It is said that a draft pick makes the biggest leap from years one to two. There can be many factors in this: a full offseason with the coaches and system, a full year in a professional weight training and nutrition system, and/or the experience that comes with repetition in both snaps and just the day-in and day-out routine of being a professional football player.
In truth, there is no telling when a player will "get it" and the game will slow down and he'll be able to play up to his potential.
Last year the Bears spent three draft picks on their defense and three on offense. The defensive picks, Jonathan Bostic, Khaseem Greene and Cornelius Washington, taken in the second, third and sixth round respectively, made limited impact.
Bostic and Greene were drafted to be the future of the linebacker corps, eventually being able to capably step in and replace Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. However, both were called into duty last year and unfortunately neither really stood out.
In 16 games, with nine starts, Bostic racked up one sack, one interception, one pass deflection, one fumble recovery and 45 tackles.
Greene appeared in 15 games with four starts and recorded one interception, one pass deflection, one forced fumble and 21 tackles.
Washington, on the other hand, appeared in two games and recorded one tackle.
Long and Mills started all 16 games and Long earned a Pro Bowl berth. Mills, while solid, was somewhat unspectacular. Wilson appeared in 10 games with one start and caught two passes for 13 yards.
For the purpose of this article I'm going to keep Long out of the voting because he exceeded expectations last year and, by virtue of his Pro Bowl berth, the only way he could really take another step forward is by being All-Pro. I'm not saying it won't happen because Long can only get better, but the expectations for him are completely different.
Bostic and Greene will be competing in a crowded linebacker corps with D.J. Williams, Shea McClellin and each other to be the starting middle or strongside backer. The two will hopefully improve and bring more playmaking to the position this year.
Mills certainly has room for improvement despite being a full time starter last year. He was the weakest member of the OL last year, as Profootballfocus.com graded him at -32.5 in pass-blocking (dead last among tackles) and -5.5 for run blocking.
Wilson is thought of highly by receivers coach Mike Groh and the rest of the staff, as evidenced by various reports, the release of Earl Bennett and them asking Eric Weems to take a pay cut. Wilson should be expected to contribute on offense as the number three receiver behind Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall.
Speaking of Jeffery, he took a monumental leap in year two but that shouldn't necessarily be the expected norm. If one of the three defensive players from last year can become a reliable full-time starter and another a role player, then the team should be in good shape with whatever they can get from a couple of draft picks.
Which rookie, offensive and defensive, do you expect to take the largest leap in production in 2014?