Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Posted: 3:10 p.m.
By John Mullin
The Bears first draft choice of the Jerry Angelo Era was offensive tackle Marc Colombo, whose Chicago career was ended prematurely by severe knee injuries. Colombo survived both the knee issues and his Bears release to go on to a successful run as a starting tackle for the Dallas Cowboys for the better part of the last five seasons.
Colombo was the 29th pick overall of the 2002 draft, coincidentally the same starting point for the Bears 2011 draft. While impact expectations are moderated somewhat with a 29th pick vs., say, a ninth pick, the expectations of the Bears draft should be anything but modest.
The point is not specifically the level of player that has come to the franchise with a pick of that number. The real point is the holistic nature of the draft, the reason why the focus should be on far more than just the 29th pick.
The Bears have made some subtle but significant tweaks in their evaluation process, something that is necessarily evolving with the state of the game anyway but more notable this year because of Angelo bringing in Tim Ruskell as director of player personnel, which obviously includes college scouting.
One note here:
A quick Ruskell Primer, courtesy of Danny ONeil with the Seattle Times, who looked back at the 15 first-round picks by teams with Ruskell heavily involved in the drafts. Going back through Tampa Bay, Atlanta and Seattle, of those 15 No. 1s:
9 were defensive players, including, 6 defensive linemen; and of the 15, 6 were from Florida colleges.
Without getting into more number-massaging, Angelo has made seven Bears No. 1 picks; two (Rex Grossman, Greg Olsen) were from Florida colleges. For what its worth, CG Mike Pouncey and OT Marcus Gilbert are from Florida; DE Allen Bailey at OT Orlando Franklin are from Miami; DT Terrell McClain is from South Florida; all have gotten individual attention from the Bears during this pre-draft stretch.
Ruskell notable: While he was Seattle president, the Seahawks had three No. 1s, none higher than 26th overall. The Seahawks landed starters with two of the the three (CB Kelly Jennings, C Chris Spencer).
But the real point...
is less the 29th pick or AngeloRuskell tendencies; also for what its worth, Angelo traded down in first rounds of the 2003 and 2006 drafts in addition to trading away his No. 1s for 2009 and 2010 on Jay Cutler, and traded down in second rounds in 2007 and 2009, so a surprise on Day One or Two of this draft will be if the Bears dont make a deal of some sort.
The real point, however, lies beyond that 29th pick. As critical as the need for upgrading the offensive line is, the interior of the 1980s line (guards Mark Bortz and Tom Thayer and center Jay Hilgenberg) were fourth-rounders or lower. The Bears best offensive lineman of the past decade, center Olin Kreutz, was a third-rounder (1998).
Over the past 20 seasons, the best Bears linebacker not named Brian has been Lance Briggs, a No. 3 (2003).
Winning the first round is a Bears imperative. But for the 2011 draft to be a Bears win, the hits need to keep on coming.
To that end, Ruskells Seahawks in his three drafts landed a Pro Bowl linebacker (Lofa Tatupu), quality tight end (John Carlson) and a starting defensive tackle (Darryl Tapp) in second rounds. They also obtained a starting defensive tackle (Brandon Mebane) and Pro Bowl linebacker (Leroy Hill) in third rounds. Ruskell also was the Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager when the Falcons used a third-round pick on quarterback Matt Schaub, who didnt work in Atlanta but has more than worked in Houston.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.