It’s always easy to look back as a fan at your favorite team’s draft history and think “what if?” Today, and for the next three days as I look back on the Bears’ last four drafts, I will be that fan. It should be known that this is all for fun and that no team could ever possibly have a draft like this one and the next three that I will post as apart of a four-draft series. If teams did have drafts like these, they would be set up for major success for at least the next four seasons.
Unfortunately for Jerry Angelo, he was never given the benefit of the doubt. People easily forget that he drafted a lot of good players (Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, Devin Hester, Matt Forte), signed a few (Julius Peppers), and traded for some (Jay Cutler, Adewale Ogunleye), too. Fans forget that the Patriots, Steelers, Packers and Giants have bad drafts quite often.
Today, we start in 2009. Many remember it as the draft just a few weeks after the Bears traded two first round picks (2009, 2010), a third round pick (2009), and Kyle Orton in exchange for Jay Cutler and a fifth round pick (2009).
**WARNING**: Ok, this year’s draft can actually be laughed at. Jerry Angelo did a pitiful job of selecting new talent for the Bears. Not one of these players is still on the team, just six seasons later.
3 (68). Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech
Actual Pick: Jarron Gilbert, DT, San Jose State
—I’m not quite sure what Jerry Angelo was thinking here. There were plenty of future stars on the board at this time, and for whatever reason, he selected Jarron Gilbert; WR Mike Wallace, DT Terrance Knighton, G Louis Vasquez and G Kraig Urbik were all available. A lot of fans, including myself, loved the potential that Gilbert had. However, it’s not our job to find the best possible player for the Chicago Bears and make that pick. It’s the general manager’s, and at that time, it was Angelo’s. Gilbert accounted for just two tackles in his whole career, a career that last saw him on the Jets’ roster in 2010. While the aforementioned names all sound good, the Bears would have greatly benefitted from a player like Michael Johnson across from Julius Peppers the past few seasons. Johnson recently bolted Cincinnati to sign a huge contract with the Buccaneers, and while “Chicago” may have been “Cincinnati” in this case, the Bears would have been a better team with Johnson’s 27 sacks over the last five years.
3 (99). T.J. Lang, G, Eastern Michigan
Actual Pick: Juaquin Iglesias, WR, Oklahoma
—Angelo never quite believed that a Pro-Bowl WR was a necessity for a Super Bowl caliber football team, but he was obviously lying as chose Juaquin Iglesias in round 3 to be a #1. Just like Gilbert, however, Iglesias was a bust. He recently signed in Finland to play there, where I’m sure he’s finally making Angelo look good. T.J. Lang isn’t the best guard in the league. In fact, he plays on one of the worst offensive lines in football with the Packers. Lang is a decent player who would have been good value with this pick. Had Angelo made that selection and started bettering the offensive line back then, perhaps Jay Cutler wouldn’t have played behind one of the worst in league history to start his Chicago career and lost 15 years of his life.
4 (105). Henry Melton, DT, Texas
Actual Pick: Henry Melton, DT, Texas
—Angelo got one right here. After this draft, it was this pick that actually looked like the most confusing one. Henry Melton was a running back his whole life, and there was just potential on Melton’s behalf to justify this pick. However, Melton turned out to be a very good player. He will play for the Cowboys next season and beyond, but he was once a Pro-Bowl DT in Chicago and was even given the franchise tag one year. Had he not torn his ACL back in week 3 of the 2013 season, he would probably still be donning the navy and orange.
4 (119). Tony Fiammetta, FB, Syracuse
Actual Pick: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt
—D.J. Moore was a solid player for a few years in the Windy City, although he was never more than just a nickelback for the Bears. Moore is one of the nicest people, not just athletes, that I have ever met, but politeness doesn’t get it done on the field. After his career here, he ended up in Carolina and now plays in Tampa Bay. Round four is way too early for a fullback, but Tony Fiammetta has had quality seasons since being drafted. Fiammetta is now the Bears starting FB and was given an extension a few months back.
5 (140). Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian
Actual Pick: Johnny Knox, WR, Abilene Christian
—Johnny Knox will forever be one of the most overrated players in Bears’ history. Knox was a mediocre receiver on a team with a lot of bad receivers. Because of this, he was thought of to be a #1 wideout, but he was never close. Unfortunately, I’ll always think of the 2011 game against San Diego in which they won to extend their winning streak to five games, but during the contest, Knox slipped and it resulted in an interception. Cutler chased down the defensive back, and in the process, broke his thumb which ended his season and the team’s. There weren’t many other options on the board for Angelo, even looking back on it now.
5 (154). Chris Clemons, S, Clemson
Actual Pick: Marcus Freeman, LB, Ohio State
—At the time, I liked this pick. Marcus Freeman fell for what appeared to be no reason after a good college career in Columbus. Freeman never played a down for the Bears and was released in September 2009. He went on to sign with Buffalo and Houston, but he made little impact there, too. Chris Clemons has went on to be a good player in the league. He had five quality seasons in Miami and recently signed with the Texans to compete for a opening spot at safety.
6 (190). Bernard Scott, RB, Abilene Christian
Actual Pick: Al Afalava, S, Oregon State
—Al Afalava had no business ever being more than a special teams player in the NFL, but he did play safety for the Bears. Bernard Scott went on to have a nice career for such a late pick. He would have been a solid back-up for Matt Forte during all of these years where the Bears wasted money on “proven” guys like Michael Bush and Chester Taylor. Scott has averaged just above 4 yards per carry in his last five seasons.
7 (246). Tiquan Underwood, WR, Rutgers
Actual Pick: Lance Louis, G, San Diego State
—Lance Louis ended up being very good value in the 7th round. Louis had some good years with the Bears, but after a dirty block on a turnover by Jared Allen, Louis tore up his knee and was never the same player. He missed all of 2013 for Miami. Tiquan Underwood has been nothing more than a below average player in the NFL, but he can contribute on special teams and occasionally on offense.
7 (251). Ryan Succop, K, South Carolina
Actual Pick: Derek Kinder, WR, Pittsburgh
—Before September 2009 even existed, Derek Kinder was released by the Bears. Kinder had a lot of potential, but he tore his ACL in 2007 when he was still at Pittsburgh. The Bears took a shot on him, but it never quite panned out. Ryan Succop was Mr. Irrelevant in this draft, but he’s still the Chiefs’ kicker. He has made 81 percent of his field goals and has never missed an extra point. In 2009, he made the All-Rookie Team. Robbie Gould is great, but the Bears could have used his extension money elsewhere and wouldn’t have missed a beat on special teams.
Come back tomorrow to see how I would re-draft for the Bears in 2010.
–Brian Ociepka (@bjociepka1 on twitter)