The Bears took care of their most important decision in decades last week when Kevin Warren was introduced as the franchise’s next president and CEO.
Next up – and almost equally important – is what to do with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 draft. The Bears own it, and now they have to decide how to use it before Warren even officially gets to work in his new job.
That, however, is really not the problem you might guess right. Although Warren soon will be the boss of the Bears, his focus will be on the business side of the operation. His only real involvement with the football side will be to decide whether he has the right people running it.
While Poles will have the final say over what the team does with the pick, he would be foolish not to listen long and hard to Eberflus’ opinions, and it’s a really safe bet that both will be really short on sleep the next month or three. Their futures very well could be decided by what they do with the No. 1 pick.
Rather than make you wait, I’ll just tell you right now: The Bears should trade the pick.
In order to compete for a Super Bowl, the Bears are going to need a franchise quarterback, at least two more first-rate wide receivers, probably at least two more starting offensive linemen, maybe a top-end running back, definitely at least two more first-rate pass rushers and legitimate talent upgrades at linebacker and safety.
Quarterback is the biggest dilemma, as Justin Fields is both a special talent and one of the more overrated players in the league right now.
Fields is one of the best running quarterbacks in the NFL – possibly even the best – and that is obviously a good thing. He also has very good size and speed, along with a solid work ethic, and he appears to bring strong leadership.
The problem is Fields has come up short to date in the most important area. He has plenty of arm strength – a critical tool that can’t be grown or taught – but he has not displayed the accuracy needed, read the field well enough or displayed the passing instincts that only the special QBs have. And those are rarely taught, as well.
In 25 starts over the past two seasons, Fields’ Bears are 5-20. Most concerning, he never has thrown for 300 yards and has gone over 200 only six times. Sure, some of that is on the shortcomings at receiver and on the offensive line, but Fields is not yet even an average NFL passer.
For decades, conventional wisdom has been the best way to find your franchise quarterback is with the first overall pick in the draft, but it’s not the only way, and more players chosen first overall do fail than succeed.
Even more complicating to the Bears’ dilemma is it’s too early to quit on Fields. And, although there will be at least three – maybe even four – quarterbacks taken in the first round this year, none look like the first overall pick, and none are clearly better options than Fields.
The Bears traded two first-round picks, a fourth-rounder and a fifth-rounder for the 11th pick to draft Fields. The No. 1 overall pick would yield a lot more than that.
We can argue the Bears’ greatest need is a Pro Bowl-caliber pass rusher, which happens to be the deepest position in this year’s first round. Wide receiver – the team’s second greatest need – also is very strong.
When you throw in the mountain of talent the Bears can add by trading the No. 1 pick – in addition to the wealth already available to them with the most cap space in the league to spend in free agency – you are left with what looks like a pretty easy choice.
Keep the No. 1 pick and take a big risk at getting one special player? Or trade it and stockpile enough wealth to go from the worst team in the league to a contender in one or two seasons?
Even if Fields isn’t the answer – and although I’m not ready to quit yet, I fear he may not be – the trade gives you plenty of wealth to invest in his replacement.
Trading the No. 1 pick seems like a pretty easy call to me.
The biggest risk is whether you have the right GM to do the job, but that ship appears to have sailed.
• Hub Arkush is the senior Bears analyst for Shaw Media and ShawLocal.com.