Bears recent history of first-round picks is kinda sad originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
This offseason has been the most exciting, and hopeful, Bears offseason since 2019, when the team was coming off a 12-4 season and an NFC North title. That’s a little surprising, considering the team finished with a league worst 3-14 record last year. But Justin Fields is one of the most dynamic players in the NFL, Ryan Poles brought in DJ Moore to jumpstart the offense, and there are endless possibilities with the No. 9 overall pick in the draft. Will the Bears land a solid offensive linemen to help protect Fields? Will they draft a disruptive defensive lineman to wreak havoc on opposing QBs? Or will they do something else with the pick, like trade back again? Whatever Poles decides, turning that pick into at least one impactful starter will be essential for the Bears to build towards sustained success. Unfortunately, recent Bears history says finding a cornerstone player in the first round is easier said than done.
Here’s a list of the 10 most recent Bears No. 1 picks, and how they turned out for the team:
JUSTIN FIELDS - NO. 11 OVERALL - 2021
Early returns say Fields has the stuff to become the superstar quarterback the Bears have needed for decades. His arm is top-notch and his ability to extend plays and run with the ball are second-to-none. But there are still several areas where he can improve, like making decisions faster and taking better care of the ball. Fields is undeniably exciting, but it's too early to tell if this pick was a home run or if Fields will fizzle.
ROQUAN SMITH - NO. 8 OVERALL - 2018
For years it looked like Smith was going to be the next great linebacker in the middle of the Bears defense. He’s an incredible athlete and a tackling machine. But he didn’t fit into Matt Eberflus’ scheme and Poles traded him away to Baltimore. Smith is the latest in a long line of Bears first round draft picks who didn’t earn a second contract in Chicago.
MITCHELL TRUBISKY - NO. 2 OVERALL - 2017
We don’t need to rehash the 2017 draft mishap, when the Bears decided to trade up for Trubisky instead of Patrick Mahomes. It remains one of the biggest draft blunders in recent memory.
LEONARD FLOYD – NO. 9 OVERALL - 2016
The Bears traded up for Floyd, thinking he would be a reliable speed rusher coming off the edge in Vic Fangio’s 4-3 defense. He had a remarkable rookie year with 7 sacks, a safety and a fumble-recovery touchdown, but was never able to replicate that successー until the Bears let him go. The Bears cut Floyd ahead of the 2020 season and he joined the Rams. In LA, Floyd became a new man. After posting 4.5, 4 and 3 sack seasons from 2017-2019, he posted 10.5, 9.5 and 9 sack seasons from 2020-2022.
KEVIN WHITE - NO. 7 OVERALL - 2015
Ryan Pace’s first pick was arguably his biggest bust. White was plagued by injuries throughout his career and only caught 25 passes in a Bears uniform.
KYLE FULLER - NO. 14 - 2014
Phil Emery’s last pick as Bears GM is also the last pick to earn a second contract in Chicago, but there was a chance it wasn’t going to happen. The Bears placed the transition tag on Fuller in 2018 after an up-and-down start to his career. The Packers signed Fuller to an offer sheet to try to wrest him away, but the Bears decided to match the offer. It ended up being a great decision, since Fuller became a First-Team All-Pro that year with an incredible seven interception campaign.
KYLE LONG - NO. 20 - 2013
Long started his career by making three-straight Pro Bowls and quickly became a fan favorite. He looked like he would be a cornerstone on the Bears offensive line for a decade, but successive injuries cut his career short. Long ended up starting 76 games in seven seasons for the Bears.
SHEA MCCLELLIN - NO. 19 - 2012
Phil Emery’s first pick, McClellin was a toolsy pass rusher when the Bears selected him, but he never realized his full potential. McClellin only notched 7.5 sacks in four seasons for the Bears. He’ll always have that one sack on Aaron Rodgers, though.
GABE CARIMI - NO. 29 - 2011
Jerry Angelo’s last pick was another big Bears bust. Carimi only played in two games his rookie season due to a knee injury. He returned in 2012, but didn’t play particularly well. Emery cut Carimi in 2013.
CHRIS WILLIAMS - NO. 14 - 2008
Williams had medical concerns coming out of the draft that unfortunately came to fruition as a pro. Williams was expected to start at left tackle as a rookie, but needed back surgery to fix a herniated disc in Aug. 2008. Williams started all 16 games in 2009, but a hamstring injury knocked him out of the lineup early in the 2010 season. When he returned, the Bears kicked him to guard. A wrist injury knocked Williams out of the 2011 season early. The Bears cut him in Oct. 2012. He only started 38 games for the team.