As it stands today, the Chicago Bears are miles apart from the rest of their division. They're coming off a season that saw them finish 3-13 and they are set to pick third overall in this year's draft. That piece should be one the Bears use to build themselves back to relevance, but as we have seen in the past 30 years, first round picks are far from a sure thing in Chicago.
While every team has their share of draft mistakes, the Bears seem to have more than most NFL teams and they've paid dearly for it. Sure, they've dratfed their gems like Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman and more recently Alshon Jeffery, but they've also missed badly on picks. What's worse is, as you'll see on this list, several of their mistakes ended up benefitting the team they hate the most, the Green Bay Packers.
The Bears also have a history of bad luck when drafting running backs, aside from Walter Payton. Players like Cedric Benson, Rashaan Salaam and Curtis Enis are just some of many names that come to mind.
Here, we will look back at Chicago's 15 worst draft busts and re-draft a player in their spot. We'll see where they could have improved their team and could have potentially built a dynasty. Enjoy.
15 1991 - Brett Favre
Original Pick Stan Thomas
Here was a case of an owner meddling in football affairs and costing his team big. Many people wonder why the Bears weren't able to replicate the success of their 1985 season. Coach Mike Ditka said part of the reason was the meddling of owner Michael McCaskey. One mistake was intervening and insisting the Bears draft Stan Thomas out of Texas. Here was Ditka's opinion on the matter in a 2006 interview:
"He told us who to sign, who to trade, and who to draft. Like drafting Stan Thomas. I wanted nothing to do with Stan Thomas, but the owner wanted him, and that's the way it was."
Who was it that Ditka wanted? Brett Favre, who would go in the second round to the Atlanta Falcons, then went on to lead Green Bay to perennial winning seasons. Favre haunted the Bears for years, when he could have been one all along if Ditka had his way.
14 Jack Youngblood
Original Pick: Joe Moore
As we said in the intro, the Bears didn't have an easy time finding a long-term answer at running back. After Gale Sayers' career had ended due to a torn up knee, the Bears drafted Joe Moore 11th overall in 1971. Moore would suffer from several injuries and his career lasted only two seasons in Chicago.
Instead of turning to a running back, the Bears could have instead drafted a player who would prove to be the best player of the '71 class in Jack Youngblood. Youngblood would go on to be the life of the L.A. Rams, making seven Pro Bowls and would be named an All-Pro five times. He recorded 151.5 career sacks, which could have been recorded as a Monster of the Midway.
13 1994 - Isaac Bruce
Original Pick: John Thierry
As mentioned before, the involvement of Bears owner Michael McCaskey ended up leading to the dismissal of Mike Ditka. The Bears were looking to rebuild under Dave Wannstedt and with their 1994 first round pick, they took John Thierry. Thierry was coming out of 1-AA Alcorn State which meant his competition wasn't as strong as most first round picks. Thierry never started more than nine games in a season and never recorded more than four sacks.
Instead, the Bears could have drafted one of the biggest game breakers of his generation in Isaac Bruce. As we know, Bruce would go to the Rams and one day, became part of the Greatest Show on Turf in St. Louis. Bruce would record over 1,000 receptions and over 15,000 receiving yards.
12 1992 - Darren Woodson
Original Pick: Alonzo Spellman
We come to yet another bad pick from the Michael McCaskey era in Chicago. Alonzo Spellman was taken with the Bears' 22nd overall pick in the 1992 draft. This would prove to be the last first round pick of the Mike Ditka era in Chicago and the failure here proves why Ditka didn't have as much success in his final season in Chicago. While Spellman managed to start most games in his five NFL seasons, he was also inconsistent and the Bears could have done better on draft day.
Darren Woodson would go in the second round to the Dallas Cowboys and ended up making five straight Pro Bowls between 1994 and 1998 and was a three time All Pro.
11 2008 - Jordy Nelson
Original Pick: Chris Williams
The Bears opted to shore up their offensive line in 2008, which isn't usually a bad choice, but Chris Williams didn't end up being what they envisioned from a first round pick. Williams never made a Pro Bowl, which is what's usually expected from a first round tackle. Instead, the Bears could have weakened their rivals by preventing them from drafting their future no.1 receiver Jordy Nelson.
As we know, Nelson has gone on to be Aaron Rodgers' favorite target in Green Bay and Bears fans have had to watch him tear up their secondary for years. Nelson is already closing in on 500 catches in his career and with a couple more strong seasons, he should pass the 10,000 yard receiving mark. This one must hurt for Bears fans.
10 2003 - Jason Witten
Original Pick: Rex Grossman
The Bears had several first round picks in 2003, so we'll start with re-drafting their second first round pick from that year. The Bears elected to take Rex Grossman with the 22nd overall pick, thinking they had found their QB solution. As we saw with Rex Grossman, there was good Rex and bad Rex. However, with Jason Witten, our choice in this re-draft, there is only one Jason Witten. He's been about as consistent a football player as you'll ever see in the NFL.
While he's not the most explosive tight end, he's been the most reliable player on the Cowboys. He never seems to make a mental error on the field and has been a tremendous leader in Dallas. The Bears could have used these qualities on the offensive side of the ball.
9 2003 - Troy Polamalu
Original Pick: Michael Haynes
The reason we didn't slot in Troy Polamalu at 22nd overall is because Polamalu deserved to go even higher, as he should have been taken instead of Michael Haynes with the 14th overall pick. Polamalu went to the Steelers at 16th overall and went on to become the face of the franchise (aside from Big Ben) for the next 10 years. Polamalu was one of the elite safeties in the league. Offenses had to game plan around him, as Polamalu could pick passes off, jump the snap at the line of scrimmage and force fumbles.
As for Michael Haynes in Chicago, he only ended up starting four games and recorded just 5.5 sacks his entire career.
Can you imagine a defense that would have had Brian Urlacher and Troy Polamalu?
8 2002 - Brian Westbrook
Original Pick: Marc Colombo
The Bears have a tattered history of drafting running backs but Brian Westbrook would have been a solid late round choice back in 2002. The Bears took Marc Colombo with the 29th overall pick and Colombo proved to be a big disappointment in Chicago. Come to think of it, the Bears' history of drafting tackles in the first round isn't so good either.
As Eagles fans will tell you, Brian Westbrook was a tremendous target for Donovan McNabb coming out of the backfield. While he was a solid runner, Westbrook was among the NFL's best receiving running backs. He was always able to make life easier for his quarterback by breaking long runs off of screen passes. Who would he have done that for in Chicago? We'll get to that.
7 2011 - Richard Sherman
Original Pick: Gabe Carimi
Gabe Carimi is another lineman that didn't pan out in Chicago. Carimi blew out his knee in just his second game, and would miss the rest of his rookie season. Carimi would end up getting traded to Tampa Bay after just a few years in Chicago.
The 2011 draft was full of talent, with several of the draft's players now among today's elite NFL stars. One of them was Richard Sherman who slipped all the way to the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round. Everybody knows who Richard Sherman is, as he's among the leaders of the Legion of Boom in Seattle. The Bears defense isn't scaring anybody today, but having someone like Sherman would have undoubtedly brought some swagger to the Windy City.
6 1998 - Randy Moss
Original Pick: Curtis Enis
Curtis Enis was just another one of many running backs that have come and gone in Chicago. Enis was the fifth overall pick in the 1998 draft and was given a big contract right away. He tore out his knee in his first NFL start and from there, his career was essentially doomed. Enis would also have some off-field problems that derailed his career.
Ironically, the Bears passed on Randy Moss because they were concerned about his perceived character issues. As we know, while Moss wasn't without controversy, he was the most talented receiver of his era and he had the ability to take a game over. He also enjoyed many of his best seasons with the division rival Minnesota Vikings, something the Bears could have prevented by taking no.84.
5 1997 - Jason Taylor
Original Pick: Bob Sapp
Jason Taylor is set to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer. He played many great seasons with the Miami Dolphins, as his defense often had to carry a very pedestrian offense. Taylor was a sack master, recording 139.5 and winning the 2006 Defensive Player of the Year award.
While Bob Sapp wasn't a first round pick, he was a highly publicized third round pick and would be released by the Bears before playing a game with the team. The 1997 NFL Draft was a very weak one at the top, but there were some gems in that draft. Jaosn Taylor wasn't drafted until the 73rd overall pick, and the Bears could have landed a true difference maker.
4 1995 - Curtis Martin
Original Pick: Rashaan Salaam
As we know with the Bears, they missed badly on many running back picks. Perhaps their worst was when they drafted former Heisman winner Rashaan Salaam. Salaam rushed for over 2,000 yards in a single season at Colorado and the Bears were convinced they had landed the next big thing in the NFL. Salaam had a 1,000 yard rookie season with 10 touchdowns, problems with injuries, fumbles and marijuana usage would derail his career.
As it turns out, the best RB of the 1995 draft wasn't taken until midway through the third round, when Curtis Martin went to the New England Patriots. Martin would go on to have a Hall of Fame careeer, as he would finish his career as the fourth best rusher in NFL history.
3 2001 - Reggie Wayne
Original Pick: David Terrell
David Terrell set several school records at Michigan, recording multiple 1,000 yard seasons so he was expected to bring that to Chicago. His rookie year quickly raised concern, as he scored just four touchdowns, while recording just 415 yards.
Reggie Wayne would slip all the way to the Colts at 30th overall. As we know, Reggie Wayne would soon become Peyton Manning's no.1 target as Marvin Harrison began to age. Wayne would record 1,070 catches in his career and 14,345 receiving yards with 82 receiving touchdowns.
The Bears have had trouble finding a long-term answer at wide receiver, and they were even forced to move Devin Hester to their starting receiver spot due to a lack of depth at the position. That would've never happened with Reggie Wayne in town.
2 2005 - Aaron Rodgers
Original Pick: Cedric Benson
The 2005 draft was really the year where the Chicago Bears could have found their long term answer at quarterback and they could have used that quarterback to lay a real hurting on their oldest rivals, the Packers. Instead they went with yet another running back, drafting Cedric Benson out of Texas with the fourth overall pick. Benson was a controversial figure and was resented by his teammates.
The Packers would draft the heir apparent to Brett Favre and as we now know today, Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback in the NFL. He has haunted the Bears time and time again while 10 years later, the Bears are STILL looking for the franchise quarterback that has eluded them for so long.
1 1999 - Donald Driver
Original Pick: Cade McNown
The Bears made an effort to find a franchise QB in 1999 when they took Cade McNown with the 12th overall pick. McNown would have a terrible stint in Chicago and his career totals ended at 16 touchdowns to 19 interceptions. McNown played just two seasons in Chicago before he was traded to the Miami Dolphins.
Donald Driver was another late round pick that the Packers swooped up and Driver would end up being Brett Favre's favorite target for many years in Green Bay. Driver was a seventh round pick and would go on to record over 10,000 career receiving yards.
The fact that there are so many Packers on this list just shows you the difference in how the franchises are run and show how the Packers have been able to stay relevant, while the Bears have struggled.