Bears Clinch No. 1 Pick In 2023 NFL Draft

Most of the NFL’s attention was on the AFC playoff picture during the early slate of Sunday’s Week 18 games, but another important development took place along the way. The results of the Bears’ and Texans’ respective contests has left Chicago with the top pick in the upcoming draft.

The Bears, facing no need to win their season finale against the Vikings, sat starting quarterback Justin Fields. That move ended his opportunity to break the all-time single-season rushing record at the position, but also helped lessen the chances of an upset which would have taken them out of contention for the No. 1 slot. In his place, Chicago used both Nathan Peterman and Tim Boyle under center en route to a 29-13 loss.

That left the door open to Houston taking themselves out of the top spot, something which would take place only in the event they won against the Colts – a team which has cratered under interim head coach Jeff Saturday. In a back-and-forth game, Houston was able to score a Hail Mary touchdown on fourth-and-20 inside the final minute to bring them within one of Indianapolis. They successfully executed a two-point conversion to seal the win, one which knocked them down to the second overall pick in the process.

While it remains to be seen what effect (if any) that result has on Houston head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Nick Caserio with respect to their job security, it marks a considerable shake-up in the draft order. The Texans appeared to be on track to secure the top slot for most of the season, but the Bears’ struggles left them within striking distance as well. Now, the Bears will have the opportunity to make the draft’s first selection for only the third time in franchise history and the first since 1947.

It should be noted, of course, that there is a very real possibility that today’s reversal at the top of the board does not end up having a dramatic effect on the way things play out. Presuming both teams keep their picks, Chicago will likely be inclined to add to their defense, given Fields’ improvement shown during the season, as well as his age (23) and contract status (two more years on his rookie contract, and the potential of a fifth-year option). That could point them towards Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. or Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter with the No. 1 pick.

Houston, meanwhile, is widely expected to target a quarterback in April with one of their two first-rounders. That has led to plenty of connections between the Texans and Alabama’s Bryce Young, the highest-rated passer in the 2023 class. Chicago selecting a defender (or at least a different signal-caller) first overall would still all-but assuredly leave the Texans with their top target on the board; their extra Day 1 pick could also help them outbid other suitors for the top slot should the Bears make it available.

In any event, Bears GM Ryan Poles and Caserio (or his replacement) will each be well-positioned to add significantly to their respective teams in the spring given today’s events.

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