Baker, remaining schedule could help Bears secure No. 2 pick originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Despite there being a month left in the 2022 NFL season, the focus around the Bears has almost entirely shifted to a critical offseason for general manager Ryan Poles and the franchise’s position in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Such is the case when you are losers of six in a row and nine of 10.
Despite Justin Fields’ ascent, most of the discussion centers around the idea that the Bears should want to lose out to secure the No. 2 pick in the draft. I’ll be the first to say that thinking is short-sighted and that a young roster will benefit from eventually coming through in winning time. I don’t think losing the final 10 games of the season is something to bathe in confetti over.
Given the Bears’ talent deficit, especially on the defensive side, they aren’t in danger of going on a fluke winning streak that will tank their draft stock. The best-case scenario for the 2022 team is they finish the season 2-2, and even that might be a stretch. The losses will come.
A few happenings around the NFL should also help the Bears secure that coveted No. 2 spot.
On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Rams claimed former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield off waivers from the Carolina Panthers.
The Rams are currently 3-9 and sit in the No. 4 position in the draft order. Their pick belongs to the Detroit Lions. With quarterback Matthew Stafford out for the season with a spinal cord contusion, the Rams were looking at starting either John Wolford or Bryce Perkins for the rest of the season, and that would almost certainly have them finish no better than 4-13.
Mayfield struggled this season with the Panthers before being benched and waived.
I don’t think he will land in Los Angeles and automatically look like the guy who almost beat the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs two years ago.
Given the Rams’ offensive line situation and Cooper Kupp’s season-ending injury, chances of Mayfield having a career resurgence in LA are slim.
But Mayfield is a better option than Wolford or Perkins. He thrived in Kevin Stefanski’s offense in Cleveland which has similar core tenants to what Sean McVay runs in Los Angeles.
McVay transformed Jared Goff from potential bust to quarterback capable of starting in a Super Bowl. McVay has long been a fan of Mayfield, so it wouldn’t surprise me if Mayfield could win a few games for the Rams down the stretch and take them out of the equation for the No. 2 pick.
Making matters better for the Bears is that the Rams and Denver Broncos, who currently sit in the No. 3 slot, will play later this season.
The Bears also have the toughest remaining strength of schedule (.729 winning percentage), while the Rams rank 28th and the Broncos are tied for 14th.
Mayfield reportedly has a chance to make his Rams debut Thursday night against the Las Vegas Raiders if Wolford cannot play due to a neck injury. The Raiders have been playing well since losing to Jeff Saturday’s “vibes only” Colts, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mayfield start and play well Thursday as he tries to resuscitate his career.
While the Bears’ position in the first round takes up most of the oxygen in the draft discussion, the Bears’ fortunes could also be turning as it pertains to their second-round pick courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens.
The Bears traded their second-round pick to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for Chase Claypool but acquired the Ravens’ Round 2 selection in the Roquan Smith trade.
The Ravens enter Week 14 at 8-4, but quarterback Lamar Jackson suffered a knee injury in Week 13 and is “week-to-week.” Baltimore has a competent backup in Tyler Huntley, but their offensive upside drops off significantly without Jackson in there.
If Jackson misses multiple games, there’s a chance the Ravens’ second-round pick gets a little better, making it easier to stomach the loss of a selection in the mid-30s.
The Bears will exit the bye week to face the Philadelphia Eagles and Buffalo Bills at Soldier Field before heading to Detroit to play the Lions on New Year’s Day. Chicago will finish the season at home against a Minnesota Vikings team that very well could have the No. 2 seed in the NFC locked up by that point. As good as Fields has been over the past seven weeks — and he’s been damn good — the Bears lack the talent to challenge the Eagles and Bills. They already lost to the Lions once, and Detroit has been on a heater since early November.
From their finishing schedule to the Rams’ addition of Mayfield, all things point to the Bears being in good position to secure the No. 2 pick and add much-needed blue-chip talent as they start the next phase of the rebuild.
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