What is … no one knows

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — “Jeopardy!” is the perfect show.

It’s 30 minutes of learning stuff about subjects you probably hadn’t thought about for a while or ever.

There’s no politics in it — just smart people showing how smart they are and how not-as-smart-as-you-think-you-are you are.

So, the title of my writing today is the “response” to the Final Jeopardy question for this spring.

The category is “THE NFL DRAFT.”

The clue is: “The Chicago Bears are going to do this with the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft”.

The response is “What is no one knows.”

They have plenty of options, but before Commissioner Roger Goodell strolls up to the podium to welcome us all to the draft in Detroit to announce that the Bears are on the clock with the first pick on April 25th, they have to answer some questions.

First, they have to decide whether they think Justin Fields is their quarterback moving forward.

Honestly, the entire league is wondering the same thing, because what the Bears think affects a lot of teams.

You can make an argument that every team in the league is affected because the teams in the top 10 picks in the draft are spread out through the league’s divisions, so most of the divisions have some stake in what the Bears decide.

Fields has improved from where he was at the start of the season, but people who analyze these things point to plays that an NFL quarterback must make still being missed by Fields.

Sometimes guys who are open are not being thrown the ball on time, or at all. Sometimes he doesn’t make the right blocking changes. Sometimes he holds the ball too long. Sometimes he is inaccurate on passes on third down and mid-range.

And that, friends, is the real problem … the “sometimes” of it all.

Everything I just mentioned … you could look at video that shows him doing all of those things perfectly, sometimes.

The questions within the question of what you do with Fields is two-fold: “Do you think he will continue to improve to the point that you can count on him moving forward?” and “are you prepared to pay him the big bucks that a franchise quarterback gets paid?”

The fans love him and love him in a way that very few players in Chicago get so early in their careers. They have made it clear that they believe in him and want him back.

If the Bears commit to Fields, they have the #1 and #9 picks in the draft. They could certainly repeat what they did last year and trade that #1 pick to a team that needs a quarterback for multiple picks this year and in the future. Think of how much better they got by their trade with Carolina. Another big bounty like that would put
them in a position to compete in the NFC in ‘24.

If they decide that Fields isn’t it, they open up the door to a whole new path of opportunities.

They would certainly trade him to someone who needs a quarterback. There is some debate about what Field’s value would be in that scenario, but generally the people who follow the draft most closely agree that he would fetch somewhere between a third-round and a fifth-round pick.

Obviously, they could package picks with Fields and make things more attractive.

For example, Fields and the Bears 4th round pick could go to a team like Washington. The Commanders would save their first-round pick to use on someone other than a quarterback in that scenario. And Fields still has a year left on his rookie contract with an option year in 2025. For that kind of package, the Bears could ask for a third round pick in ’24 or multiple picks this year and next.

That’s just one example, but you get my point.

Trading Fields would mean the Bears would keep that #1 pick and take one of the two quarterbacks that are most-highly thought of in this draft class. Most assume it will be Caleb Williams of USC, who won the Heisman Trophy after the 2022 season and had a good season last fall.

But then you are starting over with a brand-new quarterback, and you risk losing your locker room because the players are clearly in Field’s corner. There’s one guarantee about drafting quarterbacks in the NFL … there are no guarantees in drafting quarterbacks.

Is there some value in keeping the guy you already have and know — including his faults and failures — compared to bringing in a new guy who you don’t? Maybe.

And let’s be 100-percent clear — there are some very real concerns about Williams. He’s not very tall and he’s not very big. He’s listed at 6-feet-1, but most people say he’s barely 6-feet tall.

He has an incredible ability to escape pass rushers, but you have that already in Fields. And in a clean pocket can he see downfield?

I believe that the Bears have already decided what they’re going to do about Fields. I believe in Bears GM Ryan Poles to push the right buttons and make the Bears a really exciting team in 2024.

But what should they do?

Maybe they could phone a friend.

Oops, wrong game show.