The draft is easily the biggest event of the offseason, now to the point that it takes place over three days, including two in prime time. The Combine, the rumors, team meetings with prospects and the draft itself is a whole event itself, nearly separate from the usual NFL circus.
While my colleague Lester Wiltfong Jr. has been covering whom the experts believe the Bears will pick in his ongoing Mocking the Mocks series, I thought that looking ahead can be just as important as looking behind.
After all, my history teachers used to say 'those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.' Ominous words indeed for a franchise that needs to turn its poor draft record of the past decade around with new general manager Ryan Pace.
That said though, every draft is different, obviously. Many different players, different levels of talent and so on. Plus it will be years before it can be decided which players panned out and which didn't. So why bother looking back at all?
While looking at one single pick may seem trivial in a process with so many variables, I do believe that there are things that can be picked out. For example it's well known that the overwhelming amount of No. 1 overall picks in the last decade have gone to quarterbacks. If not a QB, then a left tackle.
Another recent trend has been pass rushers going in the top five. As the league becomes more pass-oriented, pass rushing becomes more of a premium. The rise of these positions (QB, LT, OLB/DE) in the top five have come at the expense of running back, where only one RB has been taken in the top 5 since 2008.
So to me it is worth it to look back and see what kinds of players are taken at No. 7. Has there been a history of busts at that spot? Has there been more impact defensive players or offensive players taken? Those are the sorts of things I'm looking for.
Using Pro-Football-Reference.com's Draft Finder tool, I was able to isolate the number seven overall pick for the last 15 drafts (1999-2014) and see what trends, if any, were out there.
Here are the players, their position and which team selected them:
1999: Champ Bailey, CB - Washington
2000: Thomas Jones, RB - Arizona
2001: Andre Carter, DE - San Francisco
2002: Bryant McKinnie, T - Minnesota
2003: Byron Leftwich, QB - Jacksonville
2004: Roy Williams, WR - Detroit
2005: Troy Williamson, WR - Minnesota
2006: Michael Huff, DB - Oakland
2007: Adrian Peterson, RB - Minnesota
2008: Sedrick Ellis, DT - New Orleans
2009: Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR - Oakland
2010: Joe Haden, CB - Cleveland
2011: Aldon Smith, LB - San Francisco
2012: Mark Barron, S - Tampa Bay
2013: Jonathan Cooper, G - Arizona
2014: Mike Evans, WR - Tampa Bay
The Vikings have had the most No. 7 picks during that time getting Adrian Peterson, considered the best RB in the NFL for most of his career until he had some massive off-field issues last season.
There have been some great players taken with that pick: Peterson, Bailey and Smith jump out at me and some argue that Joe Haden is one of the best CBs in the league despite being overshadowed by playing in Cleveland.
There have been some busts with the pick, but not a whole lot: Williams and Williamson both flamed out, DHB hasn't panned out and Leftwich never lived up to top-10 pick status but hung around the league for a long time.
Cooper, an offensive lineman many fans on WCG hoped would go to the Bears in 2013 has been a bust for Arizona, while Chicago landed Kyle Long. Hindsight is kind on that pick.
Nine of the 15 picks were spent on the offensive side of the ball but the six defensive players are arguably the ones who've fared better. The defensive players total 16 Pro-Bowl appearances and four First Team All-Pro honors (12 Pro-Bowls and three All-Pros thanks to Bailey alone) while the offensive guys bring nine Pro-Bowls (six courtesy of Peterson, who also owns all three All-Pro honors among the offensive talent).
Also, for whatever it's worth, there have been more defensive secondary players selected than pass rushers. The Bears need help in the secondary so perhaps that's a position to keep an eye on.
Some of these players had injury concerns and durability issues surrounding them causing them to drop out of the top five. Peterson and Leftwich each had injury history that hurt their stock a bit when it came to draft day.
Looking over it, it appears that there will be some good players available at the seven spot but there isn't a lot of history of the players at that selection becoming Hall of Fame caliber or even perennial All-Pro players. But that is all right, those players are few and far between in any event. If Pace and his staff can evaluate the talent properly and find the player that fits their needs, history suggests finding a very good player at the number seven spot should be easy.