Against all odds, the Chicago Bears have the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft. Chicago entered Week 18 with slim odds to secure the top pick in the draft. The team needed to lose to the Minnesota Vikings and see the Houston Texans defeat the Indianapolis Colts on the road.
That's exactly what happened Sunday. The Bears — sans quarterback Justin Fields — lost to the Vikings 29-13. Meanwhile, Texans quarterback Davis Mills rallied his team, throwing for three touchdowns, including one with 50 seconds left, in a wild 32-31 win over the Colts.
The word "wild" doesn't do the end of the Texans-Colts game justice. With Houston down by 7, Mills led a 14-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass on 4th and 20 to cut the deficit to one point. The play marked the first time a team converted on 4th and 20+ all season.
the Texans 4th-and-20 TD pass to lose the No. 1 pick was literally the only 4th-and-20+ conversion in the NFL all season long. Everybody else was 0-for-9 in that scenario
— Rodger Sherman (@rodger) January 8, 2023
Instead of tying things up and going to overtime (the teams tied 20-20 in Houston in Week 1), Texans head coach Lovie Smith opted to go for two. Mills found Jordan Akins in the end zone to put the Texans up by one point with 50 seconds to play.
The Colts failed to rally in the final minute, giving the Texans the upset win ... and knocking Houston out of the No. 1 spot in the draft.
The Bears didn't make things nearly as exciting. The team made its Week 18 intentions pretty obvious in the days leading up to the Vikings game. The Bears opted to sit Fields due to a hip injury, instead starting Nathan Peterman at quarterback. He lasted a few drives before the Bears turned to backup Tim Boyle, who joined the team Nov. 30. Peterman eventually returned to the game.
Chicago fell behind early against the Vikings and, despite a passing touchdown from Peterman and a rushing touchdown from rookie Velus Jones Jr., never really threatened the upset.
The Texans, on the other hand, made things interesting immediately. Houston jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead after scoring on its first two drives. The Colts managed a touchdown to make it 10-7, but quarterback Sam Ehlinger threw a pick-six in the second quarter to give the Texans another 10-point lead.
Indianapolis clawed its way back into the game in the second half, and trailed by just 3 points when Mills threw an interception at the end of the third quarter. The Colts managed a touchdown and a field goal in the fourth quarter to go up by seven points, setting up Mills to play the hero.
Bears will pick first in NFL draft for first time since 1947
The Bears have not held the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft in over 70 years. The team last possessed the top pick in the draft in 1947, when they selected Bob Fenimore, who played just one season in the NFL.
Though the Bears currently hold the top pick in the draft, they may not keep it. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is seen as the No. 1 overall player on most draft boards and quarterback isn't a need for Chicago. Fields showed electric play-making ability in his second season, and looks like he could be a potential franchise player.
If the Bears feel that way, the team will likely listen to offers for the top pick in the April draft. Teams will hypothetically part with multiple first-round picks to move up and select Young. The Bears have plenty of holes to plug, and getting multiple early-round picks would go a long way toward helping the team rebuild quickly.
Fields, however, was not drafted by the current Bears regime. If the team does not believe he can develop into a star passer, it could draft Young and try to trade Fields. In either scenario, the Bears would fetch a lot of picks and still have a young quarterback with promise.
The team could also keep the No. 1 overall pick and select a player other than Young. Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter and Alabama pass rusher Will Anderson Jr. are some of the other names at the top of mock drafts. Given all the Bears' needs, and the potential packages for Young, this would be the most surprising route for Chicago.
The Bears could use the extra draft picks in 2023, especially after giving up the No. 32 overall selection in a midseason trade for receiver Chase Claypool.
The Bears have the No. 1 overall pick — which means the Steelers get the No. 32 overall pick from Chicago as part of the Claypool trade. Remember, Dolphins forfeited their 2023 first-round pick bc of the tampering investigation.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) January 8, 2023
Claypool played six games with Chicago following the trade. He caught 11 balls for 111 yards and no touchdowns. Claypool is under contract through the 2023 season, and is expected to play a bigger role in the Bears' offense next year.
The Texans find themselves in an interesting position with the No. 2 pick. The team could try to trade up one spot to take Young, or it could take the next available quarterback with the No. 2 pick. If the Texans miss out on Young and feel they can wait to take a quarterback later, the team could trade down and acquire more picks. While it's assumed the Texans will take a quarterback early in the 2023 NFL draft, the team can address multiple needs if it trades down, though it risks losing out on a potential franchise quarterback in that scenario.
After miserable 2022 seasons, both the Bears and Texans have a lot of work to do if they want to return to contention. The Texans should be in position to select a potential franchise quarterback in the 2023 NFL draft, though maybe not the best one on the board.
The Bears have a lot of options on the table. The team not only owns the No. 1 overall pick, but also has the most salary cap space available in the NFL. Both of those factors should greatly speed up the Bears' rebuild and get Fields the help he desperately needs.