With the 2012 NFL Draft firmly in our rearview mirror, why not look back in time to a year ago when we were singing the praises of Mr. Angelo for his work in the draft, primarily his drafting of Paea and Carimi. While a player's status as a productive draft pick isn't going to be fully realized for a few seasons, why not look back at who the Bears' drafted, what they've done so far, and who else was available at the time. Jump for MCA!
First Round: The 2011 Draft featured the Bears first first-round pick since Chris Williams was selected #14 in 2008. And Angelo, proving that occasionally even he could do things well, selected Gabe Carimi with the twenty-ninth pick in 2011. The tackle from Wisconsin was surprisingly available as many predicted that the former Outland award winner wouldn't make it to the Bears pick. However, with teams seeking tackle help going in a different direction (Solder to New England at #17, Castonzo to the Colts at #22 and James Carpenter to the Seahawks at #25). And despite Jerry's bungled trade with the Ravens, Carimi was the pick for the Bears.
Last Season: Carimi's first professional season ended after two games due to a knee injury, although he is still projected to be the Bears' starting right tackle this fall, and viewed by many to be the Bears' best offensive lineman.
Verdict: The feeling in our community and for many NFL pundits was that Angelo made the right call. While the jury is still out on Carimi with such a small amount of repetitions last year due to injury, you can't say he did much worse than the other tackles selected ahead of him. Solder was solid in relief last year and may get to start this year for the Patriots, while Castonzo started twelve games for a terrible Colts team and Carpenter lasted nine games as a starter before tearing his ACL.
Second Round: Here Angelo made what most of us thought as his second straight great pick, selecting Stephen Paea, defensive tackle from Oregon State. Like Phil Emery did this year, Angelo identified a player he wanted and was willing to sacrifice a fifth round draft pick to move up and get him. Angelo traded up to #53 after the Giants took possible Bears' target Marvin Austin at #52; Emery traded up for Jeffery after the Jets traded up to snag Stephen Hill.
Last Season: It took him six games to finally crack the lineup, but Paea showed some promise once he finally got on the field. Paea appeared in eleven games overall, recording fourteen tackles, two sacks, and one Donovan McNabb safety. His playing time was limited in part because of the solid tackle rotation the Bears had with Anthony Adams, Matt Toeaina, Amobi Okoye, and the very solid play of Henry Melton.
Verdict: With the Bears releasing Adams and unable or unwilling to resign Okoye, the Bears have opened the door for Paea to plant himself into either the starting lineup or be the first guy off the bench this season. While he had a slow start in his rookie campaign, that's not really a surprise under Lovie "Redshirt" Smith, and I think he has the promise to fill some bigger shoes this year.
Third Round: Apparently Phil Emery wanted to take a page from Angelo's last draft, as both he and Jerry made a surprising third round selection for a lilttle known safety. Last year that gave us Chris Conte, a converted cornerback from Cal. No one saw this pick coming - just like the Hardin pick this year - and Angelo was blasted for a pick that after a year seems to be the best of the bunch.
Last Season: Conte appeared in fourteen games last season, starting nine. He began as an afterthought with Chris Harris, Craig Steltz, and Major Wright on the roster, not to mention the addition of Brandon Meriwether. However, Harris was injured, ineffective, and eventually released, while Meriwether proved to be good at receiving fines and little else. Conte stepped up and recorded 47 tackles and one interception on the year, good enough to be named to the PFW all-rookie team.
Verdict: He began as a reach pick and belittled as the next Adam Archuleta (the Bears' version), but Conte had a solid but not spectacular rookie season. He seems to be the closest off all the Bears' safeties to locking down a starting spot this year, and hopefully will be even better with a full offseason of training. Great value for a third rounder.
Fifth Round: Here, the influence of Mad Martz was in full affect, as the Bears selected Nathan Enderle, quarterback from Idaho. This was an annoying pick for me (and most), predominately because of the major roster building the Bears had to do depth-wise and instead they drafted the next Craig Krenzel/Dan LeFevour/Moses Moreno. Enderle privately worked out with Martz, who gushed at the time about the pick, thinking he may have found the next Kurt Warner.
Last Season: Last scene holding clipboard and wondering why Todd Collins got to play instead of him.
Verdict: Its hard to knock any pick after the fourth round, since these guys are all just trying to make the team, let alone contribute, but it still irks me to use a pick on a guy that is guaranteed to not provide anything in year one.
Sixth Round: The Bears address their linebacker depth - or lack thereof - by drafting J.T. Thomas, linebacker, West Virginia.
Last Season: Thomas was placed on injured reserve before the season began, opening the door for guys like Dom DeCicco to contribute on special teams. Since the season ended, Thomas has made more headlines then the average rookie that never played a down, some for good reasons, some not-so-good.
Verdict: Thomas was a good pick at the time, but is now going to have a tougher time proving himself with additions like Geno Hayes and Jabara Williams, not to mention being behind the eight ball due to his run-in with Johnny Law.
Undrafted Free Agents: The Bears had to rely on going the UDFA route to secure numerous roster spots, in part due to a lack of picks from the Jay Cutler trade, and also because of some poor drafting. Dane Sanzenbacher made the biggest impact (25 receptions, 3 TDs) amongst a crop of players that included: Winston Venable, DeCicco, Levi Horn, Anthony Walters, and more.
Verdict: One of the early testaments to new GM Phil Emery is his commitment to team-building and filling out the roster effectively (except for many offensive tackle). This means all of the Bears' UDFAs from last season, including Sanzenbacher, could be getting a visit from the Turk due to an improved roster from top to bottom.
Players Available: Mark Herzlich, LB