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Have the Bears made the No. 1 pick before? Yes, but it’s been decades

In March 2023, the Carolina Panthers made a trade with the Chicago Bears to move up eight spots for the No. 1 overall pick. It’s a draft pick trade that could go down in NFL infamy as one of the worst ever made.

The Panthers sent wide receiver DJ Moore, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2023 NFL draft, a 2023 second-rounder, 2024 first-rounder and 2025 second-rounder to the Bears in exchange for the top pick. The Bears used the 2023 first-round pick on offensive lineman Darnell Wright, who started every game last season. That 2023 second rounder turned into defensive back Tyrique Stevenson, who made 16 starts and registered four interceptions as a rookie. Moore had a career year in his first season in Chicago, posting career-highs in receptions (96), receiving yards (1,364) and receiving touchdowns (8).

For the Panthers, this move has backfired terribly (so far).

The player the Panthers took at No. 1 — Alabama quarterback Bryce Young — struggled on what was the league’s worst team during the 2023 season. The Panthers’ miserable 2023 season resulted in having the NFL’s worst record and sending their first-round pick to the Bears, who weren’t all that much better and earned a second top-10 selection on their own.

While the Bears held the top overall selection briefly in 2023, the team appears set to use its No. 1 pick for the first time in nearly eight decades … and draft a potential franchise-altering talent in quarterback Caleb Williams.

NFL DRAFT HUB: Latest NFL Draft mock drafts, news, live picks, grades and analysis.

While the Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks have never picked No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, the Bears’ last No. 1 selection came long before any of those franchises even existed. You would have to go deep into the way-back machine to locate the Bears’ No. 1 picks.

Have the Bears ever had the No. 1 pick?

Yes. Well, for starters, the Bears had the No. 1 pick for two months last year before trading it to the Panthers for a bounty that could help the team dig itself out of the NFC North cellar.

When did the Bears own the No. 1 overall pick and actually use it? Dust off your pro football history books, sports fans. The NFL draft was still a relatively fresh concept the previous two times that the Bears selected at No. 1.

The NFL held its first draft in 1936, and five years later the Bears had the No. 1 pick for the first time. The Bears selected Michigan halfback Tom Harmon with the No. 1 pick in the 1941 draft.

Harmon never played a down for the Bears. Harmon had a decorated career with the Wolverines, winning the 1940 Heisman Trophy and would eventually be enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. At first, Harmon wanted to bypass pro football for a career in acting. World War II put both his young acting career and prospective pro football career on hold. A pilot during the conflict, Harmon survived a bomber crash and being shot down in China. He was presented with both the Purple Heart and Silver Star, but his war service took a physical toll that hindered his return to pro football. Harmon signed with the Rams in 1946 and played two seasons for the team (notably, the first two seasons for the team in Los Angeles). While sharing backfield duties with Fred Gehrke (whose side hustle as an artist made the Rams the first NFL team to have a helmet logo) and pro football pioneer Kenny Washington, Harmon rushed for 542 yards and scored seven total touchdowns (six rushing, six receiving, one punt return) in his two NFL seasons.

Six years later, in the 1947 draft, the Bears held the No. 1 overall selection again and drafted Oklahoma State halfback Bob Fenimore. Fenimore — who finished third in the 1945 Heisman Trophy voting — had an injury-riddled 1946 season for Oklahoma State. Despite that, the Bears still chose Fenimore with the top pick. It didn’t go well. Fenimore lasted just one season in the NFL, with 189 yards rushing, 219 yards receiving and three touchdowns scored.

Bears picking in the top five of the NFL draft

The 2024 NFL draft will make the 20th time that the Bears have picked in the top five, including three times with the No. 2 overall pick.

The Bears’ first No. 2 pick was quarterback Sid Luckman, who led the Bears to four NFL championships and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The team’s most recent No. 2 pick, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, was named the Nickelodeon Valuable Player of the Bears’ wild-card playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints during the 2020 season.

In 1965, the Bears selected all-time great players with back-to-back picks at Nos. 3-4: linebacker Dick Butkus and running back Gale Sayers. Despite the presence of the two iconic players, the Bears enjoyed just two winning seasons in the seven years the two Hall of Famers were on the team.

These are the Bears’ all-time top-five picks:

  • 2017 — Mitchell Trubisky, QB, North Carolina (No. 2)
  • 2005 — Cedric Benson, RB, Texas (No. 4)
  • 1998 — Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State (No. 5)
  • 1982 — Jim McMahon, QB, BYU (No. 5)
  • 1979 — Dan Hampton, DE, Arkansas (No. 4)
  • 1975 — Walter Payton, RB, Jackson State (No. 4)
  • 1974 — Waymond Bryant, LB, Tennessee State (No. 4)
  • 1972 — Lionel Antoine, OT, Southern Illinois (No. 3)
  • 1965 — Dick Butkus, LB, Illinois (No. 3)
  • 1965 — Gale Sayers, RB, Kansas (No. 4)
  • 1961 — Mike Ditka, TE, Pittsburgh (No. 5)
  • 1951 — Bob Williams, QB, Notre Dame (No. 2)
  • 1950 — Chuck Hunsinger, HB, Florida (No. 3)
  • 1948 — Bobby Layne, QB, Texas (No. 3)
  • 1947 — Bob Fenimore, HB, Oklahoma State (No. 1)
  • 1946 — Johnny Lujack, QB, Notre Dame (No. 4)
  • 1941 — Tom Harmon, HB, Michigan (No. 1)
  • 1941 — Norm Standlee, FB, Stanford (No. 3)
  • 1939 — Sid Luckman, QB, Columbia (No. 2)

When teams had two top-10 NFL draft picks

In this year’s draft, the Bears also will have two top-10 selections.

This is the 21st time going back to the first common-era draft in 1967 after the AFL-NFL merger agreement that a team has owned two top-10 first-round picks.

  • 2023 — Houston Texans: QB C.J. Stroud (No. 2), LB Will Anderson (No. 3)
  • 2022 — New York Jets: CB Sauce Gardner (No. 4), WR Garrett Wilson (No. 10)
  • 2022 — New York Giants: DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (No. 5), OT Evan Neal (No. 7)
  • 2018 — Cleveland Browns: QB Baker Mayfield (No. 1), CB Denzel Ward (No. 4)
  • 2000 — Washington: LB LaVar Arrington (No. 2), OT Chris Samuels (No. 3)
  • 2000 — Baltimore Ravens: RB Jamal Lewis (No. 5), WR Travis Taylor (No. 10)
  • 1997 — Seattle Seahawks: CB Shawn Springs (No. 3), OT Walter Jones (No. 6)
  • 1994 — Indianapolis Colts: RB Marshall Faulk (No. 2), LB Trev Alberts (No. 5)
  • 1992 — Indianapolis Colts: DE Steve Emtman (No. 1), Quentin Coryatt (No. 2)
  • 1990 — New England Patriots: LB Chris Singleton (No. 8), Ray Agnew (No. 10)
  • 1988 — Los Angeles Raiders: WR Tim Brown (No. 6), CB Terry McDaniel (No. 9)
  • 1982 — Baltimore Colts: LB Johnie Cooks (No. 2), QB Art Schlichter (No. 4)
  • 1979 — Buffalo Bills: LB Tom Cousineau (No. 1), WR Jerry Butler (No. 5)
  • 1979 — Chicago Bears: DE Dan Hampton (No. 4), DE Al Harris (No. 9)
  • 1977 — Cincinnati Bengals: DE Eddie Edwards (No. 3), DT Wilson Whitley (No. 8)
  • 1974 — San Francisco 49ers: RB Wilbur Jackson (No. 9), DT Bill Sandifer (No. 10)
  • 1973 — Baltimore Colts: QB Bert Jones (No. 2), DT Joe Ehrmann (No. 10)
  • 1973 — Philadelphia Eagles: OT Jerry Sisemore (No. 3), TE Charle Young (No. 6)
  • 1969 — Los Angeles Rams: RB Larry Smith (No. 8), WR Jim Seymour (No. 10)
  • 1967 — Minnesota Vikings: RB Clint Jones (No. 2), WR Gene Washington (No. 8)

This post appeared first on USA TODAY

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