The Bears knew they screwed up in the 2017 NFL draft, trading up to the No. 2 pick to draft Mitch Trubisky. After four years in Chicago, his time as quarterback was up, and the Bears took to searching for a new one.
Fast forward to the 2021 NFL draft. Nobody knew if the Bears were going to take a quarterback or bolster their terrible offensive line. They sat low in the draft, selecting at the No. 20 spot in the first round.
But, in a surprise move, the Bears traded up in the draft to the No. 11 pick. After quarterbacks Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson and Trey Lance went off the board 1-2-3, the Bears leaped up to take Justin Fields out of Ohio State.
“That decision on Justin Fields came down to the day of the draft,” former Bears executive John Lucas said on NBC Sports Chicago’s “Football Night in Chicago.” “Our head coach being an offensive head coach at the time with coach Nagy, extremely involved in that decision. Taking in the data points, all the way up until the end of the draft, a more comprehensive process. I was very proud. I thought we improved on the process and we took who I think was the best quarterback available when we selected. “
As opposed to the 2017 NFL draft strategy, Lucas said the process to selecting Fields was more collaborative. They weighed several opinions in the building and looked at all of the key points.
In the end, they traded the No. 20 overall pick, a fifth-rounder (No. 164 overall) and 2022 first- and fourth-round picks.
How did the Bears know Fields was their guy?
“The situation ended up being very similar [to 2017],” Lucas said. “We knew Trevor Lawrence was going one. We knew the Jets were taking Wilson. Trey Lance, for us, was not a first round quarterback. So he wasn’t in the discussion.
“So Mac Jones, Justin Fields. Very close opinions, grades. It was every other day. I think we might take Mac. I think we might take Justin. And it literally came down, ultimately, to when you look at the big picture, the grades were stronger throughout the building on Justin’s side than they were for Mac. I think that’s ultimately how we came to the final decision to take Justin.”
Jones ended up being drafted to the New England Patriots with the No. 15 pick.
And thank goodness the Bears leaned Fields. Not that he’s been the exact answer the Bears need, but Jones hasn’t thrived in any sense under Bill Belichick’s Patriots. The Patriots will likely move off of Jones this offseason.
Will the Bears do the same with Fields?