The 2023 NFL regular season is winding down, and teams like the Chicago Bears and New England Patriots find themselves in prime position for a top quarterback prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft. As two of the league’s most storied franchises that have struggled in recent years to find stability under center, the upcoming draft offers hope for a return to contention.
Struggles at QB Put Bears and Patriots in Top 5
Both the Bears and Patriots have struggled at the quarterback position over the past several seasons. The Bears have started Justin Fields, Andy Dalton, Nick Foles, Mitchell Trubisky, and Mike Glennon at quarterback since 2017. The Patriots have trotted out Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham, Cam Newton, and Tom Brady since 2016.
The lack of production from the quarterback spot has been a significant factor in both teams’ struggles. The Bears and Patriots rank bottom-10 in points per game, passing yards per game, and total yards per game over the past three seasons.
As a result, both teams find themselves well-positioned for a top pick in 2024. Entering Week 17, the current 2024 draft order is:
1. Chicago Bears
2. Houston Texans
3. Seattle Seahawks
4. Los Angeles Rams
5. New England Patriots
Sitting at No. 1 and No. 5, the Bears and Patriots are primed to have their choice of quarterback prospects.
Caleb Williams and Drake Maye Lead Strong QB Class
The 2024 draft class features a stacked group at the quarterback position, led by USC’s Caleb Williams and UNC’s Drake Maye.
Williams took over as USC’s starting QB in 2022, putting up spectacular numbers. The sophomore threw for over 4,700 yards and 48 touchdowns against just four interceptions, adding 10 more scores on the ground. Williams has all the physical tools – arm strength, accuracy, mobility – to develop into a franchise QB.
Maye took the college football world by storm in his first year as a starter in 2022. The redshirt sophomore threw for over 4,300 yards and 39 touchdowns for the Tar Heels, showcasing pinpoint accuracy and underrated athleticism.
Most early mock drafts have the two PAC-12 and ACC standouts going No. 1 and No. 2 overall. Beyond Williams and Maye, QBs like Arizona State’s Jayden Daniels, Stanford’s Tanner McKee, Kentucky’s Will Levis, and Florida’s Anthony Richardson pace a deep quarterback class.
Which Team Lands Williams?
As the presumptive top overall pick, the question of where Caleb Williams lands will be one of the biggest storylines of the 2023 college football season and lead-up to the draft. The Chicago Bears own the No. 1 pick as of now, while the Patriots pick two spots later at No. 5.
The outcome of the Bears’ Week 17 game against the Detroit Lions could have significant draft order implications. The Bears would guarantee the No. 1 overall pick with a loss. A Bears win coupled with a Texans win over the Jaguars would slide Chicago back to No. 2, with Jacksonville moving up to the top spot. The first overall pick has gone to a quarterback in 16 of the last 20 drafts.
|Week 17 Result
The Patriots, meanwhile, are locked in at No. 5 following their Week 16 win over the Bengals. That puts them in striking distance to move up for Williams or take another top prospect like Maye. According to NFL insider Greg Gabriel, even at No. 5, the Patriots can land an “excellent player” at quarterback.
Bears Not Sold on Fields?
Despite showing flashes of star potential, there is no guarantee Justin Fields is the long-term answer for the Bears. If the Bears end up with the No. 1 overall pick, they could face a franchise-altering decision between Fields and Caleb Williams.
Fields has been productive in his second season, throwing for over 2,200 yards with 17 touchdowns (14 passing, 3 rushing). His combination of arm talent and electric running ability is rare. However, Fields’ unrefined mechanics and inconsistent accuracy remain works in progress. Williams is considered a more polished and pro-ready quarterback prospect.
According to NFL executives, Fields receives a mixed range of comps, drawing comparisons to mobile QBs like Josh Allen, Justin Herbert and Jalen Hurts rather than top-tier pocket passers. Meanwhile, both scouts and analytics models point to Williams having a higher ceiling.
If new general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus don’t see Fields as a franchise quarterback, they could opt to hit the reset button under center. Drafting Williams No. 1 overall would give the Bears the cornerstone QB that the new regime handpicked.
Over the final weeks of the 2023 season, jockeying for draft positioning could have major implications on landing spots for Williams, Maye and other top prospects. Teams like the Bears, Texans, Seahawks, and Rams currently stand the best chance at blue-chip talents that can reverse their franchise’s fortunes.
The college football world will be watching Caleb Williams especially closely when he returns to USC for his junior year. Maintaining his phenomenal production will solidify Williams’ draft stock as a plug-and-play franchise QB.
For the Bears and Patriots, the 2024 offseason promises to be one filled with intrigue. Will the Bears move on from Fields or give him more runway to develop? Which rookie quarterback will lead the next era of Patriots football? As two cornerstone franchises look to reclaim contender status, the 2024 draft figures prominently into the future for Chicago and New England.
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