Should the Chicago Bears TRADE Justin Fields and DRAFT Bryce Young?
Updated: Sep 19
Should the Bears Trade Justin Fields?
After a heroic last drive by the Houston Texans to win in comeback fashion against the Colts, 32-31, the Texans let the first pick slip away to the Chicago Bears. With teams fighting for the #1 pick to draft Alabama sensation Bryce Young, and with the Bears having a talented young QB in Justin Fields, it appears that the Bears will trade back in the draft to let a more quarterback-needy team trade up for Young. However, the idea of the Bears keeping the #1 pick, drafting Young, and cutting ties with Fields is not quite off the table. Bears GM Ryan Poles said he would have to be “blown away” to take a QB at 1, but he didn’t rule it out. Now, this could just be used to drive up trade value, or there could be some substance to this statement. The question is, what should the Bears do? Is it too early to write off Fields? And is Young worth the risk?
After a lackluster start to his career, Fields showed some promise in his sophomore season, especially in the second half. This was mostly displayed in his numbers with his legs. Fields finished with the second most single-season QB rush yards in NFL history with 1,143 and scored 8 touchdowns. Not only did he lead QBs in rushing, but he was 7th in the entire league, finishing higher than running backs such as Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones, and Travis Etienne. There’s no doubt he is one of the best athletes we’ve ever seen at the QB position and one of the most dangerous ball carriers in the NFL. His rushing EPA was first in the league among all rushers at 70.2, as well as yards per carry and 20 mile per hour runs. This was on full display throughout the year, especially against the Dolphins, where he ran wild for 178 yards and a touchdown, breaking the single-game rushing record by a quarterback. He can also pass the ball well, especially deep down the field. His DVOA stat on deep passes was 81.7%, good enough for 8th in the NFL entering the month of December.
Fields still has a number of issues that need to be improved, most notably his pocket passing, which was the main reason for his PFF overall grade not being any higher than 70.2. He was bottom 5 in passing yards and 32nd in Expected Points Added on shotgun passes and true completion percentage, which factors out drops and unpressured throwaways. A number that jumps off the page is his 50% completion percentage against man coverage. Teams will continue to scheme defenses around man coverage until he improves, which must happen if he wants to be a top QB.
What is the reason behind these issues? Kurt Warner from his YouTube channel QB Confidential talked a lot about the mental aspects of being a quarterback that Fields hasn’t quite figured out yet. This includes a lack of anticipation and hesitating to throw it to the open read.
According to Warner, Fields will oftentimes stare right at an open receiver but hold the ball and scramble or get sacked because it isn’t a perfect situation to throw it. Fields has to trust his progressions and make riskier throws in tighter windows in order to take that next step, as his aggressive throw percentage was also dead last in the NFL at 9.1. Fields knows his current play style of running after any sign of trouble is difficult to sustain in the NFL, and he can be game planned against over time. There are also some mechanical issues that he has to clean up, such as his feet and body being out of sync at times. You’ll see on tape that his feet will be aiming one way, and his arm will be throwing it several yards away from where his feet are planted, leading to inaccurate throws. It seems that Fields needs to play a bit looser at times, where he will clearly be “aiming the ball” instead of just throwing it, leading to wide-open throws being missed. He is still a college-level passer, and needs to improve on reading NFL defenses quicker by going through progressions on advanced concepts. However, these issues can be fixed with more strong quarterback coaching and a stronger supporting cast. Fields had one of the weakest offensive lines and receiving corps in the NFL. He was the 3rd most pressured QB at 28.6%, and the line ranked last in adjusted sack rate. His two best receivers were Darnell Mooney and Equinaimeous St Brown, who both had under 500 yards for the season and would not be top receivers on 9 out of 10 NFL teams. This group was 19th in target separation and averaged just over 3 yards after the catch. Even with the wide receiving corps being underwhelming for the Bears, Fields still struggled many times during the 2022 regular season. According to Football Outsiders, Fields entered the month of November with a DVOA and DYAR ranking in 34th place among 32 eligible starting quarterbacks. That’s absolutely dreadful, and it just shows you how Fields can struggle with efficiency at the QB position.
Even with all of these issues the Bears need to address in the draft, and with their massive amount of cap space in free agency, the opportunity to land a potential generational talent in Bryce Young is a difficult one to pass up on, and the numbers back it up. He led all college QBs with a PFF passing grade of 91.3. In 12 games, the 2021 Heisman trophy winner threw for 3,328 yards, 32 TDs, and just 5 INTs. Young put up these strong numbers after losing a lot of talent at receiver due to the NFL draft, which hurt the success of the team.
JT O’Sullivan from the QB School pins a lot of the issues on tape to receiver separation, where Young is forced to create on his own and extend the play to buy time for his receivers, which often worked due to his brilliance. What jumps out on tape is his pocket presence and anticipation. Young is able to create time by evading free rushers in miraculous ways while keeping his eyes downfield and making incredible throws with touch and accuracy, something that Fields has struggled with so far. His ability to handle pressure by throwing accurately in different arm slots is a skill you don’t often see at the college level. Young’s anticipation is jaw-dropping at times.
O’Sullivan highlights how Young will have the ball out of his hands before his receiver is anywhere close to making his break on the route, leaving no time for the defender to make a play on the ball. What also stands out with Young is how patient and smart he is getting through his progressions. He consistently reads through all of his receivers in a split second, and then waits in the pocket for windows to open up. He also did a great job finding his running backs on check-downs when there was nothing open downfield. These are the kind of skills that directly translate at the NFL level. Young showed some spotty footwork at times, but it was nothing that can’t be corrected in the offseason. Overall, Young seems like a can’t-miss prospect that can lead your franchise for a decade. However, Young’s height being below 6-foot-1 inches is very concerning. Remember when the Cardinals drafted the 5-foot-10 Kyler Murray? Murray has missed numerous games due to injury, nd he’s now dealing with a torn ACL. Also, don’t forget about Lamar Jackson and his somewhat small frame of 6-foot-2. Jackson has now missed over 4 consecutive games in back-to-back seasons. Call it a coincidence, but there has to be some correlation between smaller quarterbacks and their seemingly consistent stays on the injured list.
If the Bears keep the No. 1 pick, could they consider drafting C.J. Stroud over Bryce Young? Highly unlikely. According to Pro Football Focus, Stroud was ranked as the 11th best overall passer. Young was ranked much better as the second best passer. While Stroud is the much taller quarterback (Stroud is 6-foot-3 while Young is barely 6-feet tall), Young won the Heisman Trophy in 2021 as the MVP of college football. Despite his great passing numbers, his struggles against Michigan, especially at home versus the Wolverines, are worrisome enough for the Bears to draft Young over Stroud if they want a quarterback at first overall.
Also, while Stroud’s performance against Georgia in the national semifinals was very impressive, it’s important to note that Marvin Harrison, Jr. was his star wide receiver during most of the College Football Playoff. It’s much easier to throw the ball when Harrison’s large catch radius and elite speed is your number one target. Harrison, Jr. was simply fantastic last season. He had seven receiving touchdowns against press coverage. Against Georgia, Harrison had two receiving TDs by halftime. Harrison is so good that his PFF receiving grade last season is similar to that of CeeDee Lamb when Lamb was Oklahoma’s wideout. Simply put, Harrison Jr. might just be as good as his dad.
With all of that being said, I personally would not trade Fields and draft Young if I was the GM of the Bears. Fields is only 23 years old, and he will continue to grow as a passer as he gains more experience against NFL defenses. Fields’ arm strength and explosiveness in the run game is much better than Young’s, and those are qualities that can’t be taught. The accuracy has all the potential to be cleaned up, as he was ranked as the most accurate passer in PFF history when coming out of Ohio State. In fact, it’s arguable that he was a stronger prospect than Young coming out of college. The Bears have to give Fields a fair shot at being a franchise quarterback by giving him the pieces he needs around him to be successful, as well as the time any QB needs to improve. Also, with the buzz around Young, his trade package will most likely be stronger than Fields’, especially since Young has more years left on his rookie deal. What I highly advise against is drafting a position player at 1. The Bears can most likely trade back a few spots in the draft and still get an extremely talented player, especially when they have needs across the board. It would be much smarter to trade back and fill holes across the board with strong prospects instead of one home run pick. It’s very realistic that the Bears can get a trade similar to the Niners deal to move up to take Trey Lance, which included three firsts and a thirds rounder. This can especially be the case since many teams are in difficult QB situations currently, leading to desperation. This includes the Colts, Jets, Raiders, and Texans. That is exactly the kind of package that could flip the Bears into a competitor for years to come with the amount of young talent they can pair with Fields, especially considering they will be contenders earlier with Fields than with Young, as he will be farther along in his development with more NFL experience. It will be interesting to see if the Bears organization will have the patience needed to hold on to Fields, or roll the dice on Bryce Young.
Would drafting Will Anderson or somebody else at No. 1 be a good idea for Ryan Poles? According to the All-22 from PFF, Anderson is actually ranked a distant fourth on their board. Jalen Carter from Georgia is ranked the No. 1 prospect, but his conditioning has come under scrutiny. Even Georgia head coach Kirby Smart admitted that Carter can struggle with his conditioning and being available on multiple downs per possession. Carter’s PFF ranking is 92.3, while Young is the second best prospect 91.5. In fact, Stroud’s 88.9 ranking is much better than Anderson’s because Anderson currently stands at 83.2.
The fact of the matter is it’s a tough job for Poles. You can make the argument that the Bears should consider moving on from Fields. You can also make the argument that Fields will be better with a better offensive line and wide receiving corps. Darnell Mooney, who’s not even a True No. 1 or 2 wideout, couldn’t even finish the season due to injury. Chase Claypool looks like a bust thus far, so it’s obvious that the Bears need help at wide receiver.
But how much of the blame should be on Fields? The Bears’ signal-caller started the majority of their games this season. During the two games in which Fields missed, the Bears offense looked absolutely dreadful, especially the Jets game in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Still, a 3-and-12 record with Fields under center is very eye-opening. There’s a reason why the Bears finished with the worst record in the NFL. Fields is not entirely the blame for Chicago’s struggles, but he’s somewhat to blame. What’s the old saying? You win as a team, and you lose as a team. Trading away Roquan Smith definitely hurt the rush defense, but Smith is just one player. Everybody contributes to losses, and when your quarterback is throwing a pick-six against the Lions, that certainly doesn’t help matters.
What Poles is probably thinking is, “I like Fields, but our franchise also lost 14 games. Every position should be scrutinized, including quarterback. I don’t want to give up Fields unless I get what I want.” For the Bears, it’s likely going to cost a franchise at least two first round draft picks and two second rounders. There’s definitely a market for his services, and it’s not just the obvious choices. Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, New Orleans are four teams that come to mind. However, a team who was either fighting for a playoff spot or made the playoffs (i.e. the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins) could get desperate for a QB. It’s obvious that Tua Tung-uh-vie-oh-luh’s concussion issues won’t be going away anytime soon. Would Miami be willing to give up on Tua for Fields? Hard to say. Would the Jets be willing to give up draft capital for Fields? That’s an even crazier situation as New York could’ve drafted Fields at second overall during the 2021 NFL Draft. Instead, New York drafted Zach Wilson. Wilson looks like a bust right now, whereas Fields has shown enough promise as a dual-threat QB.
The Bears don’t need to trade Fields, but they definitely need to consider the possibility of starting over with Bryce Young. Poles didn’t draft Fields. Eberflus wasn’t the head coach during Fields’ rookie season. This is a new regime and a new philosophy on winning games. Can Bryce Young become a better QB than Fields? There’s obviously that possibility. Will Bryce Young be injury-prone or even a bust at the NFL level? There’s also that possibility. It’s simply a crap shoot when it comes to the NFL Draft, but if a team is willing to give up four or more draft picks, the Bears need to consider life without Fields. This is what’s great about having the No. 1 pick when a QB is available at No. 1. The Bears don’t need to keep Fields. However, unless a team is willing to pay the piper, the Bears simply won’t trade Fields for 75 cents on the dollar. But what do you think? Should the Bears move on from Fields and draft Bryce Young? Make sure to comment below and subscribe to Sports Broadcast Solutions.