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Determining the Bears’ best draft pick from each of the past 10 years

Although the Bears haven’t had the best of luck with their drafting in the 21st century, they’ve still made a few solid selections.

NFL: Oakland Raiders at Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears struck gold when they selected Matt Forte in 2008.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a news flash: the Chicago Bears typically suck at drafting.

Just in case this wasn’t already common knowledge, I went over this fact in a series of articles this offseason. Jerry Angelo’s tenure brought a few gems, but a lot more garbage. Phil Emery's tenure, while not as long as Angelo's, had its fair share of terrible picks, as well.

It's safe to say that I've taken you all on a painful trip down Memory Lane. To reward you all for your tolerance, I've decided to write an article that shines a more positive light on the Bears' draft picks. Let's take a look at their best pick from each of the past 10 years.

Note: This list goes from 2007 to 2016. It doesn’t include this year’s selections, as they have yet to play an NFL game.

2007: Greg Olsen

Oh, Greg Olsen. What could've been.

Chicago selected the tight end out of Miami (FL) with the 31st pick in the 2007 NFL Draft. Considering that both Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian left after Olsen's rookie season, he had to produce right away. And produce he did.

Olsen led the Bears in receptions once and led in receiving touchdowns three times in his four seasons with the team. Unfortunately, Chicago traded him to the Carolina Panthers in 2011.

The trade stemmed from Olsen's not fitting into then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme. Martz was gone after the 2011 season, while Olsen went on to make three Pro Bowls (and counting) with the Panthers.

2008: Matt Forte

Matt Forte produced a level of consistency that ranks among the all-time greats in Bears history.

Ever since he first wore a Bears uniform in 2008, he was as consistent as they come. He started in every game that he played in his eight years with the team. He topped 1,000 yards five times; if he had stayed healthy in 2011 and 2015, then he likely would've ran for 1,000 yards in those seasons, as well.

Forte is the team’s second-leading all-time rusher with a total of 8,602 yards. He also finished with the second-most receptions in franchise history with 487. His balanced skill set made him a threat as a runner and as a receiver. He truly was one of the best running backs the Bears have ever seen.

2009: Henry Melton

The Bears' 2009 draft class was pretty underwhelming. After all, their first pick only had one tackle with the team, while the second pick didn't even play a snap in the NFL. Granted, Chicago didn't have a first- or second-round pick due to trades. However, that doesn't completely nullify their multiple bad picks.

Henry Melton proved to be a steal in the fourth round, though. The defensive tackle out of Texas was a full-time starter by his second year with the Bears. In 2011, he had seven sacks. He followed that up the next year with a six-sack season and a trip to the Pro Bowl.

Although injuries prevented him from maintaining this level of play, he was a very good piece on a dominant Bears defense for a few years.

2010: Major Wright

This entry seems a bit more negative than the other players on the list. To be fair, though, who else was it going to be? Corey Wootton? J'Marcus Webb outplayed his seventh-round draft status, but he wasn't great as a starter by any means.

Major Wright wasn't fantastic either, but he was a reliable starter at safety for four seasons. He had four interceptions and 253 tackles with the Bears. Although he didn't make it past his first contract, he was at least a solid plug-in piece.

2011: Stephen Paea

Like the draft before it, the 2011 NFL Draft failed to produce any star players for the Bears. The closest they got was Stephen Paea, who was just starting to build momentum when his tenure in Chicago came to an end.

After an uneventful rookie season, Paea became the long-term starter at defensive tackle for the rest of his three years with the team. His best season came in 2014, when he racked up six sacks and finished fifth in the league in quarterback hurries among defensive tackles with 31.

Unfortunately for Paea, his breakout season came right before the Bears had an overhaul in the coaching staff. He no longer fit their new 3-4 defense, and was not re-signed in the 2015 offseason.

2012: Alshon Jeffery

Could it really have been anybody else?

The Bears’ 2012 draft class was, to put it politely, complete garbage. Their first-round pick was a bust, their third-rounder never played a snap in the NFL, and the rest of their picks failed to amount to anything. All of them except for Alshon Jeffery, of course.

The wide receiver out of South Carolina had a pedestrian rookie year, but he broke out in a major way in his second year. He had 89 receptions, 1,421 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, which earned him a trip to the Pro Bowl. He followed that up with another impressive season in 2014.

Injuries plagued his final two seasons with the Bears, but he still managed to make an impact. He finished third in franchise history in receiving yards and seventh in receptions. Not too shabby for someone who was only on the team for five seasons.

2013: Kyle Long

The Bears continued their streak of finding one star among an otherwise bad class in 2013. Outside of Kyle Long, nobody else developed into a long-term starter.

At the time, many fans and analysts alike (including myself) thought that the selection of Long was a reach. However, he has managed to prove everybody wrong by having a phenomenal career thus far.

When healthy, Long has been one of the league's best offensive linemen year in and year out. He has made the Pro Bowl three times in four seasons - it likely would've been four if he hadn't gotten hurt last year. He is a leader on and off of the field for the Bears, and is arguably the face of the franchise. Although Phil Emery made a lot of bad picks, this certainly wasn't one of them.

2014: Charles Leno Jr.

The Bears continued their streak of unimpressive drafts with their haul in 2014. Unlike the previous two drafts, however, they failed to find a true star. In the first round, they selected Kyle Fuller with the 14th pick. The three picks that followed all went on to be Pro Bowlers. Only four of their eight picks are still on the team, and only two of them are locks to make the 53-man roster. Charles Leno Jr. is one of the two.

One of the many things that plagued Phil Emery was his inability to draft: more specifically, his inability to find starters in later rounds. Leno Jr. was arguably his lone gem. The seventh-rounder out of Boise State has started in 30 of the 38 games he has played in his three years with the team. He started in all 16 games at left tackle last year, and he didn't even miss a snap all year!

Leno Jr. has been a reliable piece at left tackle so far for the Bears. If he keeps up his level of play, then he could be in for a sizable contract next offseason.

2015: Eddie Goldman

The jury is still out on the Bears' 2015 draft class. Kevin White has been plagued by injuries, Hroniss Grasu missed all of 2016 due to injury, and Eddie Goldman has played 21 games in two seasons. However, in the limited time we've seen the class perform, it has been Goldman who has made the biggest impact.

As our own Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. recently pointed out, Goldman was extremely impressive in his rookie season. He is a formidable run stuffer who can rush the passer better than most other nose tackles. He missed a lot of time last year to injury, but looks to bounce back better than ever this season. He has 40 tackles and seven sacks in limited playing time so far in his career. If he can stay healthy, then expect him to build upon that this year.

2016: Jordan Howard

As is the case with the 2015 class, it's still too early to completely judge the Bears' 2016 class. It appears, though, that they found three long-term building blocks, which is something that the team has failed to do throughout the 21st century. One could slot Leonard Floyd or Cody Whitehair here and get absolutely no argument. However, it may be Jordan Howard that proves to be the best pick of the bunch.

The fifth-round running back from Indiana surpassed all expectations with his performance last season. His 1,313 rushing yards finished second in the league, and his 5.2 yards-per-carry was fourth in the league among backs with at least 100 carries.

He will enter 2017 with a chance to be a full-time starter, which he wasn't in 2016. He may also have a healthy offensive line this year. If he can stay healthy and continue to grow as a player, then he can become one of the league's best running backs for years to come.