The list of hits and misses in regards to Bears' draft choices has been a hot topic of debate the past few years.
And that debate likely will continue, as more pressure – and scrutiny – will be put on recent draft picks to perform at a higher level since the club is not on the clock until Round 3 for the second straight season.
This year's draft likely won't produce a high amount of drama or excitement for Bears fans. So maybe we can get the juices flowing by taking a year-by-year look at each Bears draft class during the first decade of the new millennium – great picks, solid picks, bad picks and outright busts:
2000Overview: Ever since Hall of Fame middle linebacker Mike Singletary retired in 1992, the Bears tried without success to replace him. They ended that drought by selecting All-American safety Brian Urlacher of New Mexico with the ninth-overall pick. In Round 2, the Bears took hard-hitting Nebraska All-American safety Mike Brown, who would become one of the team's defensive leaders despite battling a seemingly endless string of injuries.
Best Pick: Urlacher, who won NFC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, hasn't looked back and been the face of the Bears for the past decade. The six-time Pro Bowler and 2005 Defensive Player of the Year is knocking on the door of the Hall of Fame.
Worst Pick: A projected first-round pick due to his outstanding speed, Dez White – the Bears' third rounder – never panned out as a deep threat or game-breaking wideout.
2001Overview: The Bears turned their attention to the offensive side of the ball in Jerry Angelo's first draft as the team's new general manager. With the eighth-overall pick, the Bears grabbed David Terrell – Tom Brady's favorite target at Michigan. In Round 2, the Bears took Terrell's teammate, Anthony Thomas. The A-Train paid immediate dividends by rushing for 1,183 yards and earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Best Pick: Offensive tackle Mike Gandy (Round 4), played four years with the Bears, but he fell victim to a hamstring injury and was released midway through the 2004 season. He then signed with the Bills in 2005. Gandy has been a mainstay on the Cardinals' line the past three years.
Worst Pick: Terrell had the size, speed and potential to become a top-tier NFL receiver, but he never came close to reaching 1,000 yards or double-digit touchdowns in his four seasons with the Bears. No one, however, could talk a better game than Terrell.
2002Overview: The Bears, who drafted eventual Pro Bowler Olin Kreutz and eventual starters Gandy and Rex Tucker in three of their four previous drafts, selected another offensive lineman, 6-foot-8 Marc Colombo from Boston College, with the 29th pick in the first round. The team also had two third-round picks: cornerback Roosevelt Williams out of Tuskegee and offensive lineman Terrence Metcalf from Ole Miss.
Best Pick: Defensive end and Florida product Alex Brown, a fourth-round pick, is as durable as they come – he has played in all but one game since 2002 – and figures prominently into the Bears' defensive line mix year in and year out.
Worst Pick: Colombo, whose uneventful career with the Bears was plagued by injuries. To his credit, Colombo overcame his injury bug and found new life in Dallas, where he is the Cowboys' starting right tackle.
2003Overview: The Bears found themselves with two first-round picks in 2003 – the first time that's happened since 1989. Coming off a dismal 4-12 campaign in 2002, with a defense and offense ranked in the lower half of the league, the club chose defensive end Michael Haynes with the 14th-overall pick. And in their never-ending quest to find a franchise quarterback, the Bears took Florida's Rex Grossman with their second pick in Round 1 (No. 22 overall). The class of 2003 ended up being the best of Angelo's tenure so far, as Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs – each of whom would become impact players – were taken in Rounds 2 and 3, respectively. Although fifth-round selections Bobby Wade and Justin Gage are no longer with the team, they have turned into decent NFL wideouts.
Best Pick: Angelo hit the jackpot with Briggs – one of the team's few bona fide stars and a perennial Pro Bowl pick whose big-play potential is overshadowed only by Urlacher's.
Worst Pick: Injuries can't be blamed for Haynes taking a nosedive as a pro. He simply never lived up to his draft-day potential. Flip a coin between him and Terrell as far as who is the team's biggest first-round bust of the decade.
2004Overview: After it became apparent that Haynes wasn't living up to expectations, Angelo addressed the team's needs at defensive line in a big way by drafting Oklahoma All-American Tommie Harris in the first round and Tank Johnson in Round 2. Overall, the 2004 draft turned out to be productive, with wideout Bernard Berrian (Round 3) and cornerback Nathan Vasher (Round 4) eventually becoming major contributors.
Best Pick: Harris' play has declined in recent years due to nagging knee problems, along with a ruptured hamstring that kept him on the sideline much of the 2006 season. Prior to his injury woes, he was one of the league's premier tackles and a disruptive force who regularly commanded double teams.
Worst Pick: Johnson was a key component in the defensive line mix during the Bears' march to Super Bowl XLI, and he filled in admirably for Harris in 2006. But, as we know, he wore out his welcome in Chicago and was released in 2007 after a handful of run-ins with the law, including pleading guilty to a misdemeanor weapons charge.
2005Overview: Despite acquiring Thomas Jones, who gained 1,375 all-purpose yards in 2004, the Bears raised eyebrows by nabbing college football's top running back, Cedric Benson, with the fourth-overall pick. Benson missed all of training camp due to a contract dispute, and everything went downhill for him from there.
Best Pick: Fourth-round selection Kyle Orton's record as a starting quarterback with the Bears can't be overlooked (21-12), and a core of Bears fans still wish he wouldn't have been traded for Jay Cutler. A case also could be made for sixth-round pick Chris Harris, who the Bears have missed since they dealt him to Carolina in 2007.
Worst Pick: Benson resurrected his career at Cincinnati last fall, but he underachieved with the Bears and controversy always seemed to find him. The team eventually released him in June 2008, following his second alcohol-related arrest in five weeks. Worst pick 1-A is second rounder Mark Bradley, who will try to win a job in Tampa Bay this season.
2006Overview: The Bears didn't have a first-round pick, but they had two selections in Round 2 with Danieal Manning and Devin Hester. Manning led the NFL in kickoff return average in 2008, but he has struggled to find his comfort zone in the secondary. Reserve linebacker Jamar Williams (Round 4) and defensive end Mark Anderson (Round 5) also were part of the class of 2006.
Best Pick: Without a doubt, Hester, who arguably would give Urlacher a run for his money as the Bears' top pick of the decade had he been able to continue his record-setting pace as a return specialist. Hopefully, he'll regain some of that magic in 2010 – and hopefully Mike Martz can find a role for him that will maximize his talents.
Worst Pick: Some might say Anderson, who hasn't come close to equaling his rookie season in which he recorded 12 sacks. Dusty Dvoracek (Round 3), however, simply could not stay on the field. All four of his seasons came to an end prematurely due to injury.
2007Overview: Halas Hall was abuzz on draft day after the Bears picked highly-touted tight end Greg Olsen, who had scouts salivating over his pass-catching abilities, his size and his 4.5 speed in the 40. Garrett Wolfe, college football's leading rusher his senior year with over 1,900 yards, went in Round 3 and has become a solid special-teams performer. Later-round picks Josh Beekman, Kevin Payne and Corey Graham have all seen a steady amount of action for the Bears.
Best Pick: The jury is still out on Olsen as to whether or not he'll fulfill his potential of becoming a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end. Yet he and Cutler developed great chemistry in 2009, and Bear Nation is keeping its collective fingers crossed that Cutler-to-Olsen will be even more productive this year.
Worst Pick: No doubt, the Bears wish they could have had a do-over in Round 2 after selecting defensive end Dan Bazuin.
2008Overview: With John Tait getting older, Fred Miller getting released and Ruben Brown out the door, the Bears needed to address holes in the offensive line. Thus, they drafted Vanderbilt left tackle Chris Williams with the 14th-overall pick. Williams got off to a disappointing start, missing seven games his rookie year due to a back injury. He started 2009 at right tackle but took over at left tackle by the end of the year. Third-round selection Marcus Harrison, plus fifth-round picks Zack Bowman and Kellen Davis, also made the squad.
Best Pick: Second rounder Matt Forte's numbers fell in 2009, compared to his first season in which he set team records for rushing yards (1,238) and total yards (1,715) by a rookie. But he's proven to be a solid NFL back who could very well return to his rookie form after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee during the offseason.
Worst Pick: To be determined, although Harrison may be the front runner. Harrison looked promising in 2008, but he came into 2009's training camp overweight and didn't show much progress during the season. Could he be on his way out?
2009Overview: The trade for Jay Cutler cost the Bears their first- and a third-round choices. They also didn't have a pick in Round 2. So when it came time for the Bears to draft in Round 3, they took athletic San Jose State defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert, who became a YouTube star by jumping out of three feet of water in a swimming pool.
Best Pick: Fleet-footed Johnny Knox (Round 5) burst onto the scene and became a dangerous kickoff returner, as well as an emerging deep threat at wideout. Knox, who averaged 29.0 yards per return, was added to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.
Worst Pick: TBD, however, it could be either Gilbert or fourth-round pick Henry Melton. Both are considered projects, but with the pending departure of Adewale Ogunleye and the tragic death of Gaines Adams – and who knows what Harris' status will be by training camp – one of the two likely will need to step up this season. Whichever one doesn't, pencil him in here.
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Mike Sandrolini has contributed to Bear Report since 2004 and received recognition for his work in various newspaper contests throughout Illinois over the years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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