- Chicago lands the first pick of the 2024 Draft thanks to trading for D.J. Moore
- There were hopes that the Panthers (2-14) would catch up to the Cardinals (4-12)
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The Chicago Bears have landed the first pick of next year’s draft after the Carolina Panthers lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars with USC quarterback Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye being tipped to replace quarterback Justin Fields, should he leave the Windy City.
The Bears fell to the playoff-hopeful Atlanta Falcons on Sunday to drop to 7-9 on the year, but Chicago gets the first pick in April by virtue of the Panthers’ league-worst 2-14 record thanks to a deal before the 2023 NFL Draft.
It was less than a year ago that the Panthers moved up in the draft to take Alabama quarterback Bryce Young first overall, relinquishing the No. 9 (Tennessee OT Darnell Wright) and No. 61 (Penn State TE Brenton Strange) picks, as well as their 2024 first-round pick, a 2025 second rounder, and star wide receiver DJ Moore.
There were hopes that the Panthers could catch up to the Arizona Cardinals (4-12) with two games to spare before the postseason but with this weekend’s defeat and Jonathan Gannon’s men upsetting the Philadelphia Eagles, 35-31, that is considered to now be mathematically impossible.
Fields threw for 268 yards with a touchdown pass and a rushing TD in what could be his final home game for Chicago. He completed 20 of 32 passing attempts and ran for 45 yards with his future as murky as ever, as he has yet to agree to terms on a new deal, with his four-year, $18.8million rookie contract expiring in 2025.
Justin Fields may’ve played his last home game for the Bears on Sunday against the Falcons in a 37-17 win for Chicago
If Fields leaves Chicago then the Bears have been tipped to replace him with UNC’s Drake Maye (L) or USC’s Caleb Williams (R)
The Bears are now in position to draft Williams or Maye if they decide to move on from the former Ohio State star. If Fields stays in Chicago in 2024, then the Bears are likely to pounce on drafting Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.
Bears GM Ryan Poles wasn’t enamored with last year’s QB class, as he stuck with Fields rather than drafting Young or another former OSU star, C.J. Stroud.
Moore finished with nine catches for 159 yards and a touchdown, and Khalil Herbert ran for 124 yards and a score against Atlanta.
With little wiggle room to make the playoffs for the first time since 2017 – and coach Arthur Smith’s future in question – the Falcons (7-9) got overwhelmed by Chicago.
The Bears grabbed a 21-7 halftime lead with Fields and Moore leading the way and rolled to their fourth win in five games. Fields threw a neat 7-yard TD pass to Moore on Chicago’s first drive and ran for a 9-yard score on the next possession to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Herbert set a season high for the second straight week after rushing for 112 yards last Sunday in a win over Arizona. Roschon Johnson ran for a TD. Tyrique Stevenson had two of Chicago’s four interceptions.
The Falcons struggled to get going on offense after setting a season high in scoring last week in a 29-10 win over Indianapolis. They finished with 307 yards, a week after gaining 406.
Fields has a fifth-year option for 2025 and has yet to agree to new deal terms with the Bears
Chicago gets the first pick of the 2024 NFL Draft after trading for D.J. Moore in the offseason
Taylor Heinicke, making his second straight start with Desmond Ridder benched, threw for 163 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. He scrambled 24 yards for a TD early in the fourth quarter to cut it to 27-17, before getting replaced by Ridder near the end of the game. Ridder threw a late pick with the game out of reach.
Atlanta running back Bijan Robinson tied William Andrews’ team rookie record of 1,332 scrimmage yards, set in 1979. He had 75 yards rushing and 11 receiving.
Tyler Allgeier turned a screen pass into a 75-yard touchdown in the second quarter. But the usually reliable Younghoe Koo had a rough time in the windy conditions, missing two early field goals as Atlanta fell to 2-6 on the road.
Up next, for Chicago is a final regular season game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field, while the Falcons will play against the New Orleans Saints – their NFC South rivals – in a must-win game for Smith’s men, if they want to make the playoffs.