Well, after about 48 hours of digesting the Bears' 2009 NFL Draft, I have come to a simple conclusion. I don’t care right now who they drafted where, and I won’t care until I see these players do something on the football field.
I can read all the draft grades and evaluations in the world, but it’s not too different from reading a lot of the pre-draft hype. What matters is how these players look on the football field during the preseason games. That's then we’ll get the best idea of what each one of these players is really capable of.
For now, it’s all still names, heights, weights, and 40-yard dash times on a piece of paper, maybe with some college stats mixed in. We know that the players drafted were the best players in college football, but we also know that doesn’t mean it translates them into being the best in the NFL.
For all the hype and excitement of Jarron Gilbert jumping out of a swimming pool onto the deck from the shallow end, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to go toe-to-toe with Steve Hutchinson on Sundays.
For all the speed and athleticism and potential that have been linked to Henry Melton, it doesn’t mean he’ll have the NFL work ethic to become a contributor to this defense.
And for all the great catches Juaqin Igelsias made at Oklahoma, it doesn’t mean he’ll be able to get separation and get open against NFL-level DBs.
Right now, we can say that these were the players the Bears felt were the best available at the time. Right or wrong, the team is stuck with them for a while; wemust simply hope for the best coming out the weekend.
I can say without question that not one of these draft picks will be a starter on the field against the Green Bay Packers on opening night.
Juaquin Iglesias has the most potential given the lack of overall depth at the WR position, but the giant learning curve receivers go through during the transition from college to the NFL will almost certainly prevent him from being on the field as the game begins.
I just hope these players will play their best football during the preseason. That is typically where most young players begin to stand out and show what they have in terms of NFL ability and promise.
If given opportunities during the regular season, I want to see them make the most of those chances, like Marcus Harrison did last year. I'd love to see Gilbert, Iglesias, and Melton as starters in three years.
The rookies' task right now is developing good work and study habits and understanding that their job is primarily to learn. There is enough talent ahead of them that they should be able to apply themselves and develop to the point that they can become successful players in this league.
Hopefully, they know that they do not carry the weight of the world on them; the expectations for them (for now) are extremely low. There is no pressure to contribute on Day One. The pressure is to just show that you belong on the 53-man roster.
Learn from the veterans ahead of you who have been around for more than four years. Listen to what they have to give you in the way of advice, and know that you are not expected to be a starter from the beginning.
Getting a big role very soon would just be gravy. But in reality, the presence of these youngsters represents the future of the Chicago Bears' franchise, and not a chance to win the Lombardi trophy in 2010.