Going back to week 18 of the 2022 season, it was a fun day watching Lovie Smith rally his Houston Texans to an improbable win which dropped them from the first pick to the second pick and gave the Bears the top overall spot.
With Justin Fields set at quarterback, Chicago Bears’ fans knew that Ryan Poles was going to send that pick for what he could find. He scored a huge deal with the Carolina Panthers that included the 9th pick, a first round pick next year, two second round picks and standout wide receiver DJ Moore.
As the NFL Draft starts falling into place, let’s try to figure out what that switch from two to one did for Ryan Poles. It’s a safe bet that even if he was second, the Bears probably would still have traded down rather than take Alabama’s Will Anderson, the only reasonable selection the Bears could have made at two if they didn’t trade away that pick. With the Houston Texans at one, the pick would be Bryce Young. I think you can take that to the bank. There are even rumors coming out that if the Panthers take Young first, the Texans are going to take Anderson. They are all-in on Bryce and don’t even want to consider the other QBs.
Adam Schefter, who we all know is the NFL’s top insider, believes the Panthers are going to select Bryce Young with the top pick going as far to say the Texans meeting with him is “a waste of time.” Why that’s intriguing is the fact that the Panthers may not have been as interested about moving up to the second pick if their top choice is also Young.
But let’s play it out because someone out there would want CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson with the second pick in the draft so what trade partner would Ryan Poles have found?
If the Bears and Colts made a trade, the Colts probably could make that move without giving the Bears a first round pick. Trading 4, 35 and 79 this year and the Colts 2024 second round pick is an overpay, but not an egregious one. That’s probably the most the Colts would offer for that pick and a solid haul to drop down from 2 to 4.
If the Bears made a move with the Raiders, that trade would be more lucrative for sure. The Raiders would be sending Chicago 7 and 38 this year, as well as their 2024 first round pick. The Raiders would have to give a little bit more to even out the trade, but that could probably be done with a 2024 third rounder or perhaps even a 2025 second rounder. For argument’s sake here, let’s call it a 2025 second rounder.
Finally, perhaps the Panthers would still be interested in moving up to two. Plenty of rumblings have existed that the Panthers also really like Stroud, so what would they be willing to pay to move up from 9 to 2?
Let’s say the Panthers stuck to the same plan that they would not part with the 39th overall pick. They send the Bears the 61st pick, as they did, they send the Bears their 2024 first, as they did, and they send the Bears their 2025 second, as they did. The Panthers would still have to give a little more to even the trade. Perhaps they would upgrade 61 to 39, perhaps they would throw in an additional third round pick, but what they wouldn’t do, is throw in DJ Moore.
When I look at the compensation the Bears received from Carolina for the top pick, the value of DJ Moore, in my estimation, was that of a late first/early second round pick. Losing the value of the first selection to the second selection (and taking Bryce Young off the board) is going to deflate the value of that last piece to something more along the lines of an additional third round pick.
If the Bears held the second pick, there’s a good chance the trade wouldn’t have gotten done until draft day because the team moving up would want to make sure the player they want is there at two. Perhaps a team loves Young and Stroud and would still have moved up earlier than draft day, but one thing is for certain, the Bears would not have acquired a player of DJ Moore’s abilities dropping from number two.
What did Lovie Smith gift the Bears? It wasn’t more draft capital. As it turns out, Lovie Smith gifted the Bears none other than DJ Moore.