Though players like Payton, Sayers, Butkus and Brian Urlacher are at the top of the list of all-time great Bears, each one was a top-10 draft pick. This list seeks to rank the best picks the Chicago Bears ever made by comparing projected value with value produced.
It is reasonable to debate whether Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is a better quarterback, but there is no question which team got the better value for their draft pick (No. 1 overall vs. No. 199 overall). The latter is the debate at the heart of this list.
Walter Payton will serve as an example for clarity.
Walter Payton was one of the five greatest players of all time. Even if he was taken first overall in 1975, his career still would have exceeded expectations. If the first NFL draft took place in 1936, every first overall pick should be one of the best 76 players of all time. As the fourth overall pick, Payton should be in the top 304 for all-time NFL players. That gives him about a +300 pick value.
The other analyses will not be quite that precise. Players’ production will be compared to general expectations.
In the modern NFL draft, it’s reasonable to expect that first-round and second-round players develop into long-term starters with Pro Bowl potential, third-round and fourth-round players play as solid contributors or back-ups, and fifth-round picks or lower become back-ups and occasional contributors. Expectations are adjusted for older drafts.
By surpassing expectations with career production, these are the 10 best draft picks in Chicago Bears history.