I know it’s fashionable to dump on Angelo, and he certainly deserves to shoulder the blame for the chronic failure to build up a competent offensive line despite having tons of cap room this offseason. But I think he gets a bad rap over the draft history.
I’ll get to the first rounders in a second, but lets start by acknowledging that the man drafted two absolute studs, and potential hall of famers OUTSIDE the first round (Briggs in round 3, and Hester in round 2). And, he got a whole bunch of other quality picks in rounds 2 – 7 over the years:
- Tillman was a 2
- Alex Brown was a 4
- Vasher was a 5
- Forte was a 2
- Mark Anderson was a 5
- Orton was a 4
- Lance Louis was a 7
- Chris Harris was a 6
So Angelo definitely did some good things in the middle/late rounds of the draft. The knock is supposed to be on his first round track record. But was that really so bad? I count only one true first round bust (Michael Haynes), one significant underachiever that could still be a bust (Chris Williams) and one other draft where he could have picked a future star but instead traded down for a mediocre talent in round 2 (Manning):
2002: Marc Colombo, failed with the Bears because of a knee injury, but started at LT for a Cowboys team that made the playoffs several times. The blame here should be for dumping him too soon, not for drafting him when he was healthy.
2003: Traded #4 pick to NYJ for two picks, who became Haynes and Grossman. Haynes was a bust. Grossman is a flawed player, but was the QB on a Super Bowl team and proved this year he belongs in the league as a borderline starter. For what its worth, the papers at the time called for the Bears to take DeWayne Robertson at 4, who turned out to be just as big a bust as Haynes when the Jets took him in that spot.
2004: Tommie Harris, arguably Angelo’s best first round pick until injuries derailed his career. If you had a crystal ball you’d take Vince Wilfork instead, but for several years Tommie looked like the steal of this draft.
2005: Cedric Benson, like Colombo a player that failed with the Bears for largely unpredictable reasons, only to excel elsewhere. Maybe a better GM could have diagnosed the issues that would keep him from being good as a Bear, but I doubt it. Has since gone on to be a multiple time 1,000 yard back in Cincinnati.
2006: Traded down from a late pick and got Danieal Manning in round 2, followed by Hester. My thoughts on that are above.
2007: Greg Olson, a pick that was widely celebrated at the time and turned out to have been a good not great selection.
2008: Chris Williams, who was an injury risk, and has been mediocre when healthy. Jury is still out on whether this a “bust”, but it definitely looks like a bad pick that failed to help at a position that desperately needed help and still does.
2009 & 2010: Cutler.
2011: Carimi, who looked like a stud before his injury, and could end up either being a terrific pick, or perhaps the next Colombo.
So all in all? Not great, but certainly not nearly as bad in round 1 as people suggest. And with the later round talents he found, Angelo is a big part of the reason this team made a super bowl and made another NFC Championship game in his tenure.