American Football

Dissecting the Chicago Bears’ Options At No. 9 Overall

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2024 CFP National Championship - Michigan v Washington
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The 2024 NFL draft is just 10 days away. While many can safely assume what the Chicago Bears will do with the No. 1 overall pick, the intrigue eight selections later will headline many talking points around the city leading up to next Thursday night. With plenty of options ahead, we dive into each one here.

We’re under two weeks until the 2024 NFL Draft kicks off in Detroit, and the Chicago Bears are slated to be on the clock two times within the first ten selections on the opening night festivities. At this point, the entire NFL world has a good idea of where Chicago is leaning with the top selection. Barring a surprise, it’s expected to be USC quarterback Caleb Williams. At one point, there was plenty of speculation about what the Bears would do with the pick, but after trading Justin Fields to the Pittsburgh Steelers and the glowing reviews both general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus have given the star USC quarterback, there’s not much mystery left in the top pick.

Despite the excitement surrounding the many directions Poles could go in the first round, the team has just four selections. All of which are within the Top 122 picks. Chicago could stand tall at No. 9 and reap the rewards of a quarterback-heavy draft. They could also opt for a trade down, which would net them additional draft capital in Days 2 and 3. Whatever decision this organization decides to make, the talent they’ll come away with on Night 1 will be one to remember. For a deeper dive into the Bears’ choices ahead, let’s dissection the plethora of options they’ll be facing when they’re on the clock at No. 9 overall.

Bucket 1: Stick and Pick

Anyone pretending to know what the Bears will do at No. 9 is simply pulling your leg. There are far too many obstacles in front of them that need to play out before the picture becomes clear. As of now, every plugged in NFL and NFL Draft insider has four quarterbacks going before Chicago’s second first-round selection. For those of you who are rooting for Chicago to stay and make a selection in the spot, this is your most ideal situation.

In the scenario where four quarterbacks go before the Bears’ selection, we would need to account for just four more selections. Of those teams picking ahead of the Bears, one of the Arizona Cardinals or Los Angeles Chargers seem most likely to either:

A. Trade down with a quarterback-needy team.

B. Stand pat and select the top receiver on the board.

While it’s never best to make any sort of draft guarantees, it feels likely that quarterbacks will go 1-2-3 and one of these two teams will take a receiver and the other will trade down with a team that will ultimately select a quarterback. In that scenario, there would be just three picks remaining before the Bears are back on the clock. For the sake of this exercise, I’ll just mock out how I believe these last few picks will go.

1-3. Quarterbacks

4-5. One quarterback, one receiver.

6. New York Giants: WR Malik Nabers/Marvin Harrison Jr.

7. Tennessee Titans: OT Joe Alt

8. Atlanta Falcons: DE Dallas Turner

“And with the ninth pick in the NFL Draft, the Chicago Bears select…”

With how the board would play out in this situation (with four quarterbacks taken), the Bears are all but guaranteed the top offensive tackle, the top defensive player, or one of the Top 3 receivers.

1. WRs Marvin Harrison Jr./Malik Nabers/Rome Odunze

For the sake of this exercise, we’re just going to look at buckets of positional groups. Most realistically, Chicago will be staring down Odunze. There appears to be much more talk about Harrison Jr. and Nabers being a 1a/1b conversation than it appears that one of them has a realistic shot of falling to No. 9. Harrison Jr. has been the dream for most Bears fans, and I love Nabers’ skillset, but Odunze would be far from a consolation prize in this scenario.

Yes, the Bears did trade a fourth-round pick for veteran receiver Keenan Allen. The issue is that he’s under contract for just the 2024 season and appears to be seeking one last big payday. I’m not sure Poles will be looking to give big money to a 33-year-old receiver next offseason. Even if he’s comfortable doing that and they extend Allen, it’s not a long-term solution. Landing a young receiver on a cheap four-year deal to grow with your rookie quarterback is the dream. We’ve seen multiple teams attempt the same thing and it has worked out well in the past. Imagine being able to pair Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase in the same draft. That’s exactly what Chicago would be trying to do in this situation.

2. OT Joe Alt/Olu Fashanu

Alt is the clear OT1 for me. I put Fashanu on this list because he’s Williams’ former high school teammate and would be a perfect fit at left tackle. In this particular scenario, Alt is a much bigger focus. His “market” starts at No. 5 overall with the Chargers. That, of course, is assuming that they don’t trade down with a quarterback-needy team. If Alt lasts past Los Angeles, his next ideal fit comes at No. 7 with the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee has been swinging big this offseason. They gave Calvin Ridley a huge contract in free agency while also trading for L’Jarius Sneed. They still have some holes, but the offensive line sticks out as the biggest. If they trade out or select a different position like receiver, Alt could fall to No. 9. If that were to be the case, you’d have to think Poles and his scouting staff would be licking their chops at the idea of landing a franchise left tackle this late in the Top 10.

3. DE Dallas Turner/Jared Verse/Laiatu Latu

Depending on who you talk to, the Bears’ biggest need is either at receiver or along the defensive line. Assuming that the Top 3 receivers and Alt are off the board, there’s a strong chance that Chicago would have their top choice of defenders. Considering cornerback isn’t a need for them, it’s all on the edge here. Turner is the only player I’d have as graded out high enough to take here, but scheme fit could be the bigger factor. Based purely on production and traits, I have Latu as my top edge rusher. Medicals are the biggest question there and he doesn’t strike me as someone the Bears would be overly in love with. Verse profiles as the best overall fit for this defense, but No. 9 feels a tad rich for his skillset. Verse is big, possesses good length, and is well-rounded. My concerns are more about his upside as a pass rusher. He feels like one of those good, not great players. Plus, he’s already 24. For me, Turner would make a lot of sense if that’s the direction Chicago wants to go, but something tells me Verse would be their top target off the edge here.

Bucket 2: Small Trade Down

In this second scenario, Chicago would have a quarterback or “faller” on the board when they jump on the clock at No. 9. That could be JJ McCarthy, Alt, Turner, or maybe even another offensive tackle that a team highly covets. Poles would need to see a similar value in a different group of players to make this move, but if he does, it could help net them an extra third-round pick this year while not losing much value on their draft board.

Potential teams:

No. 11 (Minnesota Vikings): A quarterback would have to be there for this one to make much sense.

No. 12 (Denver Broncos): Again, probably a quarterback destination. Denver’s lack of draft capital leads me to believe they aren’t a serious trade-up candidate, but more plugged-in beat writers have reported different. So, who knows at this point?

No. 13 (Las Vegas Raiders): You guessed it! Another potential quarterback-needy team that could pay an added tax to move up four spots to land one. Assuming one of those Top 4 quarterbacks did drop, this seems like the sweet spot for a deal. Who knows, maybe Poles will get lucky, and their new regime will be willing to pay a little extra and give up a second-round pick.

No. 14 (New Orleans Saints): Quarterback could be something to keep in mind here, but offensive tackle is a much bigger need for New Orleans. Our friend, Brad Speilberger, over at Pro Football Focus, mocked this exact trade last week, which had the Bears sending No. 9 and No. 75 to the Saints for No. 14, No. 45, and No. 168. I’m not entirely sure I’d like to see them use a trade down as an “upgrade” scenario, but it gives you an idea of how much value drops off after the Top 5 when it comes to first-round trades.

Any of these moves would keep the Bears well within range to grab the next pool of players on their boards, while adding another Day 2 pick (maybe more), in the process. Some of those targets could be:

  • WR Brian Thomas Jr.
  • OT Olu Fashanu
  • DE Jared Verse
  • DT Byron Murphy II
  • DE Laiatu Latu
  • OT Taliese Fuaga
  • OT JC Latham
  • iOL Graham Barton
  • iOL Jackson Powers-Johnson

A small trade-down would not limit their options, even if it is in the second tier of players when viewing the first-round talents of this draft class. This type of move will be dependent on how Poles feels the value of this group stacks up with a smaller return in a trade-down scenario.

Bucket 3: Larger Trade Down

This is where Poles can start getting into the second round, maybe potentially future first-round territory on a return. Every year we see teams trade up for a target that not many folks would have thought about. Usually, it’ll be a non-quarterback. It’s always hard to project these types of moves, but for reference, the Bears gave up a 2022 first-round pick to move up from No. 20 to No. 11 to select quarterback Justin Fields. Looking at the difference in value on both charts, Jimmy Johnson had it as a 400-point difference (equal to No. 60) and Rich Hill’s came in at an 89-point difference (equal to No. 60). Chicago paid the “quarterback tax, which is not a luxury that should be counted on in return this time around.

Assuming that a 2025 first-rounder is more of a pipe dream without trading back into the 20s, I’d like to zero in on one team that could make a lot of sense, and that’s the Jacksonville Jaguars. Similar to the Bears’ trade-up of Fields in 2021, the point value difference would be identical with the Jimmy Johnson chart and move up one slot to No. 59 on the Rich Hill model. Jacksonville currently holds the No. 48 selection in round two, which would almost line up point-for-point with the Johnson chart and be a slight overpay following the value of Hill’s.

Trading down to No. 17 would have some drawbacks, but it would likely still guarantee them a pool of players that looks similar to the one above, outside of a few top names. Thomas Jr., Murphy II, Barton, and maybe even Latu would come seriously into play at positions of need. It would also give Chicago a needed second-round selection and allow them to fill another need and maintain more flexibility for the remainder of the draft.

Again, while the mystery is all but gone with the Bears’ top pick in the draft, there’s still plenty of intrigue about what Chicago will do when they are on the clock eight picks later. Poles will have many options to weigh, and judging by his own words at the owner’s meetings, my best guess is that if he does entertain a trade-down, it won’t be a big one. The focus seems to be more on quality over quantity at this stage of his drafting in 2024. Either way, the Bears are in a unique position and it’s one that likely won’t come around again for a long time.

Minnesota v Ohio State
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Bucket 4: Continue Their Aggressive Offseason and Trade Up

For my money, this appears to be the least likely scenario but one that should not be discounted. For this to become a reality, Chicago will have to highly covet a few “blue” players in this range. Could it be Harrison Jr? Maybe it’ll be Alt. Who knows, maybe they are one of the NFL teams with Nabers as WR1.

Even more important: What are the Bears willing to give up? As noted above, they’re heading into next weekend with four selections, with two of those being in the first ten selections. Conventional wisdom says that if a team wants to add more picks, trading one of their higher-value picks makes the most sense. Doing the opposite will cost them. Call it a hunch, but I would guess that if they choose to trade up in this scenario, it’ll be for a maximum of a 2025 2nd round selection. Considering how bad the Carolina Panthers are likely to be again next season, that pick will be highly valued. The better question remains: What can Carolina’s 2025 2nd round pick net them? At best, it’s a starting point for talks with the Los Angeles Chargers. I’m not sure it would get talks to the finish line but combined with another mid-round pick in next year’s draft, they might be able to make it work. Trades for No. 6 with the New York Giants or No. 7, which is held by the Tennessee Titans is a more realistic scenario. That would likely mean that one of Harrison Jr., Nabers, or Alt would remain on the board. Chicago’s own 2025 2nd round selection would be enough to get that done.

Again, we must ask ourselves how likely this type of move would be and the answer is – not likely. Even so, it’s something that must be kept in mind, especially if they hold one of those three names in an elite category.

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