Ah, the 2010s.
The decade that brought us the rise of smartphones, e-commerce and such tragedies like “Jersey Shore”, Honey Boo-Boo and Cardi B is nearly at its end. There was a lot of good, and there was certainly a lot of bad that came out of it, and that definitely rings true for the Chicago Bears.
The Bears made the playoffs twice in the 2010s, losing in the NFC Championship to the Packers in 2010 and falling in the Wild Card round to the Eagles in 2018. The decade brought fans a wild ride that included four different head coaches, Jay Cutler at quarterback, the departures of such cornerstones like Brian Urlacher, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. It also brought about the additions of Julius Peppers and Khalil Mack, as well as a complete and total rebuild after the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery regime.
And, of course, it brought some pretty bad first-round draft picks.
Granted, the Bears made a couple of good choices on the first day of the draft throughout the decade, but the franchise has struggled with making early draft choices for decades for the most part. Chicago made eight first-round picks in 10 drafts, with 2010 and 2019 not carrying selections due to trades for Jay Cutler and Khalil Mack, respectively.
Inspired by recent Twitter discussion, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and rank all of the first-round draft choices the Bears made as this decade nears its end.
8. Kevin White
Kevin White being placed this low isn't entirely his fault, as his progress was severely hindered by three season-ending injuries. However, when you draft a receiver in the top 10, you certainly hope for more than 25 catches for 285 yards and no touchdowns during his tenure with the team.
White was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2015 draft with the hope that he could blossom into a No. 1 receiver for the Bears down the line. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound wide out with a 4.35 40-yard dash was a hot commodity in draft circles, with his physical attributes and stellar 2014 season with West Virginia catching the eyes of many teams. That enticed the Bears enough to use a pick on him, hoping to replace Brandon Marshall, whom they had traded to the Jets that offseason.
White’s rookie season never came to fruition, as he suffered a stress fracture in his shin during team activities that forced him to miss all of 2015. He showed promise through the first four games of the 2016 season, but he fractured his fibula in the same leg as his shin injury, ending his campaign prematurely. When Alshon Jeffery left for Philadelphia in 2017, White was expected to step up and help fill an important need for the Bears. Instead, he fractured his shoulder blade in the first week of the season and didn’t play in another game that year.
The only notable play of White’s career came last year, when he caught a last-second, 54-yard Hail Mary against the Patriots in a game where Chicago was trailing by a touchdown. He ended up just one yard short of the end zone.
The Bears let him walk in free agency this past offseason, and he signed with the Cardinals on a one-year deal. He was released prior to the regular season, likely bringing an end to a career cut tragically short by bad luck. It wasn’t entirely his fault, but his virtually nonexistent production for a top-10 pick makes him a horrendous selection in hindsight.
Many say that it takes three seasons to fully evaluate most players to determine whether or not they were a good draft pick. Well, Year 3 of Mitchell Trubisky’s career is almost over, and it’s safe to say that he was not a good draft pick.
Trubisky was selected with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017, as the Bears traded up from the No. 3 spot to secure a quarterback, marking the team’s first selection of a quarterback in the first round since Rex Grossman in 2003. Trubisky sat for the first four games of his career before taking over Mike Glennon’s role as the Bears’ starter. With a lackluster group of weapons around him, an archaic offensive scheme and the fact he wasn’t ready to take meaningful snaps early, the rookie predictably struggled in his rookie year. He finished 4-8 as the starter in 2017, throwing for 2,193 yards and finishing with just 7 touchdowns and 7 interceptions.
A new change of scenery proved to initially be beneficial to Trubisky, as a myriad of new targets and a better scheme under new coach Matt Nagy saw the quarterback improve in 2018. He missed two games to injury, but he had 3,223 passing yards, 24 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, as well as 421 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns on 68 carries. There were some inconsistencies in his game still, but his improvements helped take the Bears to the playoffs, where they suffered a Wild Card loss to the Eagles. He played well enough to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl as an alternate for the NFC.
Things looked bright for Trubisky heading into 2019, but he regressed badly in his third season to there surprise of many. Through 8 completed games—he only threw 3 passes against the Vikings in Week 4 after leaving due to injury—he has 1,580 passing yards, 9 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. He has yet to top 300 passing yards in a game all year, his accuracy has been poor and he has struggled mightily with making reads and decision-making.
With his third season nearing its end, Trubisky’s evaluation window is just about shutting, and he has failed to take the steps forward that Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson—two quarterbacks who were taken after him in 2017—have taken. If anything, he’s gone backwards, and that has severely messed up Chicago’s long-term plans.
The fact that he’s been able to actually stay on the field prevents Trubisky from being last on this list, but he has messed up the Bears’ blueprint more than anyone else they’ve taken in the first round in the 2010s. A strong argument could be made that he might be the worst pick the team has made this decade.
6. Gabe Carimi
The fact that Gabe Carimi, a disappointing offensive lineman who only spent two years with the Bears, somehow escaped the two worst spots on this list says a lot about the team’s bad luck with early draft picks.
Carimi was initially seen as a steal at the No. 29 pick in the 2011 draft, and he projected to be a valuable addition to a Bears offensive line that struggled mightily with keeping Jay Cutler upright through the early years of his tenure with the team. However, Carimi’s career kicked off on a bad note, as he suffered a right knee injury in Week 2 that ended his rookie season prematurely. He played in all 16 games in 2012, starting in 14 of them and playing at both right tackle and right guard.
His impact was not very noticeable, and the Bears traded him to the Buccaneers for a sixth-round pick in the 2013 offseason. He was a disappointing pick without a doubt, but his status as a late first-round pick prevents him from being ranked even lower on this list.
The first pick of the dreadful Phil Emery era, Shea McClellin was a confusing pick at the time, and it remains a confusing pick to this day.
A late riser in the 2012 draft process, McClellin was seen as a great fit as an outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense due to his size and speed off the edge, even though he didn’t possess high-end strength. It was confusing, then, when the Bears drafted him to be a 4-3 defensive end, and he predictably had a tough time making the transition.
McClellin started off as a rotational pass rusher off the edge, with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije manning the two starting spots. He didn’t make much of an immediate impact, only finishing with 2.5 sacks and 14 tackles in 14 games. He got his chance to start in 2013 and had 4 sacks, 30 tackles and 11 quarterback hits, but three of his sacks came in one matchup against the Packers. After not making the impact the Bears thought he would, the team changed him to an off-ball linebacker, where he started 10 of the 12 games he played in 2014, finishing with 36 tackles and a sack.
Chicago eventually did move to a 3-4 system in 2015, but they kept McClellin as an inside linebacker, where he finished with a career-high 81 total tackles but failed to stand out enough to warrant the team re-signing him. He played a year with the Patriots before missing 2017 with an injury and being released from the team in the 2018 offseason.
McClellin was placed in a difficult situation from the start, but he failed to adapt and succeed in Chicago’s defense. He lacked strength as a pass-rusher, and he lacked mobility and instincts for an off-ball linebacker, so his tenure with the team fell flat. The only reasons he is as high on the list as he is simply comes down to the fact that he stayed on the team for four years and didn't set the team back in the long run, which is more than what can be said about those lower on the list.
All things considered, Leonard Floyd was a disappointing first-round pick for an edge rusher selected in the top 10. But since he doesn't absolutely suck, he finds himself in the top half of this list.
Floyd put together an impressive rookie season, starting right out of the gate and tallying 7 sacks and 33 tackles in 12 games. Injuries prevented him from building upon that hot start, as he finished with 4.5 sacks in 10 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He also battled a hand injury in 2018 but played in all 16 games, putting up 47 tackles and 4 sacks. Floyd put together a solid second half of the season after ditching the protective club he wore, even though it didn’t entirely show in the stat sheet.
As of this writing, Floyd has played in 10 games in 2019 and has 28 tackles and 3 sacks, with two of his sacks coming in Week 1 against the Packers. He has served as a solid chess piece for the Bears’ defense, as his athleticism gives him versatility as a stand-up pass rusher and as a defender dropping back in coverage from time to time.
Despite starting in every game he’s played in his career so far, he hasn’t been able to turn his playing time into production, and that fabled “breakout season” of his appears to be nothing but fiction at this stage in his career. He’ll get a decent contract when he hits the open market—or if the Bears re-sign him—but it’s unlikely he’ll ever be more than a middling pass-rusher at this point.
3. Roquan Smith
Placing Roquan Smith this high feels a bit like cheating, since the linebacker is still in just his second season in the NFL. His 2019 season has been full of ups and downs, but the bad luck the Bears have had drafting in the first round of the decade places him this high.
Smith started the 2018 season off a bit slow, as one would expect for a rookie who didn’t get to participate in training camp due to contract disputes. After a few weeks, though, he started to show impressive signs of development. The No. 8 overall pick reached double-digit tackle numbers in six games as a rookie and tallied 121 total tackles on the year. He also finished with 5 sacks and an interception.
The 2019 season has been a bit of a rollercoaster for Smith, who has made a big impact in some games and a minimal impact in others. He hasn’t taken that Pro Bowl step that some expected him to in his sophomore season, but he has continued to show flashes of the top-tier linebacker the Bears expected him to be. As of this writing, Smith has 78 tackles through 9 games and has topped double-digit tackles in his past three performances, so there is still plenty of optimism to be had in the young defender.
The jury is still out on Smith, but he is off to a good start to his career thus far. If he makes a leap in the near future, then there’s no doubt he could potentially finish even higher on the list a few years from now.
2. Kyle Long
Kyle Long has struggled with injuries over the past four seasons, but make no mistake about it: when he was healthy, he was fantastic.
Long was seen as a reach with the No. 20 pick in the 2013 draft, seeing as he was a one-year offensive lineman at Oregon who only started half of the 2012 season. Despite his lack of experience, he made an instant impact for the Bears, starting all 16 games as a rookie and making the Pro Bowl in his first NFL season. He had an even bigger year in 2014, making the Pro Bowl and being named a second-team All-Pro at guard. Despite moving to right tackle the following year, he still had a good enough season to earn his third Pro Bowl appearance.
After a relatively clean bill of health through his first three seasons, injuries started to take a toll on Long. He battled through a shoulder injury for most of 2016 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury after eight games. He aggravated a shoulder injury late in 2017 in a season that saw him fight with constant ankle and finger pain. Long then suffered a foot injury eight games into 2018, returning to the team in 2019 before suffering a hip injury after playing in just four games. Missing a combined 34 games over the past four years, his performance started to take a hit as the injuries piled up, and by this year he appeared to be a shadow of his past self.
Though Long’s recent health issues have been less than ideal, he was a very important part of the Bears on and off the field when he was healthy. He served as a positive locker room influence and one of the team’s most marketable players, as well as a tenacious and athletic guard who offered value as both a run blocker and in pass protection. His time with the team will likely come to an end this offseason, but he surpassed expectations and became a fan-favorite within the organization.
1. Kyle Fuller
It took him a little while, but Kyle Fuller has finally developed into that high-profile cornerback the Bears envisioned him to be.
Selected with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Fuller was meant to be a successor to the likes of veterans Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. Thanks in part to a season-ending triceps injury to Tillman in Week 2, Fuller got to start in 14 games as a rookie. He finished the year with 4 interceptions, 64 tackles, 3 forced fumbles and 10 pass deflections, with two of his picks coming against the 49ers in Week 2. He didn’t have as great of a year in 2015, but he still ended up with 2 interceptions, 54 tackles and 9 pass breakups.
Fuller’s status with the team took a bit of a turn in 2016, when he underwent surgery for a knee injury in August. He was placed on injured reserve after three games of inactivity and returned to practice late in November, but he still remained on injured reserve and didn’t play a down all year. His roster status in question, the Bears did not pick up his fifth-year option and added veterans Prince Amukamara and Marcus Cooper to compete for starting positions. Fuller was demoted to a backup, but he got the chance to start for the first two games when Amukamara got hurt. Cooper got hurt soon after, prompting Fuller to replace him, as well. He kept the starting position and ended up with 2 interceptions, 68 tackles and a career-high 22 pass deflections.
The Bears re-signed Fuller to a four-year, $56 million deal in 2018 and proceeded to bring forth the best season of his career so far. He finished tied for the most interceptions in the league with 7, as well as a league-high 21 pass breakups and 55 tackles. He was named a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro for his efforts, both career firsts for him. Fuller hasn’t had as good of a year in 2019, but he has still been solid with 3 interceptions, 52 tackles and 8 pass deflections through 10 games.
Fuller’s path to where he’s at now was a rocky one that nearly saw him get released from the team, but he is now firmly among the NFL’s better cornerbacks. He figures to be a part of the Bears’ plans for years to come.