One of the pressing questions of the early NFL offseason was answered forcefully on Friday when the Chicago Bears handed the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Carolina Panther for a package including wide receiver DJ Mooretwo first-round picks (2023 and 2024) and two second-round picks (2023 and 2025).
The move resets the draft strategy for both teams and could dramatically change the landscape for quarterback-hungry teams finishing in the top 10. The top two betting favorites, who are No. 1 as of Friday night, were former Ohio State quarterbacks CJ Stroud (-225) and former quarterback from Alabama Bryce Young (+175), according to Caesar’s Sportsbook.
NFL reporters David Newton and Courtney Cronin offer details on what the mega deal could mean for Carolina and Chicago in terms of the April 27-29 draft and beyond.
What does this deal mean for the Panthers?
That means Bryce Young from Alabama, CJ Stroud from Ohio or Kentucky Will Levis will be Carolina’s starting quarterback sometime in 2023, maybe even in Week 1. Although Carolina hasn’t committed to any of the three at this point, it would be a tough sell with Floridas, according to a source with direct knowledge of trade talks Anthony Richardsonwhich is more of a project.
But control of the top pick ensures that general manager Scott Fitterer and coach Frank Reich get their favorite quarterback to work with Reich staffers senior assistant Jim Caldwell and first-year quarterbacks coach Josh McCown.
Early favorites for the No. 1 are Young and Stroud, both of whom seemed to impress the Carolina staff the most at the NFL Combine, Young in particular.
“He’s just cool,” Fitterer said of the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, whose only real downside is his height (5’10, 204 pounds). “Nothing is too big for him.”
A quarterback working on a rookie deal will give Carolina room to continue building the rest of the roster. A veteran like Jimmy Garoppolo or Sam Darnold could also be added if the money is right, although there’s a chance the midlevel quarterback market will get too steep for the Panthers’ liking.
The selection should also appeal to a fan base that has grown weary with a three-year shuffle of retreads including Teddy BridgewaterSam Darnold and Baker Mayfield. It gives the organization hope that they have a player who can scale similar heights (and eventually surpass) as Cam Newton, the top pick of the 2011 draft, who won 2015 NFL MVP honors and led Carolina to a Super Bowl.
Note that the Panthers are active in the free hand at wide receiver given Moore’s departure. A source with direct knowledge of the trade talks said the team wasn’t thrilled about the loss of Moore, but his surrender prevented Carolina from sending an additional first-round pick to the Bears. Carolina could also look to improve tight end position to help their likely new quarterback. The Panthers haven’t had a true tight end since Greg Olsen in 2019.
The bottom line is that the franchise quarterback that owner David Tepper has wanted since buying the team in 2018 is finally within reach.
– David Newton
Damien Woody calls the Bears’ catch for the No. 1 a ‘slam dunk’
Damien Woody explains why the bears did an excellent job with the loot they got for number 1.
What does this deal mean for the bears?
Handling the draft’s top pick reinforces Chicago’s belief in the quarterback Justin Fields, who doesn’t need to wonder if the No. 1 pick Bears will take one of the bright QB prospects. It confirms what sophomore general manager Ryan Poles has been saying all along, that Fields has shown enough improvement in his sophomore year to be considered a potential franchise quarterback.
And that trade allows the Poles and coach Matt Eberflus to raise the level of talent around Fields.
Buy a wide receiver DJ Moore, who turns 26 on April 14, improves Chicago’s reception corps. Moore, Carolina’s first-round pick in 2018 and No. 24 overall, finished with the Panthers as the fourth-best receiver in franchise history. In six seasons, he rushed for 5,201 yards on 364 receptions and had 21 touchdowns. He compiled three 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2019-21 and had a career-high seven touchdowns last season.
Those numbers are better than the best wide receivers available in free agency, a group highlighted by New England Jakobi Meyers and those of Kansas City JuJu Smith-Schuster. Adding a receiver in a year where free agency depth and draft aren’t great was a strong move, especially given the Bears’ current WR group Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Calm St. Brown And Velus Jones Jr.
Chicago now has four selections in the top 64 and 10 overall draft picks. The Bears can still pick up a high-profile player with ninth overall pick, but the likelihood of adding the draft’s top defensive pick seems out of reach. Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson couldn’t get past Arizona in 3rd place new mock draft by ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay.
It’s possible the Bears are considering drafting Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter in 9th place to fill a critical need with her inner passing frenzy, but the situation surrounding Carter – recently considered a top pick in the draft – is unclear afterwards he was charged on March 1 with reckless driving and racing in connection with an accident that killed a Georgia teammate and recruited an associate.
With Chicago needing to be up front on both offense and defense, Chicago could go on offense in the Northwest Peter Skoronsky. McShay had the bears trade twice, taking Skoronski with the number 7. If Skoronski makes it to 9th place, he could be another player to help Fields develop.
Chicago has a sizeable gap between No. 9 and its second-round pick at No. 53, which it acquired after trading Linebacker from Baltimore Roquan Smith last November. The Bears’ own second-round pick (No. 32) went to Pittsburgh in the Claypool trade.
Finding a way to close a 44-pick gap could be the Poles’ next challenge.
– Courtney Cronin