In order for this post to make any sense, I have to say right up front the point I’m trying to make. The NFL Draft is a total crap-shoot. It’s very easy to look back in hindsight and say the Bears should have taken Frank Gore or Willie Parker instead of Cedric Benson in 2005, but I doubt there’s a GM that would have done that in a heartbeat. I personally hated the Benson pick, but looking back aside from Shawne Merriman or DeMarcus Ware, I don’t know who else they would have taken.
And Merriman and Ware were really 3-4 linebackers, so Chicago wouldn’t have taken them anyway.
The draft not only takes a lot of skill, but also a hell of a lot of luck to be in the market for a particular position when the right guy can fall to you low.
My point/argument is the Bears have lacked a lot of both, especially on the offensive side over the last 15 years or so.
An example of the Bears having a lot of luck and skill was in 2000–but maybe more luck than skill. VP of Player Personnel Mark Hatley had the ninth overall pick, and luckily Brian Urlacher fell to the Bears. But not without Hatley attempting to screw it up. It was reported that he was offering a third-round pick to Pittsburgh to move up a spot and take oft-troubled receiver Plaxico Burris. When they declined, Urlacher fell to Hatley. The linebacker was there because he went to a smaller school, and everyone salivated over Lavar Arrington, who was picked second overall by the Redskins. How’d that work out for them?
But what prompted this whole thought process was Adrian Peterson’s shredding of the uninspired Bear defense last week, and my watching the 1992 Chicago Bears opener against Detroit last night. In that game Barry Sanders was in his fourth year and pulled off perhaps the best run in NFL history, jumping out of the grasp of three Bears and bouncing off a couple more en route to a 43-yard touchdown.
Why, when the Bears decide they need to draft a running back high in the first round, they invariably take one with no speed or moves? It’s not as if speed and elusiveness are just “nice things to have” with an NFL running back. ISN’T THAT PRETTY MUCH A REQUIREMENT?
If the running back you’re taking in the top 10 of the draft doesn’t have speed or elusiveness, he better damn well be able to run people over consistently. The LA Rams took Jerome Bettis at 10 in 1993, three spots after the Bears took Curtis Conway, and he was voted NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Because he was a battering ram.
Neal Anderson was Chicago’s first-round pick, 27th overall, in 1986. He had the speed and moves I’m talking about, but late in his career lost his elusiveness and broke down. A worthy 27th overall pick, and a steal there. That’s what I’m talking about, Anderson fell to the Bears and they were wise to take him. Picture’s not so rosy in all the other Bear attempts to find Walter Payton’s successor:
1995, Rashaan Salaam: Bigger back, straight-line runner, terrible hands, injury prone, eventual pothead.
1998, Curtis Enis: Fifth overall pick. Major character questions. Not fast or elusive, but actually did show the ability to consistently power over defenders his rookie season. Now that I watch Cedric Benson I have to give Enis more credit for his play prior to his devastating knee injury.
2001, Anthony Thomas: Not a huge risk at the top of the second-round, but again, lacking in speed, no elusiveness, easily tackled. Have to give him credit for winning rookie of the year, of course. But other backs picked after him (Travis Henry, LaMont Jordan) are still having more success in the league.
2005, Cedric Benson: Sorry, but my opinion always has been when you pick someone at fourth overall, there better damn well be a high probability that player will make the pro bowl, or trade out of the spot. I know there were no takers that year to move up, which would have made that more difficult, but still. That year, the Bears decided they had to have a running back, and drafted Benson mainly based on his durability and consistency throughout his college career. But major questions were out there about his attitude, desire, work ethic. Oh, and did I mention, no speed or elusiveness, and if he can run people over consistently, then he’s hiding that ability from us in 2006.
Given this history, it makes me sick that when the Minnesota Vikings decided to get a running back, a brilliant one with speed and elusiveness fell to them at the seventh pick, when we’ve bungled so many other attempts.
But again, sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw.? When can we have some?