Da Bears Decade of Drafts: 2006

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Making an unexpected playoff run in ‘05 must have made the Chicago Bears brass a little cocky. Cocky enough that they felt they didn’t need a first round draft pick in 2006. Granted, their trade with the Buffalo Bills, sending pick #26 in exchange for pick #42 and #73, looked like an excellent deal at the time. FYI, the Bills used the 26th pick on defensive tackle John McCargo.

Trading out of the first round was not the only moves made by the Bears prior to the ’06 draft. Safety Mike Green was shipped off to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for pick #200 in the sixth round. Cornerback Ricky Manning Jr. was acquired from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for pick #88 in the third round and tight end John Owens was sent packing to Miami along with the 233rd pick in order to obtain the services of special teams ace Brendon Ayanbadejo.

With two picks in the second round, the Bears selected arguably the two best athletes on the roster.

Their first pick in the ’06 draft; a relatively unknown, yet enormously talented safety out of Abilene Christian, Danieal Manning.  A three year starter in college, Manning left the private Division II school after his junior season. By being the 42nd overall pick, he became the first non-Division I player picked in 2006 draft. He appeared in all 16 games as a rookie, starting the final 14 at free safety. He led the team that year with five forced fumbles and ended the season starting in all three post season games, including the Super Bowl. He would again appear in all 16 games in his second season, starting 15. In 2008, he would add kickoff return duties to his resume’, taking over for the Bears next pick in the ’06 draft…

Devin Hester (overall pick #57). Finishing his career at the University of Miami with six kick return touchdowns, NFL scouts were salivating over the 5’11’’ 190lb speedster. However, the lack of a ‘pure’ position kept some teams from drafting the Florida native. In college, Hester was primarily a defensive back, but would see spot duty as a receiver. The Bears would use him as a DB in his first season, but quickly switch him to the offensive side of the ball after seeing how explosive he was with the ball.

It didn’t take long for Hester to make an impact in the NFL. In his first professional game, Hester would return a punt for a touchdown against the hated Green Bay Packers. This was the beginning of one of the greatest rookie seasons in the history of the NFL. When his rookie season was all said and done, Hester had set an NFL record for return touchdowns in a season with six, not to mention a missed field goal that was returned 108 yards for a touchdown and returning the opening kickoff in the Super Bowl for a touchdown. He would earn All Pro honors as a rookie, the first Bear to do so since Brian Urlacher in 2000.

Hester would continue his ridiculous ways in 2007, again taking six returns for touchdowns, while also receiving playing time as a wide receiver.  His return prowess caused teams to punt the ball out of bounds, thus not allowing ‘The Windy City Flyer’ to add to his touchdown total.

Today, Hester is listed as the Bears number one receiver and punt returner.

With their third round (#73 overall) and sixth round (#195 overall) the Bears would select two Oklahoma Sooners, neither of which are still on the team. Third round pick, defensive tackle Dusty Dvoracek has been battled injury issues from the minute he became a Bear. In the preseason of his rookie year, Dvoracek sustained a foot injury that would cause him to miss his entire rookie campaign. He would get the starting job at DT to open the 2007 season, only to go down in that game with a torn ACL. He would once again come back strong and start the first 12 games of ’08 before being lost for the season with elbow bursitis. Dvoracek would go down with MCL and ACL injuries before the 2009 season and was later released. Fullback J.D Runnels was the other Sooner pick up by the Bears on draft day ’06. He would spend almost all of his rookie season in a backup role, playing sparingly towards the end of the season.  Like his Okalahoma counterpart, Runnels would spend his second pro season on injured reserve. The Bears would cut the fullback after the ’07 season. He would go on to try out for the Tampa Bay Bucanners and Cincinnati Bengals, never making it past the practice squad.

Pick #120 in the fourth round was used on linebacker Jamar Williams. At one time labeled as the replacement for a once disgruntled Lance Briggs, Williams career has yet to see its full potential thanks to a deep, talented Bears line backing corp. Not seeing time at linebacker has not kept Williams off the field, he has played in every game since ’07. A special teams standout, he has posted 30 special teams tackles over the last two seasons.

With their fifth round selection, #159 overall, early on the Bears thought they had the second coming of Richard Dent. Out of the University of Alabama, defensive end Mark Anderson. Anderson would burst onto the NFL with 12 sacks as a rookie, a Bears record. He would finish his rookie year as runner up for the Defensive Rookie of the Year, behind his college teammate DeMeco Ryans. After a stellar first year, Anderson was thrust into the starting lineup to begin the ’07 season. He would start the first 14 games of the season before being placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. In the three years since exploding on the pro scene, Anderson has only tallied a total of 9.5 sacks.

The Bears final pick in the ’06 draft was Offensive Guard from Penn State, Tyler Reed. Reed spent most of Bears career between the bench and the practice squad. He was released by the Bears in March 2010.

Three out of the seven players selected by the Bears in the 2006 draft made major contributions to the team’s Super Bowl run that year. With the four players remaining on the roster, the Bears have guys who have proven they can play in the league and have yet to reach their full potential. Hopefully they can help lead another Super Bowl run in the near future.

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