The Chicago Bears 2001 draft was a mirror of their season that year. Build you up, just to bring you down.
With only six picks in the '01 draft, the Bears would have to choose wisely. Too bad they didn’t. When looking back, maybe the best Bears player to come out of the draft that year, wasn’t even a player they had drafted.
The previous year, the Bears had sent their sixth round pick in the ‘01 draft to the San Francisco 49ers for corner back R.W McQuarters. In retrospect, it was a good move for the Bears. McQuarters was a five year starter, who also returned punts with flair. After his time in Chicago, McQuarters would play one year with the Detroit Lions before playing out the last three years of his NFL career with the New York Giants, where he would win a Super Bowl ring. The 49ers turned the pick into wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. Wilson would only play two years in San Francisco, before moving on to the Pittsburgh, where he too would be a Super Bowl champion.
Coming into the 2001 season, the Bears had a decent roster of young wide receivers. Marcus Robinson, Eddie Kennison, Marty Booker, Bobby Engram and Dez White all contributed well to the team. However, the Bears felt that they needed to add another young guy to the mix.
With the number eight overall pick, the Bears would select wide receiver out of the University of Michigan, David Terrell. Terrell left Michigan after a very successful junior year. With the numbers that the All American receiver posted, it was hard for the Bears not to select the Richmond, Virginia product. 67 receptions, 1130 yards and 14 touchdowns; little did we know that those statistics would not translate to the NFL. The 2001 draft had six wide receivers taken in the first round. Terrell was the first, Reggie Wayne was the last. Uh, what could have been…?
Terrell would play in all 16 games as a rookie, starting six of them. Though he was not spectacular as a first year player, his 34 catches and four touchdowns was a promising start.
His second year was plagued by injuries; he would play in only five games but still have three touchdowns. His big 6’3 212 lb frame made him a red zone nightmare for opposing corners.
After another lack luster year in ’03, the Bears were wearing thin of their top draft pick. Ironically, after his best season as a pro, 2004, the Bears cut the underachieving Wolverine. He would catch on with the New England Patriots practice squad before the 2005 season, but only for a few weeks. He then tried to resurrect his career with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos signed Terrell for the ’05 season, but after only playing in one game that year, Terrell found himself once again on the cutting room floor. One last failed attempt with the Kansas City Chiefs in 2009, and Terrell is now out of football.
Though the University of Michigan is only about 242 miles from the city of Chicago, the Bears must have received a discount on a group travel rate.
With their second pick, #38 overall, the Bears would choose Terrell’s college teammate, running back Anthony Thomas. It looked like the Bears had finally found the running back they had longed for since Neal Anderson. With the previous draft busts of Rashaan Salaam and Curtis Enis still haunting the franchise, Thomas was a welcomed change.
Starting 10 games his rookie season, the A-Train would go on to amass 1,183 yards and seven touchdowns. For the second year in a row, the Bears would produce a Rookie of the Year winner.
Thomas would miss one fourth of his second NFL season due to injury but still manage to score six touchdowns on a struggling Bears team. His third year in the league would provide glimpses of his outstanding rookie season as he would once again go over the one thousand yard mark (1,024). Though many thought he was back on track to being an NFL star, the reality of it was that Thomas was forever hampered by nagging injuries and not having the speed of a featured professional back.
2004 would be his last season in Chicago. After starting the first two games of that season, Anthony Thomas would give away his starting position to another Thomas, Thomas Jones.
Getting a fresh start in ’05 with the Dallas Cowboys would only last five games. It wasn’t enough that he had lost his starting job in Chicago to Thomas Jones, but now he would play second fiddle to Jones’ younger brother Julius. After only five games in Dallas, Thomas would complete the 2005 season in New Orleans. Not able to keep a roster spot with the Saints, Thomas would play two more somewhat solid years for the Buffalo Bills before retiring from the NFL after the ’07 season.
With their third round, 68th overall pick, the Bears would choose one of Illinois’ very own, Notre Dame product Mike Gandy. Gandy was drafted as a guard, but would go on to play different offensive lineman positions.
Inactive for his entire rookie season, Gandy would make his pro debut four games into the 2002 season. He would then start the final 11 games of that season; started five games at left guard and six games at left tackle. The 2003 season would see Gandy penciled in as the Bears starting left tackle to start the season. He would go on to start 14 games that year, all at the very important left tackle position. To start the ’04 season, Gandy would move back to left guard and be in the starting lineup for the first five games. The Bears then felt the need to dump the lineman, as he was cut on November 8.
Picked up by the Buffalo Bills before the ’05 season, Gandy would go on to start all 16 games for the Bills at left tackle that year. His versatility would prove valuable once again in ’06; after starting the first seven games at left tackle, Gandy was moved to his natural left guard position once again for the final nine games of the season. Leaving Buffalo at the end of ’06, Gandy would be picked up by Arizona before 2007. Moving back to left tackle for his first season with the Cardinals, Gandy would be a staple at that position, starting all 16 games. More of the same in ’08, Gandy would start all 16 regular season games and four post season games at left tackle; helping the Cardinals reach the Super Bowl. Starting every game since the ’05 season, Gandy would compile a record of 76 consecutive starts before being placed on injured after week 12 of this past season.
With their fourth round pick, the Bears would choose their only defensive selection of the ’01 draft, from the University of Minnesota, defensive end Karon Riley. Riley would only play in five games as a rookie for the Bears, registering only one tackle. He did not remain on the Bears roster after the ’01 season. Picked up by the Atlanta Falcons, Riley played three final NFL seasons for the Dirty Birds before being cut in 2004. He tried to take his game across the border, but only lasted one year with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League. One final attempt at the NFL with the Washington Redskins in ’07, Riley was cut before the season began. He is currently listed as a player for the newly formed Arena Football 1 league after spending 2007-2008 as part of the Las Vegas/Cleveland Gladiators of the now defunct Arena Football League. Though his football career never really panned out, don’t feel too bad for Riley, he’s still married to actress Terri J. Vaughn.
With the 138th pick, the Bears would pick another offensive lineman, Tulsa’s Bernard Robertson. Like Gandy before him, Robertson would not see the field in his rookie year. He would play in all 16 games in his sophomore season, starting five of them at tackle. His time in Chicago would be short lived, after only two seasons, Robertson was cut and headed to Buffalo. No starts or even games played for the entire ’03 season, Robertson’s NFL career would be over after three years.
With their final pick, 208th overall, the Bears looked to the same position that started this draft, wide receiver. Out of the University of Florida, the Bears chose sprinter John Capel. Though he only played football at Florida for his freshman & sophomore years and tested positive for marijuana during the ’01 combine, his speed could not be ignored. A two sport athlete at Florida, Capel withdrew from the university in April 2000 to concentrate on track. Unfortunately, his speed was only good for the track and not the gridiron. Released by the Bears during the ’01 training camp, Capel would try out again in 2002 for the Kansas City Chiefs and again be cut during training camp.
No players selected in the 2001 draft remain on the Bears roster, only Mike Gandy remains a player in the NFL.
The Bears would go on to a 13-3 season in ’01 and win the last ever Central Division crown. Like the draft that year, it was all flash and no substance. A promising draft and season would quickly turn into a fluke as the Bears would go back to their losing ways both on the field and in the draft room.