CHICAGO — Four years after the Chicago Bears traded up to draft Mitchell Trubisky, an experiment that eventually fizzled out, the Bears once again pulled off a stunning draft-day move and traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to take former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields at No. 11 overall in the 2021 NFL draft on Thursday.
The Giants received Chicago’s first-round (No. 20) and fifth-round picks this year, and the Bears’ first- and fourth-rounders next year.
The Bears signed veteran Andy Dalton for one-year, $10 million in free agency, but Chicago’s sights were always set on finding its quarterback of the future. The Bears have been bereft a true franchise quarterback since Hall of Famer Sid Luckman retired in 1950.
Fields is confident he can fill that void.
“You know, just the way I carry myself, just the way I care about the game, the grit I have, the determination I have to be great,” Fields said when asked by reporters why he believes he can be the franchise quarterback Chicago has struggled finding. “I think nobody has the story that I have. So just everything inside of me, just wanting to be a great quarterback, wanting to be a franchise quarterback. And just me dreaming for this moment my whole life. So I just think all of those intangibles, my work ethic and all that together will of course be different for me.”
The Bears did extensive legwork on this year’s class of quarterbacks, with general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy traveling around the country to attend the respective pro days of many of the quarterback prospects, including Fields’ second workout at Ohio State.
“I think I fit perfectly [with what Nagy wants at quarterback],” Fields said. “If he didn’t think I fit well [the Bears] wouldn’t have traded up.”
Pace expressed optimism on Tuesday that Chicago had the right quarterback room with Dalton and fellow veteran Nick Foles to welcome a rookie quarterback in the mix. The Bears also have multiple former quarterbacks — Nagy, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo — on the current coaching staff, which they believe can help expedite the development process.
After the Philadelphia Eagles jumped the Giants to take wide receiver DeVonta Smith, Dave Gettleman made the first trade back in his nine drafts as general manager for New York. He had never traded back in any round of the previous eight drafts as a GM with the Carolina Panthers and Giants.
The Giants received a hefty return for pick No. 11, something even they didn’t think possible before the draft. But Fields and Alabama quarterback Mac Jones fell out of the top 10. It allowed Gettleman to avoid getting fleeced, which he said last week was a reason he never traded back before, even though he had tried.
ESPN’s Jordan Raanan contributed to this report.
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