The NFL is draft is always a mixture of excitement and disappointment as teams frequently diverge from the expert pick and make a surprise choice. In the 2006 draft, the Chicago Bears used their second round draft picks for Danieal Manning and Devin Hester. Both picks were met with mixed feelings of disappointment and anger from fans that dubbed it the worst draft in franchise history. Both picks turned out to be very productive and resulted in an immediate impact on the field.
This year the first round pick is likely to be an offensive tackle and given the lack of pursuit for a free agent lineman, the Bears are likely to comply. The dilemma comes with the second round and two third round draft picks the Bears have hanging in the air. The Bears have so many needs on the offensive side of the ball that no names or positions have been keyed in for the next pick. The reality is the Bears are likely to take the most talented offensive player, with the exception of tight end, that is on the board.
In an ironic twist of fate, the Bears have shown an almost comical inability to evaluate first round talent, but have an uncanny ability to located talent in the later rounds of the draft. Last year the Bears took the popular pick of Greg Olsen in the first round, which thus far seems like a great pick, but were also able to find Kevin Payne in the 5th round, Corey Graham in the 6th round, and Trumaine McBride in the 7th round, a trio of cornerbacks that contributed on defense last year due to injuries. In 2006, the Bears found talented linebacker Jamar Williams in the 4th round and blazing defensive end Mark Anderson in the 5th round. In 2005, the Bears went wrong with Cedric Benson in the 1st round, but picked up Chris Harris in the 6th round. In 2004, Bernard Berrian was picked in the 3rd round and Nathan Vasher in the 4th round. In 2003, Lance Briggs was taken in the 3rd round, and wide receivers Bobby Wade and Justin Gage, both starters for other teams, were taken in the 5th round.
It makes you wonder if the Bears actually are amazing evaluators of talent but succumb to outside pressure and take the popular pick. One thing is certain, the Bears have yet to figure out how to accurately evaluate NFL ready running backs. They haven’t been able to find a player ready to make the transition since the days of Mike Ditka. The organizations evaluation of defensive talent has been unparalleled and they have made attempts to use that advantage to make trades like they did with Chris Harris last season. The problem is the Bears have little need on defense and the stage is set to rebuild the offense or fall flat.
So what are the Bears priorities? One name that should be at the top of the list for the second round is Felix Jones, the running back out of Arkansas. The Bears badly need a different option than Cedric Benson and Jones could be worth the gamble. However, in recent weeks Jones has been receiving a lot of hype and he may be off the board as early as the first round.
Draft day can result in big name players falling to later rounds and having their options open actually works in the Bears favor. Most of their mistakes have come when they are determined to draft to a position rather than talent. Hype is a hell of a thing because it can change on you in a moments notice and leave you wondering about your future in the second round. Will quarterbacks Brian Brohm of Louisville, Chad Henne of Michigan, or Joe Flacco of Delaware still be on the board?
I can’t help but feel like the Bears will defer wide receiver until the third round. History shows they have had good luck picking receivers in later rounds rather than big name receivers that end up a bust. With two picks in the third round the Bears will still be looking for the best talent and may continue taking chances on the offensive backfield. There hasn’t been much talk about talent at the offensive guard position but it’s a position of need that may come up.
The Bears have a lot of draft picks and are open to making gambles that could pay off and ignite a lethargic offense that needs to get into the end zone. For Chicago fans, the real excitement will come at the beginning of the second round.