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Bears clinch No. 1 pick in 2024 NFL Draft following Panthers' loss to Jaguars

With the Carolina Panthers losing Sunday, the Chicago Bears will own the first overall selection in the 2024 NFL Draft.

This will be the second straight time the Bears will hold the top overall pick following the season. They eventually traded last year’s No. 1 to the Panthers, who ultimately used the pick to select Alabama QB Bryce Young. In addition to receiving wide receiver DJ Moore and 2023 first- and second-round selections, the Bears also acquired Carolina's first-rounder in 2024, plus its second-round pick in the 2025 draft.

The Panthers likely didn't imagine the first-rounder they sent to Chicago would be such a high pick. They closed the 2022 season at 7-10 after a strong finish, briefly flirting with the playoffs. Even with some personnel losses this past offseason, Carolina expected to compete in 2023. However, Young struggled -- mightily at times -- before a late-season uptick in his play. The Panthers lost their first six games of the season before beating the Houston Texans. In the midst of a second six-game losing streak following their first victory, the Panthers fired first-year head coach Frank Reich.

Following a Week 15 win over the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina has now lost another two straight, including Sunday's 26-0 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. No matter what happens in the remaining games this season, no other team could finish ahead of the Panthers in the NFL draft tiebreakers.

One year ago, before Chicago traded the pick, Bears general manager Ryan Poles said he'd need to be “blown away” to take a quarterback first overall. Justin Fields' 2023 season didn't quite go according to plan, as the Bears lost five of their first six games and Fields missed four games with a thumb injury on his right (throwing) hand. He's returned to action, and though Fields' production remains spotty, the Bears have played better football after the rough start to the season.

But is Fields still their franchise QB? That remains to be seen. Poles and his staff didn't draft Fields, whose fifth-year option must be decided this coming offseason. He's also eligible for a contract extension, but the Bears might feel differently about the situation this time around.

In addition to the Panthers' top pick, Chicago also owns its own first-rounder, which could fall in the top 10 or just outside it. The Bears traded their second-round selection in 2024 to Washington for Montez Sweat, but they will get the Eagles' fourth-rounder as part of a trade on the opening night of the 2023 draft.

The 2024 NFL Draft will be held April 25-27 in Detroit.

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