The release of Cedric Benson puts him in familiar company with first round busts for Chicago Bears. While I don’t have first hand knowledge of every draft bust in Bears history, I can tell you the greatest draft day flops of the first round for the past 20 years. I swear, only by accident, by list happens to be a Top 10. Or should I say, Worst 10?
Number 10: Marc Columbo
Drafted with the 29th overall pick of 2002, Columbo is more of a Bears bust than NFL bust. The Bears had high hopes for the large right tackle, but towards the end of his five year stint with the organization he had severe injury setbacks. After a couple years of having trouble getting back on the field, he was released. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending because Marc signed with the Dallas Cowboys and has had great success and no injuries. If he had stayed as healthy in Chicago he probably would have been a fan favorite and an anchor on the offensive line.
Number 9: Alonzo Spellman
Drafted with the 22nd pick of the first round in 1992, Spellman was an extremely athletic defensive end that had the physical talent and ability for greatness. While he did manage to collect 43 sacks over his 9 year career, he was always haunted by his own shadow. Coaches couldn’t understand why a player that appeared destined for greatness could never reach the next level on the playing field. Spellman was good, but never reached his promised greatness. Later in his career he was plagued by mental conditions that likely started earlier in life and went ignored. It culminated in an episode in which he was seen walking around his neighborhood bare foot and locked himself inside his house, creating a stand off with police. Hall of famer Mike Singletary was brought in to talk to Spellman and agree to get treatment.
Number 8: David Terrell
Drafted with the 8th overall pick in 2001, I have a hard time putting Terrell up here because I really think he was a talented receiver. He had all the makings of a great receiver, but 1,602 yards and 9 touchdowns in 4 seasons, he earns a spot on the list. Terrell is another example of a receiver running his mouth instead of his legs. It’s tough for a young receiver to get used to the NFL when Bears quarterbacks were rotated every game during his career. However, a receiver should talk to coaches and quarterbacks about breaking off routs when you see your quarterback scrambling so you get create plays. Instead Terrell was content to pout on the field and see his criticism of teammates printed in the papers. He had enough talent to get consideration from a few teams after leaving the Bears, but never saw great success.
Number 7: Rex Grossman
Drafted with the 22nd overall pick of the 2003 draft, I wouldn’t quite call him a complete bust yet but he’s riding the fence. He has thrown for 5,907 yards, 31 touchdowns, 33 interceptions, and some forget that the first half of the 2006 season he played well enough to be considered for MVP. However, we all know his trouble his consistency and regression with his mechanicals. Most of his success has come when he can utilize the play action pass and when the running game fails, he becomes a big target. Hopefully with the release of Benson the Bears can find a new back to establish the running game. Grossman still has time to resurrect his career, but this could be his last chance with the Bears.
Number 6: Rashaan Salaam
Salaam was drafted with the 21st pick of the first round in 1995. He came out of the University of Colorado fresh off winning the Heisman Trophy and had Chicago buzzing. That buzz quickly turned to boos as fans became frustrated with a running back that couldn’t get anything right. He played four years with the Bears and put together only 1,684 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. There were no bright spots in his career, he never seemed to figure out how to transfer his success in college into success in the NFL. His rookie season he rushed for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns but the rest of his career was plagued with problems on and off the field. He’ll be most remembered by fans for his frequent fumbles to cough up the game.
Number 5: Cade McNown
Drafted with the 12th overall draft pick in 1999, the Bears would learn the hard way they have difficulty drafting on offense. He only lasted 2 seasons with the Bears, passing for 3,111 yard, 16 touchdowns, and 19 interceptions. McNown constantly struggled on the field, resulting in boos from the fans and caused him to further decline. After signing McNown, the Bears released quarterback Erik Kramer, a fan favorite and my favorite Bears quarterback of the last 20 years. He also had to compete with Jim Miller and Shane Matthews. Miller had injury issues that gave McNown windows for playing time, but his poor play and the fan preference of Miller was overwhelming. McNown was quickly traded and bounced around the league before retiring.
Number 4: Curtis Enis
Taken with the 5th pick of the first round in 1998 he appeared to solve the Bears running back troubles. The results were disappointing to coaches and fans alike. He lasted three seasons with the Bears, rushing for 1,497 yards and 2 touchdowns. He never broke the 1,000 yard rushing mark in a season and was a disaster from the start. Worse yet, Enis left the Bears and would never play football for another team, a true indicator of how poorly he adapted to the NFL. Bears fans tear their hair out when they remember the Jacksonville Jaguars were willing to give up both their first round picks to trade up and get Enis. The Jaguars settled on drafting a kid named Fred Taylor.
Number 3: Cedric Benson
Drafted with the 4th overall draft pick of 2005, he has to be the most disappointing draft pick in recent memory. He was praised as the solution to all the Bears rushing problems and came in with an extremely impressive pedigree from the University of Texas. He had all the makings of a great running back but he was another example of how some college backs never adapt to the NFL. Rushing for 1,593 yards and 10 touchdowns in three seasons he was determined that he could make his punishing, steam roller rushing method in the NFL. However, the NFL has little room for slow backs that run with their backs straight up and allow defenders to take shots at them. Even if Benson had any success, his running style would have resulted in a very short career. He was injury prone and wouldn’t change his methods. He also became a liability on third downs when he almost seemed to refuse or not care to bother blocking a blitz. Coaches eventually became as frustrated with him as fans and his recent alcohol arrests gave the team no choice but to release him.
Number 2: Rick Mirer
The Bears didn’t draft Mirer, but they did trade their 1997 first round pick to Seattle Seahawks to bring him to Chicago. Mirer had come into the league as a golden boy after a great career at Notre Dame, but the longer he stayed in the NFL, the more problems he had on the field. The fans in Seattle had enough of Mirer and the Bears thought a change of scene could jump start his career. The results were a complete flop. Mirer barely played in 1997 and was cut the beginning of the next season. In exchange for a first round draft pick, the Bears got 420 passing yards, 0 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions.
Haynes has a unique place in Bears history as a great trivia question to test die hard fans. Name the first round draft pick of 2003 taken 14th overall and ahead of Rex Grossman. In 2003 the Bears grabbed Haynes and later took Grossman with the 22nd pick. There is no other way to describe Haynes than the biggest waste of a first round draft pick in the last two decades. He stayed with the club three seasons, played in 42 games, and managed 5.5 sacks as a defensive end. I have never seen a first round draft pick come into Chicago and almost immediately disappear. From kick off to the final whistle you could count on Haynes being as far away from the ball as possible. He never started a game, never made a difference, and wasn’t even well known enough by fans to merit a boo. The person who scouted Haynes for the draft should have lost their job.