Chicago just fell ass-backwards into the first pick in the 2023 draft. Lovie Smith and Davis Mills gave the McNair family a giant middle finger on their way out the door by ruining Houston’s ability to select their preferred quarterback without paying the piper for that privilege. While the Bears were rotating two interception machines during their week 18 finale, the Texans pulled off a miraculous comeback against the Colts. Chicago now controls the entire draft. While some believe the Bears should select a quarterback and trade Justin Fields, this article is only going to explore the trade options for the first pick.
Many are pointing to the 2016 Jared Goff trade as a starting point for Chicago’s asking price. The connection is simple enough; 2016 was last time the first pick was traded. In short, the Titans received two firsts, two seconds, and two thirds for the first pick and two fourths. However, quarterback draft trades aren’t created equal. Distance traveled up the board matters, and the Rams went flying up the board from the 15th pick to the first pick. Other factors are the perceived quality of the quarterback prospect, the strength of the available alternatives, and the number of potential suitors actually willing to pay the asking price.
I’ve detailed the modern history of quarterback trades many times before, so we don’t need to rehash the entire list. What will be most useful is narrowing it down to trades involving a top five pick ever since the Goff trade. As always, we’re using the Chase Stuart draft chart in order to quantify the value.
Recent Top 5 Trades
Jared Goff – To go from #15 to #1 in 2016, St. Louis gave up #5, #15, #43, #45, #76, and #100 for #1, #113, and #117. Tennessee profited 34.3 points. The 1st pick is worth 34.6 points.
Carson Wentz – To go from #8 to #2 in 2016, Philadelphia gave up #8, #12, #64, #77, and #100 for #2, and #139. Cleveland profited 27.1 points. The 3rd pick is worth 27.6 points.
Mitch Trubisky – To go from #3 to #2 in 2017, Chicago gave up #3, #67, #70, and #111. San Francisco profited 17.3 points. The 15th pick is worth 17.4 points.
Sam Darnold – To go from #6 to #3 in 2018, the Jets gave up #6, #34, #37, and #49. Indianapolis profited 29.1 points. The second pick is worth 30.2 points.
Trey Lance – To go from #12 to #3 in 2021, San Francisco gave up #12, #29, #28*, and #100. Miami profited 22.9* points of draft capital. The 6th pick is worth 23.2 points. (*Projection)
Chicago obviously wants to maximize their return, but a realistic goal is finding something in the Trey Lance to Sam Darnold profit range (22.7 – 29.1 points). We’ve outlined four variables for trade compensation; distance traveled up the board, the perceived quality of the quarterback prospect, the strength of the available alternatives, and the number of potential suitors actually willing to pay the asking price. Before getting into potential trade partners, let’s take a quick look at how Bryce Young and C.J. Stroud compare to the names above as prospects.
Scouts Inc. prospect ratings are not the end all, be all, but for what it’s worth, here is how they rated each quarterback we’re using to try to build the proper context:
-Jared Goff; 91
-Carson Wentz; 91
-Mitch Trubisky; 89
-Sam Darnold; 94
-Trey Lance; 92
-Bryce Young; 94
The strength of available alternatives is going to heavily influence how many suitors will actually pay the asking price. Here are the potential bidders, in order of their current draft slot at the time of this writing, accompanied by a potential/projected trade package and some analysis of their willingness to pull the trigger.
Houston (2nd pick)
If the Texans packaged #2, #33, #65, #198 and #203 the Bears would be looking at a profit of 17.6, which is nearly identical to the Trubisky trade. Houston, presumably, would point out to Chicago that the Bears themselves paid that price to move up a single spot. The Bears would then have to say “the guy the previous regime traded up for was a trash prospect though, so that doesn’t count.”
This is very unscientific, but let’s just say Houston’s 2024 first rounder ends up as the 10th pick. Putting together #2, #10, and #33 creates a 27.8 profit for Chicago, which falls into our expected range. Project the Texans to be selecting higher than 10th in 2024 and the profit for the Bears increases. Of course, Houston could offer #12 this year instead of the 2024 first, which would change Chicago’s profit to 26.7 and is still in range (this is why people saying “The Titans got two firsts, two seconds, and two thirds for Goff which should be the starting point for Chicago’s negotiations” is entirely out of context). Both teams are going to value the 2023 pick more, as it can immediately be used to help their young quarterback.
The Texans are only going to be willing to send this package to the Bears if they absolutely LOVE one quarterback significantly more than any other prospect. I mean, hey, who knows, but I’d imagine Houston is going to prefer taking the second quarterback off the board (which could still end up being their top quarterback) and using the other picks to surround him with talent.
Indianapolis (4th pick)
Despite the fact whoever was born in 2004 can somehow now legally vote and enter the military, here is the breakdown of the Eli Manning trade, which saw the New York use the 4th pick in order to get the first player off the board:
Eli Manning – To go from #4 to #1 in 2004, the Giants gave up #4, #11, #65, and #141. San Diego profited 21.6 points of draft capital. The 8th pick is worth 21.4 points.
Again, if we unscientifically peg Indianapolis to have the 10th pick in 2024, the Colts could put together #4, #10, and #35 for the first pick which would see Chicago profit 23.1 points, which is almost identical to the Lance trade and close to the Eli trade. The Bears may want two firsts, two seconds, and two thirds, but Indianapolis should point directly to the Eli trade and say “the Giants gave up two firsts, a third, and a fourth to go from #4 to #1, so we’re basically bundling the third and fourth into a high second rounder.” Maybe the Colts would add #79, #105, or a future third to get this more toward the Wentz trade if they needed to top a whopping offer from someone further down the board.
Obviously a ton depends on who the Colts hire as a coach and whether or not Chris Ballard keeps his job, but I think Indianapolis is willing to pay the price. First off, I’m sure Jim Irsay is completely fucking over this quarterback roulette he’s witnessed ever since Andrew Luck retired. Also, we have this nugget from Ballard:
Chris Ballard said he'll trade up if he believes the right QB is there in this draft.
"I'll do whatever it takes."
— Nate Atkins (@NateAtkins_) January 10, 2023
If Ballard doesn’t get fired you’d have to imagine he’d pay the Eli Manning price tag, or perhaps more. Ballard absolutely must get the quarterback position settled or he’s going to get fired. Also, if he does get fired then what does he care about trading away future picks?
There’s also the added wrinkle that Indianapolis could very well be Chicago’s preferred trade partner. In a world where the Bears trade the top pick, it’s a rather safe assumption the first two picks will be quarterbacks. Staying in the top four means Chicago still walks away with one of Will Anderson or Jalen Carter, the consensus top two non-quarterbacks.
Seattle (5th pick)
Like Houston, Seattle is armed with two first rounders this year. Unlike Houston, Seattle also has two seconds. As of now the Seahawks’ own first is #20 and their own second is #53, though the playoffs haven’t concluded. If they were to package #5, #20, #37, and #53 the Bears would profit 26.1 points, right in line with the Wentz trade and within our range. Seattle also has #84, #122, and #152 they could try to mix and match in an effort to at least hang on to #53.
The huge caveat here is; are the Seahawks even interested in a rookie quarterback? The Geno Smith comeback story is tremendous. However, you aren’t guaranteed to be drafting this high ever again. Seattle may believe they can use those picks to load up the roster and Geno is good enough to get them to the promised land. I personally would take advantage of being within striking distance of getting a top quarterback prospect and go get a true potential franchise quarterback.
Another question mark over drafting a quarterback is does the 71-year-old Pete Carroll (72 come week 2 of the 2023 season) want to develop a rookie, or does he want Geno the veteran out there? Knowing Carroll’s loyalty to players and his public praising of Geno throughout the year, I’d imagine Carroll would prefer to build out the rest of the roster and Seattle would not pony up four top 53 picks. But what the hell do I know? (I do know it is an absolute lock that John Schneider trades down from at least one of these first rounders)
Detroit (6th pick)
Detroit is in a very similar position to Seattle. They have two firsts this year (#6 and #18) and two seconds (#48 and #59). Those four picks together for the first pick puts Chicago at a 23.3 profit, falling short of Seattle’s potential offer but still within our forecasted range. The Lions would have to sweeten the deal with #81 (worth 6.6 points), Day 3 picks, or future picks.
Also like the Seahawks, Detroit has a viable starter in Jared Goff. The Lions just went 9-8 and missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker. Dan Campbell may believe building up the rest of the roster is the best way to become a Super Bowl competitor. However, once again, I would go get one of these prospects because if all goes according to plan Detroit will never be picking this high again and they should utilize the fact they’re within striking distance.
There is one major difference between the Lions and Seahawks though, and it’s the fact Detroit is in Chicago’s division. I personally think the “don’t trade within your division!” thing is stupid, but I would be wary of potentially handing a division rival their franchise quarterback. How much of a “tax” would the Lions have to pay to convince the Bears to trade them the pick? Four first rounders? I’m being dead serious. If you were Ryan Poles and Detroit said “we want Bryce Young, just tell us what it’ll cost,” what would your answer be? Is there just no deal you’d ever accept because they’re in the division? Would you take 10 firsts (obviously this would never be offered)? Everyone has a price tag, what is Chicago’s for trading with Detroit?
(I’m sure this doesn’t enter into the Lions’ calculus at all, but for what it’s worth, the Bengals drafted Burrow’s college wide receiver, the Dolphins drafted Tua’s college wide receiver, and the Eagles drafted Hurts’ college wide receiver (sort of) and we saw each quarterback flourish. Reuniting Young and Jameson Williams would be cool.)
Las Vegas (7th pick)
If Vegas is going to outbid the above suitors, they’d have to offer Chicago #7, #38, #70, their 2024 first, and 2024 second (and this is before knowing what picks they get for Derek Carr). I have no clue what I think the Raiders’ interest level is. On the one hand, if Josh McDaniels wanted to hand pick his quarterback, that makes sense. It would also make sense if their theory is since they’re trapped in a division with Herbert and Mahomes, they NEED to take a shot on Young or Stroud and hope they become a top five quarterback. Or, similarly, hope Levis falls to #7 and that he ends up being a top five quarterback.
On the other hand, since they’re trapped in a division with Herbert and Mahomes, McDaniels doesn’t have 2-3 years to develop a quarterback and keep losing, so he needs to go the veteran route. (Honestly, unless McDaniels can convince Brady to come to Vegas, their best odds of being competitive in 2023 is to just keep Carr)
Atlanta (8th pick)/Carolina (9th pick)
I’m lumping these teams together because the theory of each is very similar. They’re picking 8th/9th, the NFC south is there for seizing (especially if Brady leaves), and they’re both likely motivated to settle their quarterback position. Atlanta laid a foundation for the first two years of the Arthur Smith experience and it’s now time to strike and get their guy (especially since Young figures to do well in Smith’s bootleg offense). The Panthers quarterback roulette the past handful of seasons has been abysmal and you’d figure David Tepper wants a franchise guy, plus new coaches often pair themselves with new quarterbacks year one on the job.
We’ve now entered the territory where the “two firsts, two seconds, and two thirds” asking price is more realistic. Each team would be looking at giving up their first, second, and third rounders each of the next two years, or staggering some of the future picks into 2025. Roughly speaking, such a package would see Chicago profiting 43 points, so the Bears would have to send back some Day 3 picks, just like the Titans did in the Goff trade, to even it out a bit. Leaving out the two thirds brings the 43 point profit down into the range we’ve been working with, but if they’re going to top offers from teams higher up the board then they need to outbid the two firsts and two seconds Seattle, Detroit, and Vegas (who also added a third) might offer.