It had been long rumored that the Chicago Bears were going to move off the first overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. In such a quarterback-heavy class, a team with a solid situation under center was destined for a great haul in exchange for a top draft pick. While most experts assumed the Indianapolis Colts would be the team to pull the trigger and give the Bears everything they wanted, it turns out that the Carolina Panthers were the ones willing to sacrifice everything.
Two firsts, two seconds, and DJ Moore, who yes, didn’t reach 1,000 yards for the first time in three years, but did set a new career-high in touchdowns last season. He’ll be 26 years old next season, just entering his prime, and is the exact type of player Chicago needed — a young veteran wide receiver who’d been stuck in a bad situation with inconsistent quarterback play looking to break out. The ninth overall pick is a prime opportunity for the Bears to go even further with their revamped wide receiver corps. TCU’s Quentin Johnston and Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba should both be available when Chicago picks. Those additions, combined with Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney (who should be healthy in time for OTAs) would give Chicago one of the best wide receiver rooms in the NFC, with all of them being exceptionally young.
Chicago could look to protect Justin Fields
They don’t have to go receiver though. They could give Fields a little more protection on the offensive line. That might make more sense actually. After all, what’s the point of having a great receiver if your quarterback doesn’t have time to get the ball to him? If that’s Chicago’s thinking, then Northwestern tackle Peter Skoronski or the long-armed Paris Johnson from Ohio State would be the way to go. Honestly, Chicago can’t go wrong with this pick. With so many teams in the top five looking to draft a quarterback, the Bears will have an abundance of options at nine. Hell, they might be willing to trade down even further because there’s almost no way all of the names on their board will be taken by the time the ninth pick rolls around.
Who is Carolina going to pick?
Carolina, on the other hand...I have no idea what they’re doing. Obviously, they need a quarterback, so trading up was smart, but giving up this much for the first-overall pick seems a little overzealous. In fact, reports have already come out that the Panthers are trying to recoup some of their trade capital by trading down a spot or two. And honestly, they have to.
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The Panthers are not a good team. They’ve also traded away several of their best offensive weapons as well. Christian McCaffrey? Gone. D.J. Moore? Gone. Robbie “Chosen” Anderson? Gone. All they have left is Ish Smith, Terrace Marshall Jr., and a guy named Tommy that no one Trembles to. Whoever Carolina gets, even if they trade down, is going to be put in a bad situation. Barring an incredible leap directly into the NFL, he won’t do well, and seeing him perform so poorly will start to raise concerns. Whoever Carolina picks needs to succeed right away to be worth everything they gave up, otherwise people are going to be fired. I’d honestly hope that the team doesn’t start him in his rookie year, but I doubt the Carolina front office can afford to wait so long.
“Oh, but the Panthers can just draft some players to make up for their subpar O-line and poor halfbacks and receivers with all the picks they got from the Christian McCaffrey trade, right?” Not really. The Panthers only have six picks in this draft now, and while they can probably solve one issue with their second-round pick, whoever they choose won’t be enough to carry a passing attack or bolster the offensive line enough to keep Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud on their feet consistently.
The Bears win the trade
The Bears dominated this trade. The fact that Carolina has already started fielding offers is evidence of that. That said, any team in need of a QB just got a little more nervous. The Arizona Cardinals, who hold the third overall pick, are the first team on the clock who don’t need a quarterback right this very instant. The Las Vegas Raiders (seventh overall), Atlanta Falcons (eighth overall, but could ride with Desmond Ridder), and New York Jets (13th overall, barring the addition of a QB via trade) would be the most likely candidates to sneak into that third spot. Where these teams may have hoped one of the top-four quarterbacks in Young, Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson, would fall to them, that possibility seems much lower given these new circumstances. Look for another big trade up very soon.