The debate continues to rage. Online, on television and on bar stools, everyone has an opinion about which player the Chicago Bears should take with the 29th overall pick in the upcoming draft. The team's roster has many holes to fill, none of which can be mended through free agency until the lockout is lifted. One can argue the only positions that can be 100 percent ruled out in the first round are quarterback and running back. Beyond that, Chicago could conceivably choose a prospect to play at any of the remaining positions on the field.
Yet while we all debate positions of need, what are the odds the 29th overall draft pick will turn into a long-term contributor? Let's take a look at the last 10 picks at 29 to get a better idea of whether Chicago's first pick will be a boom or a bust.
DE Ryan Pickett
2001: Ryan Pickett, DT, St. Louis Rams
Pickett has been a starter and quality contributor since his second season in the league. In 2004, his 65 tackles were the most of any defensive lineman in the NFL. He was signed a four-year, $14 million free agent contract with the Packers before the 2006 season. The team has been so happy with his play it placed the franchise tag on him in early 2010 before signing him to a three-year deal. He now plays defensive end in Dom Caper's 3-4 scheme.
2002: Marc Colombo, OT, Chicago Bears
Bears fans remember Colombo as an immense talent who couldn't stay healthy in Chicago, only to go on and have success with the Cowboys. Since 2006, Colombo has been the full-time starter in Dallas and is currently in the middle of a $22 million contract extension through 2014. Chicagoans might consider him a bust but he's had a solid career.
2003: Nick Barnett, LB, Green Bay Packers
Barnett has been a stalwart for the Packers' defense since being drafted. He was a second-team All Pro selection in 2007. He has had some injury issues the past few seasons – he ended 2008 and 2010 on injured reserve. He'll enter the fourth year of a six-year, $34.85 million contract extension in 2011.
2004: Michael Jenkins, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Jenkins has been a starter in Atlanta nearly his entire career but he has never produced like a first-round selection. Through 2010, he never had a season with more than 53 catches or 777 yards. He still lines up at wide out each week for the Falcons but he's an afterthought in that offense.
2005: Marlin Jackson, CB, Indianapolis Colts
Jackson's career started off well in Indianapolis but a series of injuries, which cut short his 2008 and 2009 seasons, forced the Colts to release him. He signed a two-year contract with Philadelphia before the 2010 season but ruptured his Achilles tendon in training camp and missed the entire year.
2006: Nick Mangold, C, New York Jets
Mangold has been the centerpiece of a Jets rushing offense that has excelled since his arrival. He's been named to three Pro Bowls and selected an All-Pro twice. Before the 2010 season, New York awarded him with a seven-year, $55 million contract, making him the highest paid center in the league.
2007: Ben Grubbs, G, Baltimore Ravens
Grubbs has been outstanding since coming into the league. He has started since day one has been effective as both a pass and run blocker. He was named a Pro Bowl alternate last season. 2011 is the final year of his rookie contract. Expect Baltimore to reward him handsomely in the near future.
2008: Kentwan Balmer, DE, San Francisco 49ers
Balmer is a very talented player that has never come close to living up to his potential. He's been relatively healthy his three years in the NFL yet has just 62 career tackles and nary a sack. Before the 2010 season, San Francisco traded him to Seattle for a sixth-round pick.
WR Hakeem Nicks
2009: Hakeem Nicks, WR, N.Y. Giants
In just two years, Nicks has established himself as one of the top wide receivers in the NFL. His blend of size, speed and strength, as well as superior route running, can be unstoppable at times. He missed three games in 2010 yet still posted 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 touchdowns. He'll be a regular fixture at the Pro Bowl for many years to come.
2010: Kyle Wilson, CB, N.Y. Jets
Wilson struggled in his rookie season last year, only seeing the field in situational passing situations. He's still a very talented player though, so it's a bit too early to label his career at this point.
So there you have it, nine rated picks, six booms, three busts. Based on the performances of the most-recent 29th overall draft picks, the Bears have just more than a 66-percent chance of drafting a quality contributor. Two of those six have made Pro Bowls or been selected an All-Pro, one was an alternate and another (Nicks) will surely make plenty of trips to Hawaii in the future. This means Chicago has a 40 percent chance of drafting a Pro Bowler with its first pick.
Jerry Angelo's track record in the first round is spotty at best, which should lower these numbers slightly, say around 15 percent. So by my very non-scientific calculations, Chicago, with Angelo at the helm, has a 50 percent chance of drafting a long-term contributor and a 25 percent chance of drafting a Pro Bowler.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.