The Bears are expected to start Draft Weekend with a total of five selections and none before late-third round. Expectations for additions of impact individuals are modest when the first scheduled turn on the clock doesn’t come until sometime late Friday evening, No. 87 overall.
But maybe the expectations shouldn’t be so modest.
After all, 22 members of the NFL’s Hall of Fame were third-round selections. Nine were from fourth rounds, seven from fifths (the Bears netted one of those), and nine from sevenths, not counting dozens from later rounds when the draft went eight, 12 and as many as 30 picks, and undrafted free agents.
The obvious key is “upside,” which teams crave in every pick regardless of round. To land those prospects requires leaps of varying degrees of faith.
Former GM Jerry Angelo commonly made high picks operating from a “floor” philosophy – a player who projected to be “at least” this good or that good. But the grand slams in the mid rounds are the ones who go far, far, far beyond their draft grades: Joe Montana (3), Steve Largent (4), Kevin Greene (5), Shannon Sharpe (7).
Or, putting it in more relevant Bears-position contexts: RB Curtis Martin (3); DE/LB Charles Haley (4); CB Dick LeBeau (5); T Rayfield Wright (7).
The Bears have not acquitted themselves well in truncated drafts. They finished with five picks in three of their last nine drafts, but only 2017’s produced difference-makers (Mitchell Trubisky, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen). The 2010 and 2011 drafts gave them starting safeties (Chris Conte, Major Wright) but virtually nothing of true impact.
Still, it is a poor craftsman who blames his tools, and Bears scouts and personnel chiefs have made franchise-altering picks. Accordingly, NBC Sports Chicago has ID’d the three-example templates for major draft successes for those 3-4-5-7-7 picks, expanding the realm of the possible, as it were:
Lance Briggs LB, ’03 7 Pro Bowls for Urlacher running mate
Dave Duerson S, ’83 Super Bowl rings with Bears, Giants
Olin Kreutz C, ’98 6 Pro Bowls for franchise’s best C
Honorable mention: WR Marty Booker, C Jerry Fontenot
Erich Barnes CB, ’58 6x Pro Bowl’er, (but only 1 with Bears)
Doug Buffone LB, ’66 1,200+ tkl, 24 INT
Jim Nance RB, ’65 2x AFL All-Pro, AFL (chose AFL over Bears)
Honorable mention: Alex Brown ’02, Kevin Butler K, ’85, Eddie Jackson S, Tarik Cohen RB, ‘17
Allen Ellis CB, ’73 1-2 with Charles Tillman as best-ever Bears CB
Jordan Howard RB, ’16 2x 1,000-yard rusher now an Eagle
Stan Jones G, ’53 HOF, weight-training pioneer
Honorable mention: Revie Sorey G, ‘75
Charles Leno T, ’14 Starting LT still improving
Joe Fortunato LB, ’52 5 Pro Bowls, 3x All-Pro for ’63’s best LB
Ed O’Bradovich DE, ’62 Anchored side opposite Doug Atkins
Honorable mention: Jim Osborne DT, 72
And after those…
8th round 1983 Mark Bortz G, Richard Dent DE (HOF)
9th round 1936 Danny Fortman G (HOF)