Prior to the 2005 NFL draft, the last time the Chicago Bears drafted a running back with the fourth overall pick was 1975. With that pick, the Bears drafted the late Walter Payton. Payton would go on to be the NFL’s all time leading rusher at the time of his retirement and one of the most beloved/best Bears players ever.
30 years later, the hope was that history would repeat itself and another Bears running back picked fourth overall would go on to do great things in the National Football League.
There can only be one ‘Sweetness’. We Bear fans know that all too well.
With the fourth pick in 2005 NFL draft, the Bears selected running back from the University of Texas, Cedric Benson.
After watching Benson’s tearful, yet borderline strange, interview moments after being selected fourth overall, we should have known that history did not repeat itself.
Benson did have a very solid college career, thus backing up his high draft status. A four year starter for the Long Horns, Benson would leave school as their second all time leading rusher and sixth all time in NCAA history. He would win the Doak Walker award, given to the Nation’s top running back, in 2004 as well as earn All-American honors.
His success on the field would mask some of his off the field troubles. While at Texas, Benson would be arrested twice; once for marijuana possession, the other for criminal trespassing. The marijuana charge was dropped after a friend admitted that the herb was their's, the trespassing charge garnered Benson an eight day jail sentence.
Benson’s Bears career started off rocky. The team and Benson’s representatives could not come to terms on a contract, leading the star running back to miss all of training and ultimately a 36 day holdout. Upon his return, it was speculated that his teammates did not appreciate his lengthy holdout and even took some cheap shots at him during drills. Though these rumors have been dismissed by Bears players.
Another strike against Benson, although not his fault, was that locker room favorite: a current starting running back,Thomas Jones, was being pushed aside to make room for the cocky, unproven rookie. Thomas would stick around for a couple more years, until being traded just to hand over the starting duties to Benson.
As a starter, Benson would disappoint. Once he was gift wrapped the starting job, Benson would only total 674 yards rushing. Only 33 more yards than the previous year when he shared the load. He would miss the final five games of the 2007 season with an ankle injury; helping or hampering the Bears to finish the season as the league’s worst rushing team.
During the off season leading up to the ’08 season, Benson would find himself in a familiar situation, more legal trouble. Two alcohol related arrests (both charges were later dropped) within five weeks of each other was all the Bears could stand. After all the Bears organization had done for Benson, they took the arrests as a slap in the face. To save their slapped face, and somewhat appease an annoyed fan base, the Bears would cut Benson.
Always trying to play the victim, Benson went as far as to say the Chicago Bears black balled him from the league after his release. An accusation that is strongly denied by the Bears organization.
A wasted fourth overall pick and the trading of favorite Thomas Jones will forever be Benson’s legacy in Chicago.
He has spent the last two seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, where he has gone on to amass a total of 1,998 rushing yards so far.
The Bears would spend their next three picks on the offensive side of the ball. With the 39th overall pick in the second round, the Bears chose wide receiver Mark Bradley. With the 140th pick in the fifth round, the Bears would choose receiver Airese Currie. Both players were known for their speed, an asset that the Bears so desperately needed in their receivers. Bradley would run a 4.37 40 yard dash at the NFL combine and Currie had already established himself as a track star, running the 100 meters in 10.22 seconds.
Unfortunately, both of them would spend most of their time with the Bears nursing injuries. Bradley would last four years, have four total starts and score four total touchdowns. He would play two years in Kansas City and is currently trying to hang on to a roster spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Currie’s NFL career would last only two seasons, both with the Bears. He would play in one game and not record any stats. He is currently playing in the Canadian Football League with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
After only one week, Orton was thrusted into the starting job as a rookie after Rex Grossman went down with an injury. With a great defense and running game by his side, Orton would play the role of game manager and lead the Bears to a surprising playoff run.
Though he started 15 games as a rookie, Orton would be benched for the lone 2005 playoff game and the entire 2006 Superbowl season.
2007 would be a so called ‘audition’ for Orton. With Grossman struggling and back up Brian Griese not doing much else; Orton got his chance and started the final three games of the season; with two wins and one loss, he would complete 53.8% of his passes to along with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Following the ’07 season, the Bears would have an open competition at quarterback in training camp. After a close contest, Orton would emerge as the starting signal caller for the ’08 season.
He started the season hot, leading the Bears to at least a tie for the division lead week after week. An ankle injury in week eight would sideline the former Boilermaker for one game. However, after returning too soon from injury, he never seemed to have the same ability that he displayed earlier in the season.
With the Bears adamant about fixing the quarterback position once and for all, Orton was expendable. Maybe his greatest contribution to the Bears, Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels felt Orton’s quarterback abilities were greater than that of Washington Redskins’ Jason Campbell, therefore the Bears won the Jay Cutler sweepstakes. Orton was packaged along with two first and a third round draft pick for Cutler.
Orton led the Broncos to an 8-8 record in his first year as their starting quarterback.
The Bears would close out the ’05 draft with two defensive players. Safety Chris Harris was chosen in the sixth round (#181 overall) and in the seventh round, linebacker Rodriques Wilson (#220 overall).
Harris made the most of his first year in the league, starting 13 games. He would finish with three interceptions that season. Harris’ playing time would diminish in his sophomore year, only starting seven games. To make room for Adam Archuleta in the ’07 off season, Harris was traded for a fifth round pick to the Carolina Panthers. He would immediately become the starting safety for the Panthers, leading the league in ’07 with eight forced fumbles. He has remained the starting safety in Carolina ever since.
Wilson would be a very important special teams player for the Bears from ’05 to ’08. After breaking his arm in a ’08 pre-season game, he was placed on injured reserve and later reached an injury settlement with the Bears before being let go. He is currently a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he played in eight games last season.
Though only six players were selected by the Bears in the 2005 draft, four would go on to be starters at one point in their Bears career. Nevertheless, after only five short seasons, none of the six still remain on the roster.
Writer's note: if anyone can find video of benson crying on draft day, please provide the link. I was not able to find footage anywhere.