By Michael Fitzpatrick
Andy Dalton is not the Chicago Bears’ long-term answer at quarterback. General manager Ryan Pace and the Chicago brain trust need to find the future of the position in the 2021 NFL Draft. The last time Pace traded up in the top 10 to draft a quarterback, it was a move up one spot (from No. 3 to No. 2) to select Mitchell Trubisky. Fast forward four years and Trubisky is now the Buffalo Bills’ backup quarterback and the Bears are in no man’s land at the most important position in football.
Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson are basically locked in as the first two picks, but after that, there is a lot of mystery remaining. The San Francisco 49ers will likely take a quarterback at No. 3, but whether it is Justin Fields, Mac Jones, or Trey Lance remains to be seen. If any of those three fall out of the top nine (i.e. past the Denver Broncos), the Bears may look to move up and grab their quarterback of the future.
If Fields is the quarterback who falls, the Bears absolutely have to make a move to get him. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the country for the last two years at Ohio State. The biggest critiques of Fields are that he only throws to his first read, which has been disproven, and that he holds the ball too long. Holding the ball too long was a problem in his college career, but hopefully, NFL coaches can help make that simple fix. Fields could conceivably be the Bears’ starter from day one while getting mentored by Dalton—letting Fields sit behind Dalton for a little bit isn’t a bad plan either.
In terms of what the Bears would have to give up in order to move up from pick 20 to pick 10, it would almost certainly start with the No. 20 overall and a future first. In 2017, the Chiefs moved from 27 to 10 to draft Patrick Mahomes. They gave up 27, their 2018 first, and a third-round selection, a package similar to that is what the Bears should be comfortable giving up to draft a franchise quarterback like Fields.
Trading up for Lance or Jones gets a little trickier. Lance has sky-high potential, but he is extremely raw at this point in time. Given how this Bears’ coaching staff failed to develop Trubisky, no one should have faith in developing Lance into a good NFL starter. Drafting a project like Lance also signals the Bears are admitting they’re going into a full rebuild. It doesn’t make sense to give up multiple future assets to kick off a rebuild, especially if Pace and head coach Matt Nagy are fighting for their jobs in the present.
In terms of Jones, his ceiling isn’t nearly as high as Fields or Lance, though he probably has the safest floor. Trading future assets to get a quarterback with limited upside but a safe floor doesn’t make sense when they already have Dalton and Nick Foles on the roster.
Regardless of what the Bears end up doing, if they hope to move up into the top 10 of the 2021 NFL draft, the package will likely start with the No. 20 pick, their 2022 first, and a current or future day-two pick.
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