Before adding players who could help the Chicago Bears take the next step toward becoming a winning franchise, general manager Ryan Poles has to evaluate players currently on the roster and determine whether they fit into his vision for 2023 and beyond.
As with every NFL team, that plan ultimately centers around the starting quarterback. Last month at his season-ending news conference, Poles expressed excitement over Justin Fields’ trajectory.
“He showed the ability to be impactful with his legs, and there’s flashes with his arm,” Poles said. “Now if we can put that together, I think we have something really good.”
Poles said he plans on Fields being the Bears’ starting quarterback in 2023, and he made it clear that despite having the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft, the GM would have to be “blown away” by a prospect to select a quarterback and move on from Fields.
The process of building the 2023 Bears began in earnest last week. Poles and members of his scouting department got an up-close look at draft prospects during the Senior Bowl, where offensive coordinator Luke Getsy was the head coach of the American team.
It was also an opportunity for informal conversations surrounding Chicago’s options with the No. 1 pick. With so many quarterback-needy teams slated to draft in the top 10 -- namely Houston, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Carolina -- Poles is in prime position to remain firm on his commitment to Fields and trade back to garner more draft capital for other positions of need.
The reason Poles can feel confident in considering trading down is because of Fields’ improvement and potential. But there are areas in which the former No. 11 pick out of Ohio State still needs to develop.
The biggest improvement
Total QBR adds context behind why every play was or was not successful to measure a quarterback’s efficiency. After ranking last among 31 qualified quarterbacks as a rookie, Fields made a considerable jump from 31.4 to 53.9 in Total QBR, which ranked 17th in 2022. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that’s the third-highest increase in Total QBR from a quarterback’s rookie season to second season since 2018, 7.1 points higher than the jump made by the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence, who was drafted 10 spots ahead of Fields in 2021.
Fields’ next largest area of improvement came via his touchdown-to-interception ratio. As a rookie, Fields threw seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions (ranked 30th) in 12 games. In 2022, he threw for 17 touchdowns and had 11 interceptions (23rd).