this equation:
- The current Bears brass (general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus, among others) were not around when Chicago traded up nine spots to select Fields with the No. 11 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He's not their guy.
- Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's C.J. Stroud are both better prospects coming out of college than Fields was. If they were in the same draft, they'd likely both be selected ahead of him.
- While Fields' dazzling long touchdown runs give the fan base a lot to be excited about, he's 5-20 as a starter in his career, including 3-12 this past season. And in the fourth quarter, where wins become losses and losses become wins, Fields has been bad. Here were his fourth-quarter statistics in 2022: 59.5 completion percentage, 5.6 yards per attempt, four touchdowns, six interceptions, a league-high 15 sacks taken and a passer rating of 61.3 -- the last of which ranked second worst behind Mike White for QBs with at least 50 attempts. In one-score games, Chicago was 1-7.
Lastly, consider this from SportsLine NFL Insider Jason La Canfora:
More than one NFL general manager came away from the Senior Bowl fairly convinced that Justin Fields will be dealt— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) February 15, 2023
So there you have it: There are reasons both to build around Fields or trade him for picks while taking the No. 1 QB available. In this mock draft, the Bears choose the latter option. Now let's get to the picks!
Remember: There are only 31 picks in this mock draft because the Dolphins were stripped of their first-round pick due to tampering.
For more extensive draft content, check out our latest prospect rankings and mock drafts, as well as our new weekly podcast, "With the First Pick," featuring former Vikings general manager Rick Spielman. (Check out the latest episode below.)
Round 1 - Pick 1
Bryce Young QB
Alabama • 5'10" / 204 lbs
If Justin Fields can be a top-10 quarterback, Bryce Young can be top five. Former Vikings GM Rick Spielman (and host of CBS Sports "With the First Pick" podcast) likens Young's off-schedule prowess to Patrick Mahomes and his poise, vision and playmaking ability to Steph Curry. He's the whole package (aside from his slight frame) who will make Chicago fans accept the departure of Fields.
Round 1 - Pick 2
C.J. Stroud QB
Ohio State • 6'3" / 218 lbs
If the Texans wanted Bryce Young, well, "not so fast, my friend!" (Lee Corso voice). Still, Houston is in a great spot, as C.J. Stroud could just as easily end up as the No. 1 overall pick. The Ohio State product instills life into that franchise under new head coach DeMeco Ryans.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Jalen Carter DL
Georgia • 6'3" / 314 lbs
Good start to the tenure of new head coach Jonathan Gannon, who oversaw one of the most productive defensive fronts in NFL history with the Eagles this past season. That unit had 2022 first-round mammoth Jordan Davis, and while he did not live up to expectations in Year 1, his former Georgia teammate Jalen Carter figures to be an interior disruptor from Day 1 in Arizona.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Will Levis QB
Kentucky • 6'4" / 229 lbs
Colts owner Jim Irsay basically admitted that the team will select a QB in this year's draft, even going out of his way to praise Bryce Young at new head coach Shane Steichen's introductory press conference. Well, both Young and C.J. Stroud are gone, but Indianapolis still gets an intriguing yet inconsistent Will Levis. If he can maximize his NFL-level traits, the franchise won't be looking for another signal-caller for several more years.
From Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 5
Will Anderson Jr. EDGE
Alabama • 6'4" / 243 lbs
If the Seahawks were contemplating taking a QB, the board made their decision for them. And I doubt GM John Schneider nor HC Pete Carroll would complain about adding an instant Pro Bowl-caliber edge rusher like Will Anderson Jr. to a defense that struggled in 2022.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 6
Oregon • 6'2" / 205 lbs
In each of the past three drafts, there have been at least two cornerbacks taken in the top 10. It doesn't feel like that's going to happen this year, but you have to think one of these prospects will impress a team enough to be taken in the first several picks. In this exercise, that player is Christian Gonzalez, whose playmaking ability complemented his well-established physical traits this past season at Oregon.
Round 1 - Pick 7
Northwestern • 6'4" / 313 lbs
The Raiders have too many offensive weapons to rely on a rookie quarterback to lead them in a loaded AFC. And even if they wanted to, the only first-round QB available is Anthony Richardson, who will need to sit for at least a year. Las Vegas will most likely bring in another veteran QB, so it uses its top-10 selection to protect whomever ends up under center. Peter Skoronski gets knocked for his short arms, but he'll be an integral part of an NFL offensive line, whether that be at guard or tackle.
Mock Trade from Atlanta Falcons
Round 1 - Pick 8
Round 1 - Pick 9
Florida • 6'4" / 244 lbs
Frank Reich finally gets his rookie QB! ... and he'll be on the bench for at least the first season. Anthony Richardson is a tremendous talent, with the physical tools to develop into the best QB in this draft class. He's very raw, though, so signing a veteran and letting Richardson learn behind him would be the ideal way for Carolina to play this situation.
From New Orleans Saints
Round 1 - Pick 10
Myles Murphy DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 275 lbs
The "zero sacks, put it on a f---ing T-shirt" from Chiefs offensive tackle Orlando Brown Jr. went viral after the historically good Eagles pass rush did not register a sack in their Super Bowl defeat. In this mock, Howie Roseman takes that comment personally, investing in the versatile and explosive Myles Murphy to join a unit that could potentially lose Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox and Robert Quinn in free agency.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Ohio State • 6'6" / 313 lbs
Three-time Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan expects to be released, which means the Titans will be looking for a left tackle for the first time in nearly a decade. They find one in Paris Johnson Jr., who handled the best Big Ten pass rushers at both guard and tackle during his Ohio State career.
From Cleveland Browns
Round 1 - Pick 12
Round 1 - Pick 13
Alabama • 6'0" / 203 lbs
For the sake of switching things up, let's assume the Jets figure out their offensive line issues to the point where they don't choose to invest in one in the first round. In that case, Brian Branch would be a welcomed addition to the Big Apple. All-Pro rookie Sauce Gardner made the Jets secondary look great a year ago, but safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Jordan Whitehead were both suspect. Branch can play anywhere, come up and stuff the run, and make sure Robert Saleh's defense continues to play at a high level.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • 6'5" / 311 lbs
The Patriots could stand to bolster the offensive tackle spot with Isaiah Wynn set to become a free agent and veteran Trent Brown coming off a disappointing campaign. Broderick Jones may end up as the OT1 by draft day, pairing his natural talent with his experience blocking some of the best defensive linemen in college football in the SEC.
Round 1 - Pick 15
Notre Dame • 6'4" / 265 lbs
Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, doesn't matter. Whoever is under center for Green Bay in 2023 would benefit from Michael Mayer's blocking prowess, reliable hands and ability to get open in the biggest of moments. He'd be an immediate upgrade over impending free agent Robert Tonyan.
Round 1 - Pick 16
Florida • 6'5" / 347 lbs
Reports out of Mobile, Alabama, were that general manager Martin Mayhew was looking a lot at the offensive linemen during Senior Bowl practices. And the best offensive lineman at that all-star game was O'Cyrus Torrence, who would immediately step in as an above-average starting guard in the NFL.
Round 1 - Pick 17
Illinois • 6'0" / 185 lbs
The Steelers need a No. 1 cornerback, and Devon Witherspoon, coming from one of the best defenses in all of college football, has the fundamentals, physicality and instincts to thrive in Mike Tomlin's secondary.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Bryan Bresee DL
Clemson • 6'5" / 305 lbs
The No. 1 high school player in the country a few years ago didn't have his best season in 2022, but the Clemson product still has everything you want in a formidable interior disruptor. With John Cominsky and Isaiah Buggs set to become free agents, and Michael Brockers potentially being a cut candidate, pairing Bryan Bresee with Aidan Hutchinson would ensure the Lions have a formidable defensive front.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Drew Sanders LB
Arkansas • 6'5" / 234 lbs
A quiet two seasons at Alabama from Drew Sanders gave way to a first-team All-American campaign with the Razorbacks. Lining up all over the field, Sanders stuffed the stat sheet with 103 tackles (13.5 for a loss), 9.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and an interception. With 33-year-old stat stuffer Lavonte David set to hit free agency, Sanders would be a logical replacement.
Round 1 - Pick 20
Pittsburgh • 6'1" / 281 lbs
First the Seahawks bolster the edge with Will Anderson Jr., and then they fortify the interior with Calijah Kancey. The undersized defensive tackle out of Pitt has the quickness and explosiveness to make plays up the middle.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Ohio State • 6'0" / 197 lbs
Keenan Allen isn't getting any younger and just missed seven games this past season due to injury. The Chargers can also save $17.5 million in cap space if they cut him with a post-June 1 designation. Regardless of what Los Angeles decides to do, adding a pristine route-runner like Jaxon Smith-Njigba will help it rightaway and in the long term.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Penn State • 6'2" / 194 lbs
How poetic for the Ravens to draft the son of a Steelers great to go up against his father's franchise twice a year. Oh, and Joey Porter Jr. is a very good corner as well. With Marcus Peters, 30, set to hit free agency, Porter will keep Baltimore secondary's strong.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Kelee Ringo CB
Georgia • 6'2" / 207 lbs
The Vikings must address their pass defense that was second worst in the NFL in 2022, especially with veteran Patrick Peterson set to become a free agent. Kelee Ringo's size, length and speed overshadow his lackluster interception total (four the past two seasons), although he did combine for 15 pass breakups in that span. He has the traits to end up as the best cornerback in this class.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Georgia • 6'7" / 265 lbs
The Jaguars have a decision to make on 2022 breakout tight end Evan Engram, but Darnell Washington will be able to help them regardless. He'll immediately give them a strong in-line blocker while continuing to learn how to best use his 6-foot-7, 270-pound frame as a pass catcher.
Round 1 - Pick 25
TCU • 6'4" / 215 lbs
It's looking more and more like the Giants and Daniel Jones are going to agree to some sort of extension. To truly know if he's the franchise quarterback, they have to surround him with high-caliber skill players. Quentin Johnston has the size, strength and speed to make plays down the field for New York.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Texas • 5'11" / 215 lbs
If the Cowboys let Tony Pollard walk in free agency, Bijan Robinson would be a logical replacement and a huge addition to this offense. CeeDee Lamb said recently that the team needs to provide Dak Prescott with more playmakers in order to get to the Super Bowl. Well, Robinson is one of the best playmakers in this class as the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley. He'll be able to handle pass-catching duties as well.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Jalin Hyatt WR
Tennessee • 6'0" / 185 lbs
Stefon Diggs is elite, and Dawson Knox has grown into a reliable red-zone threat. The rest of the pass catchers, most notably Gabe Davis, were underwhelming, so Jalin Hyatt would provide the gun-slinging Josh Allen with another burner who can get behind the defense.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Nolan Smith EDGE
Georgia • 6'2" / 238 lbs
The Saints can let Marcus Davenport go in free agency and replace him with Nolan Smith, who battled injuries this past season but has all the physical traits and intangibles to fit in well with that defense.