Following the release of his top two draft picks from just one year ago, defensive lineman Jarron Gilbert and wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, further scrutiny should be placed on GM Jerry Angelo’s draft record.
Angelo has now run nine drafts for the Bears. He has hit on some players, yes, including LB Lance Briggs (3/2003), CB Charles Tillman (2/2003), and kick returner Devin Hester (2/2006). DT Tommie Harris (1/2004) was a star for two years before flaming out, but potential remains. TE Greg Olsen (1/2007) has been solid if not spectacular. CB Zack Bowman (5/2008) has a lot of potential if he can remain healthy, and we’re going to see if WR Johnny Knox (5/2009) can continue the promise he showed in his rookie season. The jury remains out on Chris Williams and Matt Forte (1-2/2008), Danieal Manning (2/2006), Chris Harris (6/2005, traded then re-acquired) and Mark Anderson (5/2006).
I just named 12 players. Not including the 5 picks from 2010 as it’s too early to say anything about any of them, Angelo has made 72 selections in his tenure. Granted I’m leaving out a few players that are still around but haven’t done anything notable such as Garrett Wolfe, Lance Louis, etc. (eight players in total). Adding this up, out of Angelo’s 72 picks in nine years, 12 have or may still make an impact, and eight more are still with the team. Several more are still in the league as non-factors, and Bernard Berrian (3/2004) played well for the Bears and landed a superstar deal in Minnesota.
I would also not fault Angelo for Rex Grossman (1/2003), who ultimately didn’t work out in Chicago but played well enough to shephard the Bear offense to 15 wins and a Super Bowl in 2006.
Other than this, Angelo made around 46 picks that never did anything. He deserves major credit for finding guys like Harris, Anderson, Bowman and Louis in the late rounds. But he should be scrutinized for the absolutely blown picks of Roosevelt Williams (3/2002), Michael Haynes (1/2003), Cedric Benson and Mark Bradley (1-2/2005), Dan Bazuin (2/2007), and to a lesser degree Gilbert (3/2007). He also had plain bad luck when Marc Colombo (1/2002) was injured when with the Bears but recovered to play well late in his career.
I won’t even mention Angelo trading a 2010 second-round pick for deceased DE Gaines Adams, who never made an impact in his half year as a Bear.
As if that’s not enough to question Angelo’s ability to draft, consider this. It was widely rumored that Jerry Angelo coveted Ohio safety Mike Mitchell in the second round of the 2009 draft. Mitchell was projected as a sixth or seventh round pick until bizarre owner Al Davis of the Oakland Raiders took him three spots ahead of Angelo. The Bears then traded out of the second round entirely, missing the chance to take the guy I would have liked to see (Vikings starting right tackle Phil Loadholt). They ended up with Gilbert (cut) and Henry Melton (backup defensive lineman).
Now it was reported that Oakland would have cut Mitchell this year if not for the intervention of Davis.
Moral of the story, if the 2010 season goes up in flames, we all know that Lovie Smith will probably be dismissed. If Smith goes but Angelo and his 20% success rate in drafts remains, it will be another in a series of catastrophic decisions for the Chicago Bears organization.