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The Path to the Number One Pick

The teams and games to watch down the stretch for the top pick

Carolina Panthers v Chicago Bears Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images

Let’s hit pause on the debate of what the Chicago Bears should do with their picks in 2024 and just agree that having the top overall pick again provides the most value and flexibility heading into the 2024 NFL Draft. Last year, Ryan Poles was able to trade out of that slot in exchange for star receiver DJ Moore, future draft capital including Carolina’s 2024 first round pick, and still added Darnell Wright, a promising young tackle. The number one pick can be an incredibly valuable choice, particularly in a year where top quarterback prospects enter the league. Luckily for the Bears, that is indeed the case yet again this season.

With seven weeks remaining in the 2023 regular season, there are only seven teams remaining with at least a 1% chance of finishing with that top choice according to ESPN’s analytics team. I eliminated the Washington Commanders from the table below because they currently have 4 wins and I’m going out on a limb to say that will keep them out of it. They would likely need to lose out, but with games against the Rams, Jets, and a finale with a Dallas team that may rest their starters, I’m not particularly worried about them.

That leaves us with six teams that could grab the top spot: Carolina Panthers, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, New England Patriots, the Bears, and the Tennessee Titans.

The chart lays out the remaining schedules of those six squads in Weeks 12-18 with their current percent chance of finishing with the #1 overall pick in the last column. The cells colored red indicate a game between two of the six teams on the chart, meaning those games will have huge implications in the final standings. The cells colored gold indicate a game against a team with a losing record and the cells in Week 18 colored green indicate a potential winnable game against a team that may be resting their starters in prep for the playoffs.

Obviously, Bears fans want the Panthers to continue losing games while wins by the other teams on the list further separate that team’s chances at the top selection. The Panthers have an incredibly friendly schedule down the stretch with the weak NFC South taking up four of their remaining seven contests. That makes this week’s game that much more meaningful as a Tennessee win knocks the Titans “down” and likely out of contention for the top pick with a fourth win and keeps the Panthers pick in the top spot.

The Cardinals play a winnable game this weekend against the Rams before likely not seeing a win opportunity until Week 16 against the Bears. They finish the season with the Seahawks who could be resting starters with a playoff berth clinched. The Cardinals seemingly have a much better chance at winning a couple of games down the stretch with Kyler Murray back at the helm. Still, they are a 2-win team that could certainly close out the year that way and take the top spot.

The remaining two teams, the Giants and Patriots, play each other this weekend. You’ll note on the chart that the Giants have the higher percentage chance at the number one pick of the two teams despite the Patriots only having two wins. That is seemingly a reflection of models giving the Patriots the better chance to win this weekend (they are field goal favorites). I think the play here is to cheer for the Patriots to get their third win and figure out the fourth win for both teams down the road.

Right now, the odds are in the Bears favor. The 56.4% chance from the Panthers combined with their own pick’s shot at 3.6% gives a 60% chance of picking first in next year’s draft. For those that want to hear the silver lining, the 2023 and 2024 drafts could set the Bears up for success for the next decade. Seven more weeks and we’ll know just how valuable their picks will be.

Where do you think the Bears will end up selecting with their two first round picks in next year’s draft?