2011 NFL Draft: Most Important Draft in Chicago Bears History

Mark SkibaContributor IIIApril 25, 2011

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 23:  Quarterback Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears on the sideline in the third quarter after leaving the game with an injury against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship Game at Soldier Field on January 23, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back, and the last time the Chicago Bears made a pick in the first or second round the NFL draft still started on Saturday.

That may seem like a blessing to some fans considering the Bears history with early picks but the future of this franchise in the short and long term will go as this draft does.

Without early picks the last two years due to trades,leaving the Bears in desperate need of striking gold early on. Quarterbacks never look good running around the field in circles like a player on the old electronic football board game, that subject is for a different day though.

To understand why this draft is so important we need to understand the past, no draft sticks out more than the 2007 draft. Losing the Super Bowl to the Indianapolis Colts was hard that February, two months later the Bears dropped the ball worse than Rex Grossman under center.

Why was it so bad? First-round pick Greg Olsen still has the jury out on him, he has all the physical attributes needed to be a dominant pass catching tight end, however he has not done that consistently to date. Whether that is due to his play or actually schemes is also debatable.

Unfortunately the jury still out on Olsen is the best thing to happen out of it. The second, third and fourth-round picks set the Bears back a couple years. When a team should be adding solid depth and future starters to the roster the Bears reached farther than a stretch Armstrong doll.

Out of those three picks, only Garret Wolfe is still currently in the NFL, as a Bears special team’s player.  

This draft is not just important because of wins and losses on the field, it also will have a huge impact on the coaching staff and front office. Jerry Angelo and Lovie Smith have been on the hot seat for some time now.

Losing to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship was all well and good but Bears fans are not shouting out in joy showing support of their head coach or general manager.

If this draft does not contribute to the team early, the quarterback and aging defense might not be able to do enough to win games to repeat as division champions let alone contenders to win it all.

The future of this franchise can go in any direction this upcoming season, if Jay does not get the help he needs will he be in Chicago much longer? How many years does Urlacher have left?Julius Peppers alone might have been worth the price of admission last season but he is also starting to get up in age, and I do not see him being as productive if he has to continue playing the amount of snaps he played this past season.

So what can the Bears do to ensure the quarterback, coach and general manager are all still here for years to come. Free agency will also help fill needs, when an agreement is actually made, but teams are not built through free agency they are tinkered with or to add the final piece to the puzzle, not the whole puzzle.

The draft is where teams are built into contenders.

When I look at the Bears offensive line, Mike Tice was nothing short of a miracle worker for getting max production out of that group. J’Marcus Webb played as good as a rookie seventh round pick could, with his size and Tice continuing to develop him I would have no problem with the Bears leaving him at right tackle.

Free agent to-be Olin Kreutz is believed to be returning to the Bears, but is getting up in age along with Roberto Garza. With that being said I believe the Bears biggest need on the offensive line is in the interior and a guy who could play guard in the short term and eventually move over to center if and when Olin Kreutz leaves the Bears via free agency this year or retirement in the future.

Chris Williams needs to develop into that prototype left tackle we all heard the Bears talk about when they drafted him. Frank Omiyale may not be a starter in the NFL but he can play guard or tackle and that kind of versatility and depth is needed during a season.

After Offensive line help which the Bears should use two picks in the first four rounds, I see two other positions with glaring needs on the other side of the ball. Tommie Harris was never the same player after his knee injury, and now that he is off the roster the Bears again need to fill a whole at defensive tackle.

An impact player is needed here because it is the key to Lovie’s defense. 

Charles Tillman is getting older as well, while he still has a couple years left the Bears need to give him some help at the other cornerback position. The Packers ate up all 5’7" of Tim Jennings in the NFC Championship and with wide receivers getting bigger, faster, and stronger the Bears need to get some more size in the defensive backfield.

For a franchise that was one game away from their second Super Bowl appearance in five years, they sure have a lot of questions to answer this year. The quarterback, coach and general manager all need to help one another on and off the field or else Halas Hall may not be home for them much longer.

If that happens Bear fans must be prepared for a period of transition, which sure is a lot of pressure to put on a rookie draft class.