The Chicago Bears are slated to pick No. 11 in the 2016 NFL Draft. Believe it or not, the franchise has a deep history selecting 11th overall in the league’s annual draft.
Since the first official NFL Draft in 1936, the Bears have had the 11th pick a total of 10 times. It started in 1947 when the team selected Wisconsin halfback Don Kindt. He joined a Hall of Fame backfield that featured Sid Luckman and George McAfee. Kindt made one Pro Bowl in his career.
The Bears then drafted halfback Ron Drzewiecki (1955), center Dave Behrman (1963) and running back Joe Moore (1971).
But it’s the 1981 and 1984 drafts in which the Bears selected 11th that had a lasting effect on the franchise.
The Bears struck gold in both of those drafts at 11, taking offensive tackle Keith Van Horne (1981) and linebacker Wilber Marshall (1984). Both were key pieces on the 1985 Bears team that won Super Bowl XX.
Van Horne played 13 seasons with the Bears, winning one Super Bowl and starting 169 games along the way. He didn’t make any Pro Bowls in his career but he was an anchor along the Bears offensive line for more than a decade.
Marshall played four seasons in Chicago making the Pro Bowl twice. He later signed with the Washington Redskins and won another Super Bowl. Marshall won the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award for the Redskins in 1992.
The Bears had one more selection at 11 in the 1980s, selecting defensive back Donnell Woolford in 1989. They followed that up by drafting defensive end John Thierry in 1994, who had 12 total sacks in five seasons with the Bears.
That was the last time they actually selected at 11th but they've had the pick a few more times since then. Prior to Jay Cutler, the Bears had a revolving door of quarterbacks dating back to when the team parted ways with Jim McMahon. That included Rick Mirer who was acquired by the Bears from the Seattle Seahawks in 1997.
Part of that deal included the Bears sending the 11th overall pick for Mirer and a fourth-round selection later in that draft. Mirer lasted just one season with the Bears, playing in seven games and starting just three. He threw for 420 yards, six interceptions and zero touchdowns. It’s an era Bears fans wish never happened.
Fast-forward 12 years later to the 2009 off-season.
The Bears had a top defense in place and were just two years removed from a Super Bowl appearance, yet they lacked a quarterback. Enter Cutler.
In April the Bears sent Kyle Orton, two first-round picks and a 2009 third-round pick to the Denver Broncos for Cutler. The 2009 first-round pick the Bears sent was the 11th overall selection in that draft.
It gets more interesting however.
The Broncos drafted Cutler in the 2006 NFL Draft, which was the last time Denver selected 11th overall - they traded their 2009 pick to the San Francisco 49ers.
Outside of Van Horne and Marshall, this draft spot hasn’t been too kind for the Bears. Cutler has been the team's most consistent quarterback since Erik Kramer but he wasn’t a product of Chicago's front office via the draft.
In late April, the Bears will have their next shot at finding a future playmaker with the 11th selection in a nine-player draft that will be crucial to the club's immediate and future success. Knocking it out of the ballpark in the first round would set the tone for a draft that could potentially propel the Bears to the playoffs as early as next season.
If GM Ryan Pace lands the next Van Horne or Marshall, the team will head down a promising path. If Pace spends the pick on a player who brings Thierry-level impact, the path to success will be far rougher.