One of the pressing questions of the early NFL offseason was forcefully answered Friday when the Chicago Bears gave the Carolina Panthers the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NFL draft for a package with wide receiver DJ Moore, two first-round picks (in 2023 and 2024 ) and two second-round picks (2023 and 2025).
The move marked the first time since 2016, when the Los Angeles Rams moved up to pick quarterback Jared Goff, that the No. 1 was dealt before draft day.
The move resets the draft strategy for both teams and could dramatically change the landscape for quarterback-hungry teams finishing in the top 10. -225) and former Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (+175), according to Caesars 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.
CJ Stroud (left) and Bryce Young are considered two of the best prospects in the draft, and one of the quarterbacks could end up moving to Carolina. AP Photo/Darron Cummings
What does this deal mean for the Panthers?
That means Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, or Kentucky’s Will Levis will be Carolina’s starting quarterback sometime in 2023, maybe even Week 1. While Carolina hasn’t committed to any of the three at this point, according to a source with direct knowledge of trade talks, it would be hard to go with Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who is being viewed more as 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 could get too steep for the Panthers’ liking.
The selection should also attract a fan base that has grown weary with a three-year mix of retreads, including Teddy Bridgewater, Sam 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 quarterback Justin Fields, who doesn’t have to wonder if the Bears will take one of the bright QB prospects with the No. 1 pick. 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.
The acquisition of wide receiver DJ Moore, who turns 26 on April 14, improves Chicago’s receiving 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’s Jakobi Meyers and Kansas City’s 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 consisting of Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous and St. Brown Velus Jones Jr.
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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 for 3rd place in ESPN NFL Draft Analyst Todd McShay’s recent mock draft.
It’s possible the Bears are considering drafting Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter at number 9 to fill a critical need with their inner passing frenzy, but the situation surrounding Carter — recently considered a top draft player — is unclear, after he was charged 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 look to Northwestern Peter Skoronski. 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 from Baltimore after linebacker Roquan Smith’s trade 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