Last week we shared what we felt were the five worst decisions the Chicago Bears have made in the last 30 years. Some of them were head-scratching to say the least.
Several fans were agitated and let us know in the comments that they didn’t appreciate this stroll down memory lane. So, to be fair to our beloved readers, we are going the opposite on this list and giving you the five best first round decisions that have been made by the Chicago Bears franchise, in the last 30 years of the NFL draft.
5. Trading two first round picks for Khalil Mack in 2018
I really contemplated how to start off this list. I thought about the Greg Olsen selection in 2007, I thought about Tommie Harris in 2004. I even thought about Kyle Fuller, Kyle Long and Roquan Smith from recent selections, but to me, we kick it off with Khalil Mack.
I know some fans always thought the price was too steep. I know some fans think the trade was a failure as the Mack-led Bears finished with zero playoff victories. But make no mistake about it, when Ryan Pace made the move for Mack just before the start of the 2018 season, it electrified the Bears fan base and the locker room.
Mack was a huge reason the Bears' defense was one of the best in recent memory, and he helped catapult them to the division title. Unfortunately, the Mack move is paired with the Mitchell Trubisky move, which made the list of one of the worst moves of the last 30 years, and that, not the Mack move, is what derailed those Bears’ teams.
4. Trading two first round picks for Jay Cutler in 2009
Some fans may also disagree with this one because the truth is that Cutler probably never grew into his full potential with the Bears, but was that Cutler’s fault?
Porous offensive lines, a revolving door of offensive coordinators, and a lack of talent around him for many years were all huge contributing factors to Cutler’s up and down career in Chicago. Yes, Cutler’s attitude and inconsistent play also played into that, but when Cutler was surrounded with talent in his later years in Chicago, his play was solid.
Sure, the list may not be impressive, but when the Bears managed to land one of the three best quarterbacks in the history of the franchise, whether you loved him or hated him, the trade for Jay Cutler makes the list.
3. Trading the first overall pick in 2023 to the Carolina Panthers
We don’t know what Ryan Poles is going to do with all the capital that he acquired for this trade. We don’t know how DJ Moore is going to play in Chicago. We don’t know anything about this trade at this point, but what we do know is that Ryan Poles did a great job acquiring what he did with this move.
Poles has set up the franchise to land several key players maintaining a top ten pick this year, along with a first rounder in 2024 and a second rounder in 2025. Landing an outstanding weapon for Justin Fields to utilize in Moore was also a huge gain for Poles and the Bears.
Poles may draft future hall of famers or he may draft busts with these picks, but the trade itself was a fantastic value for Poles and the Bears.
2. Trading up for Justin Fields in 2021
Am I projecting? Maybe. But I’ve seen enough to slot the Justin Fields trade here. Ryan Pace made plenty of mistakes during his tenure in Chicago and he did, in fact, trade away three first round picks when he was here, but the fact is, all three of those first round pick trade landed in the top five list.
Fields still may not become an elite quarterback, but neither did Jay Cutler and he found himself fourth on this list. Fields has already proven he’s an electric playmaker with special arm talent and now that he has a little more talent around him in 2023, we are all waiting for Justin to put it all together.
1. Drafting Brian Urlacher 9th overall in 2000
I know some Bears fans have soured on Urlacher over the last few years due to the plethora of hair advertisements near O’Hare Airport and some political views that agitated plenty of fans, but that doesn’t change that Urlacher’s play on the field was dynamic.
Urlacher’s resume speaks for itself, and he remains the only hall of famer the Chicago Bears have drafted in 40 years. The last hall of famers the Bears selected were in 1983 when they drafted Jimbo Covert in round 1 and Richard Dent in round 8.
If you draft the only hall of fame player for the Chicago Bears over a 40-year stretch, that, without question, has to be the best draft decision the team has made.