LAKE FOREST – They have been holding a college player draft in the National Football League since 1936, and the Bears have been building rosters through it every year since.
But in 2023, the team will hold something in their possession that has only happened two other times: The No. 1 overall selection.
The Bears got that thanks to the right circumstances coming together on Sunday afternoon, starting first with their 29-13 loss to the Vikings. A much bigger surprise came in Indianapolis, where the Texans had a miracle finish to pull off a 32-31 victory over the Colts.
Davis Mills threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Akins on 4th-and-20 with 50 seconds left, then the same pair connected on the two-point conversion to give Houston the unlikely win.
Because of that, the Bears have the first pick of the draft for just the third time and the first in 76 years.
The team had the first overall selection last in 1947 when they selected Oklahoma A&M running back Bob Fenimore. Six years earlier in 1941 they also had the top pick, taking Michigan halfback Tom Harmon.
It’s the highest selection the Bears have had since 2017 when they finished with the No. 3 pick but then traded up to the No. 2 spot to draft quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.
Whether the Bears keep that pick, of course, is to be seen.
With Justin Fields established as the team’s No. 1 quarterback and a number of teams looking to get a signal caller, the top selection could net the Bears a number of picks to start building the roster.
That’s the job of Ryan Poles, who faces a critical offseason in his second year as the Bears’ general manager. He’ll have draft capital and room under the salary cap to attempt to return the team to respectability after going 3-14 this past season.
Joy for the No. 1 overall pick was a bit tempered with the coaching staff, however, since it was their struggles over the past four-and-a-half months that allowed it to happen.
“I just found out about it. That’s something we’ll talk about in the future. I don’t really have
a reaction one way or the other right now,” said head coach Matt Eberflus on Sunday after the loss to the Vikings. “Just that I’m focused on our guys and doing the exit interviews for tomorrow.”
But you can bet a lot of people are smiling after fate worked out just right for the Bears on the final Sunday of a long season.