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Ranking the last 25 years of 1st round Bears draft picks

While Bears fans prematurely decide how we feel about Mitch Trubisky, let’s take a horrific stroll down memory lane and decide how we feel about the last quarter century of Bears 1st round picks, from Curtis Conway to Leonard Floyd.

Cade McNown

“Draft day is when you find out whose fault last season was.”

Bernie Lincicome of the Chicago Tribune wrote those words in 1996 to start his column about Bears 1st round pick Walt Harris. They’re as true now as they were then. Mitchell Trubisky is the balm applied to the Cutler era. Once he sets foot on that field, whether Week 1 this year or in 2018, we’ll find out whose fault last season was.

Bears fans have found a lot of fault since 1993. That year was Dave Wannstedt’s first as head coach. We needed to know whose fault 5-11 was. Eventually we needed to know whose fault Dave Wannstedt was.

One by one, we learned whose fault year after year of crappy 1st round draft picks was. Read up on Mitch Trubisky. Decide how you feel. But just remember: you never know until the next guy is here.

Since 1993, we’ve drafted The Next Guy a bunch. We’ve also used 1st round picks to trade for The Next Guy. The following is a ranking of our 1st round picks in the post-Ditka era, from best to worst, including trades. I’m giving Mitch Trubisky an incomplete, though plenty of Bears fans have seemingly made up their minds on him.

Overall criteria for my rankings is the way the pick made you feel, both at the time and in retrospect, specifically looking at:

  • the skill of the player
  • the time and quality of the player’s time on the Bears
  • the other options with the pick as they pertain to the upcoming seasons
  • the effect the pick had on the franchise
  • the time and quality of the remainder of the player’s career, if relevant

This list is more about what we did with the pick than what the player did. In the case of Brian Urlacher, it’s an irrelevant distinction.

In the case of our pick ranked last, it makes all the difference.

(All newspapers clippings from the Chicago Tribune via All statistics from

1. 2000, #9 — Brian Urlacher, LB, New Mexico

Brian Urlacher did not necessarily seem like a no-brainer in 2000. He was a hybrid safety-linebacker in college and began his Bears career at outside linebacker, moving to the middle after an injury. The Bears liked him, but as part of a top three, with Michigan State receiver Plaxico Burress and Virginia running back and future-Bear Thomas Jones.

Jones went 7th to the Cardinals. Burress went 8th to the Steelers. At the 9th pick, the Bears nabbed Urlacher, who played his entire 13-year, Hall of Fame career in Chicago, helping the Bears reach Super Bowl XLI.

I’ve literally said nothing about the experience of watching Urlacher’s career unfold before us like Willy Wonka opening the chocolate factory or your parents handing you the biggest box on Christmas, and technically needn’t touch it at all. We all know his story — his highlights, his style, his legacy. But we’ve got a depression to get into, so I do recommend you take a breather and watch Urlacher’s official top 5 reel, along with this clip showing his closing speed during the preseason of his rookie year.

2. 2013, #20 — Kyle Long, OL, Oregon

These next three picks show the variety of results that come with a 1st round draft pick who doesn’t quite hit, and the uncertainty of when that realization might come.

We’ll start with Kyle Long, who felt like an even greater long shot in 2013 than Urlacher did in 2000. Four years later, Long is the face of the franchise and a three-time Pro Bowler who would have likely made a fourth last season if not for injuries that cost him eight games. He has played guard and tackle to the left and right of the center. He signed an extension last September, making him a Bear until 2021.

I currently have him at number two, because his first four seasons were nearly perfect on a personal level, and because there is no indication that he won’t build on this.

But like Long, Tommie Harris — despite injuries — was a three-time Pro Bowler after his fourth year, with 19.5 sacks and 5 forced fumbles. Greg Olsen’s third and fourth seasons showed the start of his career dominance. Injuries slowed Harris over the next three seasons as he left Chicago and played one more year; Olsen was sent to Carolina in one of the rare trades where every key person involved comes to publicly admit its foolishness.

So what if Long, coming off two injuries, were to somehow fall off dramatically over the next few seasons and never again reach his Pro Bowl peak? I don’t think it’s happening, yet I didn’t think Greg Olsen would be traded either. We had more of an inkling with Harris, who missed the final four games and the postseason in our 2006 run to the Super Bowl, but even then the tumble was sudden after his masterful 2007.

Here’s to many more Pro Bowls for Kyle Long. He more than anyone is the man today who Bears fans want to see hoist the Lombardi Trophy.

3. 2004, #14 — Tommie Harris, DL, Oklahoma

Part of the emotional experience of a draft pick are the external circumstances of the player’s career. Tommie’s a bittersweet pick because he was a catalyst for and a leader of the best sustained Bears D since the days of Shufflin’. If Harris was drafted in 1995, for example, his four-season peak would have been 1995 to 1999. Those teams would obviously be better with him but they’re still not contending for a division title.

Instead, Harris’s career arc from 2004 to 2009 felt fused to the emotional core of the Bears arc during that same time. When he was up-and-coming, the Bears were too. When he was among the best, the Bears were too.

The downside, of course, is that there is no way to think about Tommie Harris and not wonder what might have been for both him and the team if he’d not torn his hamstring in December of 2006 en route to the Super Bowl.

In that respect, it’s fair to ask the “Okay, but who else?” question of Harris’s spot, and the obvious answer is Vince Wilfork, the nose tackle out of Miami drafted by New England 7 picks after Harris. In 2006, Wilfork was not yet a Pro Bowler like Harris, but he was a three-year starter who started a Super Bowl as a rookie and played the 2006 postseason, nearly making the Super Bowl again, this time against our Bears.

Wilfork of course went on to a stellar career with the Patriots and was still a full-time NFL starter as recently as last season. Yes, he is a nose, but Ted Washington was wonderful in the 4-3 with us and also won a Super Bowl with the Patriots as the starting nose tackle, the year before Wilfork was selected.

Here’s the thing though: part of being a fan is bonding with the players, and I would not trade the experience of watching Harris — a marvelous talent and exemplary teammate — for the chance at having Vince Wilfork start Super Bowl XLI. That’s no disrespect to Wilfork, who by all accounts is equally as beloved around the league. That’s just me. I’m happy Harris was a Bear.

4. 2007, #31 — Greg Olsen, TE, Miami

Should Olsen be rated higher than Harris because of his superior career, one that would have played out in Chicago if the team hadn’t mistakenly traded him? Or should he be lower than Harris because his production in Chicago was neither as great nor as timely as Harris’s?

I’m putting Olsen behind Harris for the above reason, though I understand the arguments to flip them. Either way, the way each player’s Bears’ career turned out remains a sore spot for Bears fans.

It’s a sore spot for ex-Bears too, particularly Desmond Clark, who detailed the foolishness in our interview last year:

So really, what happened with Greg Olsen? Why did we trade — just, why? Why? Why?

I couldn’t tell you.

Why didn’t we get the most out of him, and then he leaves and he’s as good as we knew he would be?

It was our offensive coordinator.

So Mike Martz at that point?

Yeah. I don’t know what it was with Martz, but his whole career, tight ends never meant anything to him. Just look at his whole history. He never incorporated them into his offense. and he was almost forced to do it here. In 2010, he brought in (Brandon) Manumaleuna, and they paid him all that money, so they were forced to play him. In 2010, I had practically every coach — offensive and defensive coach — go to either Lovie or Mike Martz and tell them that I needed to be playing, and it never happened. It never happened.

Greg Olsen (pause) he was just (pause) — the tight end position just wasn’t a valued position to (Martz). He saw that position as a third offensive lineman.

Martz wanted tight ends who were there to block.


Which for a guy who is so offensively-minded, it doesn’t make any sense that you would turn down weapons.

To me, it never made sense. For them to trade him, that didn’t make sense. For them not to play me in 2010 did not make sense. We had three tight ends out there, and I guarantee you nobody on our team, including the coaches, would say that I was lower than number two on the depth chart, and that’s only behind Greg. But I had two other tight ends playing ahead of me because they were big tight ends who blocked.

5. 2009, 2010 — no picks (Jay Cutler trade)

April 3, 2009.

Bears trade to Broncos:

  • 2009 1st rounder (#18)
  • 2009 3rd rounder (#84)
  • 2010 1st rounder (ends up #11)
  • Kyle Orton

Broncos trade to Bears:

  • Jay Cutler
  • 2009 5th rounder (#140)

We’ve gone round and round here at WCG about whether the Cutler trade was good for the franchise or not. (Here is the Denver perspective.) I’m still not totally sure. Pretty sure it was.

But crazily, all that matters for today’s purposes is: was it better for the franchise than the remaining 19 moves with 1st round picks?

Yes. Yes it was.

6. 1993, #7 — Curtis Conway, WR, USC

Courtesy of the Harold Washington Library in Chicago.

The Bears drafted Curtis Conway to be a game-breaking deep threat. He was.

Conway played seven seasons in Chicago, ending his Bears career 5th in franchise history in receiving yards, 6th in receiving touchdowns, and 3rd in receptions. He was the first player since Harlon Hill in 1954 and 1956 to bag two 1,000-yard receiving seasons in a Bears uniform. His 12 touchdowns in 1995 remain tied for 3rd all-time in Bears history.

The downside of the Conway pick is that the next three selections were two Hall of Famers and a three-time Pro Bowler: Willie Roaf to the Saints, Lincoln Kennedy to the Seahawks, and Jerome Bettis to the Rams. In that regard, the pick comes with a hint of “Okay, but who else?” potential.

Again, this is how problematic most of the Bears 1st round picks have been, that a productive yet ultimately middle-of-the-pack wide receiver is the 6th best use of a 1st round pick since 1993.

7. 2003, #22 — Rex Grossman, QB, Florida

Four quarterbacks were selected in the 1st round of the 2003 draft:

  • Carson Palmer of USC, #1 overall
  • Byron Leftwich of Marshall, #7
  • Kyle Boller of Cal, #19
  • Rex Grossman of Florida, #22

We took Grossman. To acquire him, we traded the #4 pick to the Jets for the #13 (eventually the #14) and the #22. Thus there are four questions here:

  1. Would we have been better sticking at #4?
  2. If we stayed at #4, would we have been better with Bryon Leftwich than Rex at 22?
  3. Would we have been better taking Boller at #13/#14 and spending #22 on another player, like Willis McGahee (#23 to Buffalo) or Dallas Clark (#24 to Dallas)?
  4. Were any of the non-Palmer QBs worth a 1st round pick?

My answers:

  1. No.
  2. Not really.
  3. Definitely not (and we’ll get to more on that #13/#14 pick a bit later).
  4. Probably not.

Imagine taking Troy Polamalu at #13, (we took Michael Haynes instead — more on him later) and teaming him with Mike Brown, and then taking Clark at #22 to pair with free agent signee Desmond Clark. Free agent QB Kordell Stewart steers the ship in 2003 and we put off drafting a quarterback to 2004.

Unfortunately, if we still draft at #14 in 2004, the next available quarterback is J.P. Losman, so maybe we hold off again on drafting a quarterback. Then in 2005, at #4, we take Aaron Rodgers. Mmmmmm...

Regardless, shoutout to Rex Grossman. I wish he was more successful but he was always fun.

8. 1996, #13 — Walt Harris, CB, Mississippi State

From his rookie year until his second-to-last season in Chicago, Walt Harris was my least favorite longstanding Bear. Even though his stats were decent, he always seemed like a guy who missed the big plays, who was eight yards off the line on 3rd and 3, who couldn’t go one-on-one with the division’s best receivers (Carter, Reed, and Moss in Minnesota; Herman Moore in Detroit; Freeman, Brooks, and Rison in Green Bay; Keyshawn in Tampa).

I wanted Eddie George at #13, even though we’d drafted Rashaan Salaam the year before. In retrospect, picking linebacker John Mobley would have been better, as would obviously wide receiver Marvin Harrison (whom we would have never taken, not with Conway and Jeff Graham both coming off 1,000-yard seasons).

The Bears hadn’t used a high pick on a corner since taking Jeremy Lincoln in the 3rd round in 1992. The offense was 8th in points in the NFL in 1995, while the defense was 22nd in points allowed, and 27th against the pass. A cornerback made sense. Harris seemed like the right one. He didn’t fulfill that until 2001, when he finished his Bears career as the #1 CB on the league’s best defense before having strong seasons with the Colts and D.C. and a Pro Bowl year in San Francisco.

9. 2016, #9 — Leonard Floyd, LB, Georgia

The Projected Potential of Leonard Floyd comes in ninth.

In 12 games, Floyd finished with seven sacks, including two against the Packers with a sack-strip-recovery touchdown on Aaron Rodgers. That 2nd play is the standout highlight of Floyd’s up-and-down rookie year, and it’s the play that gives him enough promise to be ahead of everyone else on this list.

10. 2006 — no pick (traded down)

Bears fans were surprised (though not stunned) when the Bears traded out of the 1st round to add a 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick, and then surprised again (though still not stunned) when they spent their two 2nd round picks on defensive backs, one a little known player from Abilene Christian named Danieal Manning, the other a return king from Miami named Devin Hester who did not seem to have a position on either defense or offense.

Yet really — who should we have taken at #26? Six of the next seven picks starting with #26 went to positions where we were covered. The other was future Pro Bowl tight end Mercedes Lewis, though our production at tight end in 2006 ended up being fabulous. Because our 3rd round pick didn’t pan out, this trade was of little consequence. But I still like it more than the rest of the list.

11. 1995, #21 — Rashaan Salaam, RB, Colorado

With Ty Law (#23), Korey Stringer (#24), and the all-timer’s all-timer Derrick Brooks (#28) upcoming, combined with the success the year before of Raymont Harris, combined with Salaam’s poor (and unmotivated) output, this pick is a bust.

Yet Salaam can’t drop that low on this list — he scored 10 touchdowns his rookie year, and his 1,074 rushing yards was a Bears rookie record (since broken... three times).

Salaam died tragically this past December of a suicide. Rest in peace.

12. 2012, #19 — Shea McClellin, DE, Boise State

Shea McClellin, GM Phil Emery’s first 1st round draft pick, wasn’t worth it. We picked him too high, never figured out where he played best, and traded him to New England just before he mastered leaping over the center to block field goals and extra points.

When our own Lester Wiltfong re-drafted Emery’s three drafts, he gave us Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones, who the Patriots picked two spots after Shea. Chandler started Super Bowl XLIX in his third season and made the Pro Bowl in his fourth. McClellin started 31 games in four years with the Bears, collecting 7.5 sacks while never being sure of his position.

13. 2014, #14 — Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

The drafting of Kyle Fuller epitomizes two draft concepts:

  1. Do what it takes to get your guy.
  2. Nothing matters other than the performance of your player.

The Bears didn't want Fuller. They wanted Aaron Donald. We knew it was a miss when it happened. We definitely know it was a miss now. As Adam Jahns noted in the Sun-Times, the Donald-Fuller draft miss is the perfect example of why you can't fault Ryan Pace for moving up to get Mitch Trubisky. If Trubisky is the man, no one will care about the picks we gave up to get him.

(And as my colleague Josh Sunderbruch wrote, no one should care anyways.)

That's the answer to #1. As for #2, we wouldn't still be talking about Donald if Fuller was The Guy. A Va Tech friend of mine hyped me about Fuller after we drafted him, calling him a “ball hawk (with) great instincts” who Bears fans would love. If his career played out like the first 3 weeks of his rookie season, we'd all laugh about the Donald mishap.

This week, the Bears announced they would not pick up Fuller's 5th-year option for 2018. No one is laughing.

14. 2001, #8 — David Terrell, WR, Michigan

Man oh man, did David Terrell feel like The Guy.

I was convinced of Terrell’s inherent The Guyness when he burned my Northwestern Wildcats for three touchdowns on nine catches in the legendary 54-51 Cats win in 2000. Here he is on touchdown #1, here is touchdown #2, and still in the first half this time going across the middle was touchdown #3. I thought he was marvelous.

And Terrell had some decent production in a Bears uniform. He was a solid 3rd receiver as a rookie on a division-winning team, scored game-winning touchdowns in Week 1 and Week 2 of 2002 before missing most of the season with an injury, and was hit-and-miss in 2003 and 2004. But he never justified his high selection, and the pick looked especially bad considering Pro Bowler Santana Moss and possible Hall of Famer Reggie Wayne went later in the 1st round.

If we’d decided not to take a receiver, Terrell’s Michigan teammate Steve Hutchinson could have locked in one of our guard spots for a decade. We also could have traded down and gone after Casey Hampton at defensive tackle, Nate Clements at corner, Todd Heap at tight end, or stayed in the Big Ten with Purdue quarterback and Northwestern killer — drum roll please — Drew Brees.

Ah well.

15. 2015, #7 — Kevin White, WR, West Virginia

If Kevin White's career was a movie, it would be the first hour of the 2nd Matrix. I trust the director, and the trailer looked terrific, but so far I'm not impressed.

White's career has been slowed by injuries. But his healthy spots on the field haven't looked great either. Considering four of the next 11 picks have already made Pro Bowls (including All Pro linebacker Vic Beasley, picked one spot after White), the selection of White looks ominous. We'll leave him here for now.

16. 1994, #11 — John Thierry, DE, Alcorn State

In a top-heavy 1st round, the Bears nabbed a bust. Thierry spent five seasons in Chicago, never started more than nine games, recorded 12.5 sacks (as many as 5th rounder Mark Anderson's rookie year) with a single-season high of four.

Naturally he left the Bears and had his best seasons, with 21 sacks from 1999 to 2002, becoming a starter on the Browns and then, yes, the Packers.

Looking back, there was no obvious player to pick instead of Thierry. With Isaac Bruce, Kevin Mawae, and Larry Allen among the 2nd rounders, trading down may have been the best move here.

17. 2008, #14 — Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt

Chris Williams edges Gabe Carimi as a better pick, since he reached Year 4 with the Bears and had a 16-start season. But both of these picks are misses, and were a big part of the reason Bears fans were so skittish about the team drafting a “project” in Kyle Long in 2013.

Williams played 57 games in Chicago with 38 starts, including the two playoff games after the 2010 season. Yet he was part of an o-line in such disarray (and was already out of his presumed tackle position) that the Bears used their 1st round pick the next year on Carimi.

The pain of the Williams pick is compounded by the talent all around him in the draft. The 17 picks from #10 to #26 in 2008 produced 10 Pro Bowlers, plus two more players still in the league. The Bears could have had Joe Flacco in this spot, for example, which would have made sense entering a season in which Kyle Orton started 15 games.

18. 2011, #29 — Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin

Unlike Williams, Carimi did not make it to Year 4. Or Year 3. Dogged by injuries starting in college, Carimi played only two games his rookie year, lost and then regained his starting job in 2012, moving from right tackle to right guard and back to right tackle.

That said, I’m not really sure what else we would have done with this pick, other than trading out of it. Future Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson went the pick after Carimi, but we’d just sunk money into both Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije. In 2011, 85% of WCG readers liked the overall Bears draft; when Josh Sunderbruch looked back at that draft one year ago this month, he judged the Carimi selection “pretty reasonable.”

19. 2003, #14 — Michael Haynes, DE, Penn State

I said we would come back to Haynes. Here we are. Haynes was so quickly deemed not The Guy that in the preseason of his 2nd season, the Bears traded for his replacement, Dolphins defensive end Adewale Ogunleye.

Ogunleye paired with 2002 4th round pick Alex Brown from 2004 to 2009. Haynes lasted three seasons in Chicago and five in the NFL. Troy Polamalu was drafted two spots after Haynes and is heading to the Hall of Fame.

That’s why I’ve got the Haynes pick lower than Terrell, White, Thierry, Williams, and Carimi. Their Bears careers all turned out about the same (except for White... fingers crossed). But the Bears were a team on the rise in 2003, and picking Polamalu even with Mike Brown at safety, and even without knowing that Brown would have injury problems starting in 2004 — well, that pick may have put us over the top in Super Bowl XLI.

Instead, we picked someone who we ostensibly felt the need to replace in Year 2.

Haynes always seemed like a nice guy, good teammate, and hard worker. I remember being personally happy for him on his 45-yard touchdown against Tennessee in 2004. But this was a miss that ultimately cost the franchise dearly.

20. 2002, #29 — Marc Colombo, OT, Boston College

Coming off a 13-3 season, the Bears had few obvious holes on the roster. One was our talented but aging set of offensive tackles, who would be 29 (Blake Brockermeyer) and 34 (Big Cat Williams) in 2002.

So we drafted Marc Colombo, who played 10 games in 2002, missed all of 2003, played eight games in 2004, and was off the roster after Week 1 of 2005. Naturally he went to the Cowboys and started every game from 2006 to 2008, missed seven games in 2009, and then missed only one game total the next two years.

Colombo turned into a pretty good NFL player, but he was a miss for us, and what should have locked down a crucial position instead led the Bears to acquiring talented but older veterans (John Tait and Fred Miller) and drafting busts (Williams and Carimi).

There is no obvious player we should have taken instead of Colombo — the next three Pro Bowlers drafted were two centers (where we already had Olin Kreutz) and Clinton Portis (where we had reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Anthony Thomas). Just bad luck here.

21. 1998, #5 — Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State

I know what you’re thinking: how in the hell are there three picks worse than Curtis Enis?

Let me explain.

Enis is undoubtedly a bad pick. We took him instead of Fred Taylor, and if you want to branch outside of the running back position, we also could have had Randy Moss.

Instead we took Enis, who despite a strong career at Penn State never locked down the Bears starting job, and who entered his first training camp under investigation for sexual assault after shocking his friends and family by impregnating and marrying a stripper he’d known for 15 months, becoming a born-again Christian, and then using his wedding speech to berate his guests for not erasing their lives of sin.

On the field, Enis showed enough promise that Pat Mannelly thinks he had the talent to be the 2nd best Bears running back of Mannelly’s time after Matt Forte. Instead, he played 36 games with the Bears in three seasons, rushed for four touchdowns, and never played in the NFL again.

As pure production goes, he’s the 2nd worst pick in this article, ahead of only the next guy. But he’s fourth-to-last for reasons I’ll make clear.

22. 1999, #12 — Cade McNown, QB, UCLA

I know what you’re thinking: whoa, whoa... there are two picks worse than Cade McNown? Maybe after reading my Enis writeup, you’re understanding this one.

From a production standpoint, McNown was arguably worse than Enis. He didn’t even make it to Year 3, played only 25 games, started only 15, and threw 16 touchdowns against 19 interceptions. When McNown was good, he looked great, like here on his first NFL touchdown.

He also presided over arguably the worst offensive game in Bears history, a 17-0 loss to the 49ers in which our offense never entered San Francisco territory.

In his defense, the Bears had possibly the worst plan ever for developing a rookie quarterback, giving him a few series here and there behind starter Shane Matthews. McNown didn’t start until Week 6 of his rookie year, yet he played in every game up until then.

In the end, it was his attitude along with his play that led the Bears to trade him before even his third season.

What makes the McNown pick even worse, of course, is that we traded out of the #7 pick, giving up a chance at Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey. By the time McNown was out of Chicago, Bailey was a two-time Pro Bowler in his third season in Washington.

Imagine Bailey as a starter opposite Walt Harris on the 13-3 Bears, with R.W. McQuarters in the slot. Imagine a tandem of Bailey and Peanut Tillman in Super Bowl XLI.

The mind wanders.

23. 1997 — no pick (Rick Mirer trade)

Even Enis and McNown were better choices than what we did with our 1st round pick in 1997.

Rick Mirer’s career record was 20-31 with 41 touchdowns against 56 interceptions in four years with Seattle. In 1996, he was 2-7. Naturally, the Bears decided he was the perfect player to acquire as our next starting quarterback. Also naturally, we decided to give up a 1st round pick to make it happen.

Mirer opened the 1997 season as — you guessed it — the backup! Erik Kramer came back from two herniated cervical discs in 1996 that cost him 12 games, and beat Mirer for the starting job. The team gave Mirer the job in Week 4, he started three games, lost all three, returned to the bench, and was released before the 1998 season.

We literally got nothing for what was the #11 pick in the 1997 draft. Future Pro Bowl running back Warrick Dunn was picked #12. Future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez was picked #13.

Instead, we got Mirer, tight end John Allred in round 2, and running back Darnell Autry (go Cats!) in round 4.

24. 2005, #4 — Cedric Benson, RB, Texas

And yet, I would even take the Mirer experience ahead of what the Bears did with the fourth pick in the 2005 draft.

To be clear, Cedric Benson had a better NFL career than everyone on this list from Kyle Fuller on down. The issue is what this pick did to the franchise. We had just signed Thomas Jones the season before. We had a need at wide receiver (and yes, we would have drafted a flop in Mike Williams of USC, but we didn’t know that) and there was major talent coming down the pipe at linebacker with DeMarcus Ware (#11 to Dallas), Shawne Merriman (#12 to San Diego) and Derrick Johnson (#15 to Kansas City).

Imagine one of those three guys lined up with Urlacher and Briggs in Super Bowl XLI. That’s what was at stake here.

Instead, we took Benson against the wishes of both Benson and Jones. Then we prioritized Benson over Jones in 2007, leading to a disastrous post-Super Bowl season in which Jones’s leadership and talent would have given the offense the stability it needed during a season-long quarterback carousel.

Again, this isn’t a knock on Benson, per se, more on how the organization executed its use of the pick, and how that reverberated through the franchise over the next three seasons.

Here is what Benson told me about the pick:

There was a lot of back-and-forth negotiations before I was picked. Before I was picked I was under the interpretation I wasn’t going to get picked. So I didn’t have a real pleasant experience at the draft anyway.

Where did you think you were going?

The Bears were trying to get me to agree to a deal seconds before they picked me. And we kind of said, "No, we’re going to go after what we feel" — we were going to go after for what I did. We’d get picked with whoever wants me to play. And the Bears still picked me. So it left a lot of room open for immediate controversy amongst us negotiating. Nobody knows that. (Laughs.)

I remember that it seemed like maybe you were upset.

Yeah. Just because, you know, I worked really hard to be there. And it was like I was being played or manipulated before I even got picked, so when I got picked I was sort of confused. The Bears just said they weren’t going to pick me if I didn’t agree to this deal. I didn’t agree and they still picked me.

And here is what Jones told me:

You had a strong first year in Chicago. When did you know that the Bears were going to draft Cedric Benson? And did you have a preference for what they did with that number 4 pick?

I mean, 2004, we had a lot of injuries. A tough year. 5-11. But since I was a kid I would always play football like every game was my last. I think I ended up with nine-hundred forty-something yards, and I had a hyper-extended toe. I played through injuries all year and I still almost had 1,000 yards and seven or eight touchdowns. In the situation we were in I felt we needed some help in different places on offense, so I definitely didn’t anticipate them drafting a running back. I figured, “I’ll be here for the next four years. I think I’ve shown that I’m a starter and that I can make plays despite the circumstances.”

But at that point I’d learned not to be shocked by anything that happened in the NFL. I was fortunate to understand that early in my career. It is a business first and football second. But I definitely felt as though we could have used some help in a different position, and that was nothing against Cedric Benson. The kid did everything he needed to do to be drafted where he was drafted. He earned the right to be drafted at the number 4 pick. It just so happened that he went to the Bears, the same team that I was on.

Last month, ESPN named Benson the biggest Bears draft bust of the past 25 years. Our own Lester Wiltfong disagreed, as did I. As a player, the biggest bust is McNown.

As a pick, the biggest bust is Benson. There’s a difference. Keep it in mind as we evaluate — and react to — Mitch Trubisky.

And for goodness sake, stop booing Bears QBs before they play. You’re making us look like Philly fans.


Other than Brian Urlacher, Kyle Long, Tommie Harris, and Greg Olsen, who was the best Bears 1st round pick of the last 25 years?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    1993: Curtis Conway
    (90 votes)
  • 0%
    1994: John Thierry
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    1995: Rashaan Salaam
    (4 votes)
  • 4%
    1996: Walt Harris
    (22 votes)
  • 0%
    1998: Curtis Enis
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    1999: Cade McNown
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    2001: David Terrell
    (1 vote)
  • 1%
    2002: Marc Colombo
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    2003: Michael Haynes
    (1 vote)
  • 9%
    2003: Rex Grossman
    (48 votes)
  • 1%
    2005: Cedric Benson
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    2008: Chris Williams
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    2011: Gabe Carimi
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    2012: Shea McClellin
    (2 votes)
  • 0%
    2014: Kyle Fuller
    (3 votes)
  • 0%
    2015: Kevin White
    (3 votes)
  • 40%
    2016: Leonard Floyd
    (201 votes)
  • 19%
    2017: Mitchell Trubisky
    (98 votes)
495 votes total Vote Now

Adding another poll, because we need it:


Excluding Urlacher, Kyle Long, Tommie Harris, and Greg Olsen, who is the WORST Bears 1st round pick of the last 25 years?

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    1993: Curtis Conway
    (0 votes)
  • 2%
    1994: John Thierry
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    1995: Rashaan Salaam
    (1 vote)
  • 0%
    1996: Walt Harris
    (0 votes)
  • 10%
    1998: Curtis Enis
    (24 votes)
  • 37%
    1999: Cade McNown
    (84 votes)
  • 2%
    2001: David Terrell
    (5 votes)
  • 0%
    2002: Marc Colombo
    (2 votes)
  • 4%
    2003: Michael Haynes
    (11 votes)
  • 1%
    2003: Rex Grossman
    (3 votes)
  • 13%
    2005: Cedric Benson
    (30 votes)
  • 3%
    2008: Chris Williams
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    2011: Gabe Carimi
    (14 votes)
  • 7%
    2012: Shea McClellin
    (16 votes)
  • 0%
    2014: Kyle Fuller
    (2 votes)
  • 1%
    2015: Kevin White
    (3 votes)
  • 1%
    2016: Leonard Floyd
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    2017: Mitchell Trubisky
    (12 votes)
224 votes total Vote Now