What are the Chicago Bears' options with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Lake Forest, IL, USA; Chicago Bears-Head Coach Matt Eberflus (left) and new Bears General Manager Ryan Poles (right) pose for photos during a Press Conference Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

  • Stand pat: Even though most assume the Chicago Bears will trade away No. 1 overall, there's definitely a chance they keep the pick, as the first overall pick hasn't been traded away since 2016.
  • Trade with a team in the top five: The Houston Texans and Indianapolis Colts stand out as teams picking in the top five that could trade up for the first overall pick to take a quarterback.
  • Trade out of the top five: If the Bears want to get a little more surplus trade value, they could opt to trade with the Las Vegas Raiders or Carolina Panthers.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Due to a fourth-and-20 prayer and a busted coverage on a two-point conversion, the Houston Texans played their way out of the No. 1 overall pick, putting the Chicago Bears in the driver's seat of the 2023 NFL Draft. The Texans now join the Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders and Carolina Panthers as franchise quarterback-needy teams within striking distance of the No. 1 overall pick. Let’s explore all of the Bears' options and what it will take for each QB-needy franchise to get a deal done with Chicago to secure QB1 in this year’s draft.

The question then becomes…how much will it cost? The last time the first overall pick was moved was in 2016, when the Los Angeles (then St. Louis) Rams moved up 14 spots to do so. Here are some of the notable occasions when a franchise traded to the top of a draft to take a franchise quarterback this century, which includes what teach team had to give up according to the PFF, Fitzgerald-Spielberger, and Jimmy Johnson pick valuation charts:

Note: future picks are discounted to a middle-of-the-round valuation (i.e. future 1st = pick 16, future 2nd = pick 48, etc.)

2021 Miami Dolphins to San Francisco 49ers
  • Sent: No. 3 overall
  • Received: No. 12 overall, 2022 first-rounder, 2022 third-rounder, 2023 first-rounder
Pick Chart Given Up QB Pick Value Surplus
PFF WAR 2.307 1.062896162 217.0%
F-S 5710 2443 233.7%
JJ 3390 2200 154.1%
2018 Indianapolis Colts to New York Jets
  • Sent: No. 3 overall
  • Received: Nos. 6, 37 and 49 overall and 2019 second-rounder
Pick Chart Given Up QB Pick Value Surplus
PFF WAR 2.194 1.062896162 206.4%
F-S 5328 2443 218.1%
JJ 2960 2200 134.5%
2016 Tennessee Titans to Los Angeles (then St. Louis) Rams
  • Sent: No. 1 overall
  • Received: Nos. 15, 43, 45 and 76 overall in addition to a 2017 first-rounder and 2017 third-rounder
Pick Chart Given Up QB Pick Value Surplus
PFF WAR 2.668 1.135 235.1%
F-S 6972 3000 232.4%
JJ 3370 3000 112.3%
2004 Los Angeles (then San Diego) Chargers to New York Giants
  • Sent: Eli Manning (No. 1 overall)
  • Received: Philip Rivers (No. 4 overall), No. 65 overall, 2005 first-rounder, 2005 fifth-rounder
Pick Chart Given Up QB Pick Value Surplus
PFF WAR 2.115 1.135 186.3%
F-S 5291 3000 176.4%
JJ 3095 3000 103.2%
2001 Los Angeles (then San Diego) Chargers to Atlanta Falcons
  • Sent: No. 1 overall
  • Received: Nos. 5, and 67 overall in addition to a 2002 second-rounder
Pick Chart Given Up QB Pick Value Surplus
PFF WAR 1.673 1.135 147.4%
F-S 4091 3000 136.4%
JJ 2375 3000 79.2%

As you can see, the trade surplus has started to skyrocket in recent years. That’s just the nature of the beast due to the quarterback value soaring over the past two decades and the NFL's rookie wage scale making it much easier to build around quarterbacks who are selected at the top of the draft. While the 2023 NFL Draft's fairly deep quarterback class will hurt the Bears a tad in their trade talks, I’d still expect them to get at around a 25% surplus on the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart.

With that in mind, let’s explore what that could look like with all their options.

Stay at No. 1 overall

While everyone has the Bears penciled in to trade the top spot after Justin Fields‘ emergence this past fall, actually trading the No. 1 overall pick has been a rarity of late, as it’s only happened once in the past 15 years (2016). That being said, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer has reported the Bears are committed to Fields. If that’s the case and quarterbacks are worthy of the pick, the history of trade value says they’d be foolish to sit there and draft one of the blue-chip two defensive linemen — Will Anderson Jr. and Jalen Carter — in this class.

Trade with the Houston Texans

  • Give: No. 1 overall (3,000 points on trade value chart)
  • Receive: Nos. 2, 33, 104 overall (3,266)
  • Surplus Value: 8.9%

This trade would come with the least surplus value, as the Texans would have the valid argument that the Bears' situation wouldn’t change at all due to trading back just one pick for Houston to take a quarterback that Chicago wasn't going to pick anyway. That’s what we saw the last time such a move was made, as the Bears traded up with the 49ers for Mitch Trubisky, giving up thing points of surplus value on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart. This one seems most likely because it still gives the Bears some picks they desperately need while allowing them to take the player they wanted all along.

Trade with the Indianapolis Colts

  • Give: No. 1 overall (3,000)
  • Receive: Nos. 4, 35, 79 overall in addition to a 2024 first-rounder ad 2024 third-rounder (3,735)
  • Surplus Value: 24.5%

I keep going back to the Colts as a likely trade partner for three reasons:

  1. They are obviously desperate after the revolving door of quarterbacks that have come through Indianapolis since Andrew Luck retired on the prior to the 2019 season.
  2. This keeps the Bears within striking distance of Carter and Anderson — both considered to be in a clear tier of their own as the top non-quarterback prospects in the class.
  3. The Colts get to jump a division rival for QB1.

That being said, this is a very “eye of the beholder” draft class with the quarterbacks available. Depending on what your team values, you could have any of the top three signal-callers as QB1 — Bryce Young, Will Levis and C.J. Stroud — in the draft class. Colts general manager Chris Ballard has always favored tools, meaning Levis is likely the top guy on their draft board. The Colts may very well be comfortable sitting at No. 4 overall because they believe Levis will fall to them if they do.

Trade with Las Vegas Raiders

  • Give: No. 1 overall (3,000)
  • Receive: Nos. 7, 38 and 70 overall in addition to 2024 first-rounder and 2024 second-rounder (3,680)
  • Surplus Value: 22.7%

While the Raiders feel like a team that’s going to target a veteran, that’s often easier said than done. Moving this far down would take the Bears out of the Carter/Anderson sweepstakes, but it would also come with some future picks that could prove to be incredibly valuable. 

Trade with Carolina Panthers

  • Give: No. 1 overall (3,000)
  • Receive: Nos. 9 and 61 overall in addition to a 2024 first-rounder and 2025 first-rounder (3,642)
  • Surplus Value: (21.4%)

The Panthers are a ways away from contending, making them arguably a more intriguing trade partner for the Bears if they’re looking for future picks. It isn’t easy to make the value work without multiple future first-rounders involved. Carolina would be paying a very hefty price, which is why it’s unlikely given a new head coach in Frank Reich shouldn’t be that desperate, yet.

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