September 25, 2022

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ESPN Projects Chicago Bears To Claim #1 Pick In 2023

The Chicago Bears have so many achievements in their long history as a franchise. Yet one that has eluded them for the past 75 years is their failure to hold the #1 overall pick in the draft. They’ve come so close several times, holding the #2 pick in 1951 and 1970 and the #3 pick on five different occasions. A fun fact is both times they held it in 1941 and 1947, they took running backs. Times have certainly changed since then.

Bears fans have likely wondered what might’ve happened if they’d held the #1 pick during certain years during close calls, especially when there was a need for quarterback help. Now it appears ESPN is giving those people something to chew on. Seth Walder is the head of their analytics division. He ran the numbers for the 2022 Football Power Index (FPI) to determine which teams are the favorites for the Super Bowl and favorites to be the worst in the NFL.

The assessment of the Bears was, shall we say, pessimistic.

“We’ve got a brutally close race for the favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 draft, but the Bears edged out the Jets for the honor.

ESPN’s FPI is down on Justin Fields after a pretty brutal rookie season in which he finished with the worst QBR among qualifying quarterbacks in the league. Edge rusher Khalil Mack and receiver Allen Robinson II are both gone, and while there are still a few good players remaining in the defensive front — including edge rusher Robert Quinn and linebacker Roquan Smith — there isn’t a whole lot other strengths on the Bears’ roster.

Per FPI ratings, the Bears have a 14% chance to pick first next April, followed by the Jets (14%), Texans (11%), Jaguars (9%) and Falcons (9%).”

There isn’t any beating around the bush. The index isn’t a big believer in the Bears’ young quarterback after what happened in 2021. This became even more true after Robinson’s exit and the supposed failure of GM Ryan Poles to prop up either the offensive line or wide receiving corps. Coupled with a defense that lost two key defensive linemen in Mack and Akiem Hicks and it’s easy to understand why people are down on Chicago.

Meanwhile, teams like the Jets, Jaguars, and Falcons invested heavily in their quarterbacks. New York grabbed explosive receiver Garrett Wilson in the 1st round. Atlanta did the same with Drake London. Jacksonville threw tons of money at the position with Christian Kirk and other additions. The Bears’ most notable acquisitions were free agent Byron Pringle, and 3rd round pick Velus Jones Jr.

Chicago Bears aren’t weak enough to claim the #1 pick.

The fact is they’re still too talented to suck that much. David Montgomery is a good running back. Darnell Mooney is a 1,000-yard receiver. The odds of Fields playing as poorly as he did last season are remote. That is not to say he’ll set the world on fire, but it stands to reason he’ll at least be somewhat better. As for the defense, Mack and Hicks are gone, but they still have an adequate front led by Robert Quinn and Trevis Gipson. Roquan Smith is a star at linebacker, and their secondary has been retooled thanks to the arrivals of Kyler Gordon, Jaquan Brisker, and Tavon Young.

That might not be a team good enough to make the playoffs, but it’s also not a team bad enough to look completely useless. Think about this. The last five teams to claim the #1 overall pick went 3-14, 1-15, 2-14, 3-13, and 0-16. In other words, you have to be really, really bad to get that pick. The Chicago Bears came close before with their 3-13 record in 2016. Does anybody believe this team is as bad as that one was?

The 2016 Bears had names like these starting several games:
  • QB Matt Barkley/Brian Hoyer
  • WR Cameron Meredith
  • TE Logan Paulsen
  • CB Cre’von LeBlanc
  • S Harold Jones-Quartey

With respect, this team is considerably better than that one. Injuries could be an equalizer to help this prediction come true, but it would take several—most of them on irreplaceable names. The Bears may claim a top 10 pick next year, but #1 overall is a significant stretch.

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