Hit or miss

The Bears are now on the clock.... OK, those words from NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue won't come until approximately 11:45 a.m. Saturday morning. But the team's staff has been working around the clock for weeks leading up to its first pick of the NFL draft – the fourth overall in the first round.

Bears personnel and coaches have broken down tapes, stats, tests and interviewed just about everybody who is anybody. Now it's crunch time for general manager Jerry Angelo and company, who have the team's highest pick since 1979. Their first selection that season (also fourth overall) turned out to be Dan Hampton, a Hall-of-Fame defensive tackle.

If the past is any judge of how good the Bears will do with this pick -- they've picked fourth five times in their history -- fans should be optimistic. Three of their last four No. 4 picks turned out to be Hall-of-Famers: Hampton, Walter Payton and Gale Sayers.

"We feel that there's going to be a special player there, and that's what we're looking for," Angelo said.

"You expect that high of a draft pick to start, except if it's a quarterback," Bears coach Dick Jauron said. "You look for the lower-round guys to come in and contribute. But with that high of a pick, you always look for a guy to come in and make an impact."

Draft day has also seen its share of first-round busts. One player who fits into that category is running back Curtis Enis, Chicago's fifth overall pick in 1998.

"Do you want me to throw some names at you? There's thousands of flops," Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "There were thousands of guys that we kissed the ground when they walked in, and they're at home watching right now; they're not playing.

"And then there's others where they ask, 'Why would you draft him?' and a lot of them are still in the league playing and a lot of them are going to go to the Hall of Fame."

Blache threw out names like Alonzo Spellman and John Thierry, both former Bears, as well as Trev Alberts and Tony Mandarich, big-time prospects who turned into big-time busts.

"They said those guys couldn't miss. They missed," Blache said. "I can probably be as successful picking the draft as going to the bar, drinking a 12-pack and throwing darts at the board.

"I could probably be as accurate as we've been in this league the last 10 years."

Names like Terence Newman, the top cornerback from Kansas State; Dewayne Robertson, a defensive tackle from Kentucky; and Jimmy Kennedy, a defensive tackle from Penn State, have popped up around Halas Hall. But the Bears are not tipping their hand and all options apparently remain on the table. Even trading down and trying to get an extra pick is a possibility.

Angelo admitted he'd recently talked with the New York Jets about trading the fourth pick for the Jets' two first-round picks -- the 13th and 22nd overall -- but nothing panned out.

Newman, whom Angelo calls "special," might not be around at No. 4. But both Angelo and Blache agree cornerback needs to be addressed in the draft and will be at some point. Defensive tackle is a high priority with the aging duo of Ted Washington and Keith Traylor, and Robertson's stock has shot up since the NFL combine.

"The biggest test is, 'Does the guy play when he gets here?' " Blache said. "It's not about the hype he came in with. It's how he finishes the race. That's the only thing that's important.

"Some guys beat up on college kids. That doesn't mean you can come in and beat up guys in the NFL every week."

Breakout: What the Bears could do at No. 4
1. Dewayne Robertson, defensive tackle, Kentucky * The 6-foot-3, 324-pounder's stock has gone up as much as anybody's in the last month.
2. Terence Newman, cornerback, Kansas State * The top-rated cornerback has been compared to Champ Bailey.
3. Jimmy Kennedy, defensive tackle, Penn State * The 6-foot-5, 330-pounder has been compared to Keith Traylor, and will be able to start immediately in any defensive scheme.

Breakout: What the Bears have done at No. 4 1979 -- Dan Hampton, DT, Arkansas *
1975 -- Walter Payton, RB, Jackson State *
1974 -- Waymond Bryant, LB, Tennessee State
1965 -- Gale Sayers, RB, Kansas *
1946 -- Johnny Lujack, QB, Notre Dame
* Hall of Famers

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