2011 NFL Draft Results: The Chicago Bears' Epic Fail, Pick-by-Pick
The Chicago Bears were perhaps the most overachieving team in the NFL in 2010. But despite their NFC Championship Game appearance, even casual fans knew they had at least one glaring need—the porous offensive line.
Other needs included replacing departed vets at defensive tackle, and adding more options for Jay Cutler in the pass game. Coming in with only six picks, the Bears would need to be careful and crafty to fill in the gaps and enter 2011 as a more complete Super Bowl contender.
Careful and crafty? We ended up with something more like myopic, risky and possibly stupid. The Bears failed at the draft game again, this year for three straight days! They even managed to screw up when it wasn’t their turn to pick. Let’s go to the tape.
Round 1: Gabe Carimi, RIGHT OT, Wisco
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There’s so much to say about why this was the wrong pick for the Bears, but here are three big reasons. First, Carimi is a right tackle. There is widespread agreement he does not have the skills to play on the left side. Though Frank Omiyale worked his butt off last season and actually had a few good games down the stretch, his left tackle position is no doubt the biggest weakness on this line.
That takes us to reason number two, that left tackle is a franchise player position. The Bears especially need a re-invention of their pass protection, and the first round of the draft is historically where you find that kind of player.
Lastly, the happiest story line from the Bears 2010 O-line was the emergence of J’Marcus Webb. He went from near irrelevant as a seventh-round pick to indispensable, winning the Bears starting right tackle job following the nefariously historic prime-time debacle against the Giants. Are Lovie and O-line guru Mike Tice now going to ask Webb to spend another season adjusting to a new position?
Carimi’s killer attitude is the only redeeming factor here.
Pick grade: D
Bears Also Fail at Life, Leave the Ravens High and Dry
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The phantom trade the Ravens thought they had made to give the Bears the 26th pick was a dark cloud over Thursday night, but does have a thin silver lining. The Bears apparently lost something in the chain of command, and never made the call to the league to consummate the deal to move up three spots. The NFL is trying to move past it, though the Ravens leadership has made several disparaging remarks about the Bears all the way up to the McCaskeys.
The point is this is one more indication that this organization just does not have its house in order on draft day (/night). Considering the poor showing they made when picking, fans shouldn’t just gloss over this bonehead move.
The silver lining is that the Bears were going to pick their man Carimi at 26 anyway. A little karma for hardy Midwesterners fresh off another brutal winter I guess.
No-pick grade: F
Round 2: Stephen Paea, DT, Oregon St.
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Even Jerry Angelo and his staff have their moments, and moving up to take this sturdy run-stopper out of the Pac-10 may have been it for this year’s draft. Tommie Harris and Anthony Adams have both said, “Deuces!” to the Bears. Of course, the Bears might’ve filled both of those holes if they hadn’t traded their fourth-round pick away.
But moving up will likely prove worthwhile in the case of Paea, considered a sure-fire first-round talent. Inevitably you’re wondering why he wasn’t selected in the first round then. The all-too predictable answer is the only reason this pick isn’t an A+—Paea’s coming off a knee scope in January.
Pick grade: A-
Round 3: Chris Conte, S, Cal
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Most draft recaps will have this selection down as a reach, and with good reason. Conte had only 17 starts in college, and he’s still learning a new position after growing up as a cornerback. His lack of college productivity makes him harder to judge.
Of course you could do worse than the Bears’ brain trust to size up defensive talent. Still, this pick boils down to addressing a secondary need with a guy you could have grabbed two rounds later.
Especially after Jerry Angelo traded out of the fourth round, this felt like the spot for a wide receiver. This year’s class of pass catchers only had one or two names that grabbed headlines, but there is a lot of NFL productivity waiting to happen in this group.
Tandon Doss from Indiana or Greg Salas from Hawaii were both still available, and either could have been the big target Cutler needs. Even the smaller Edmond Gates, Johnnie Knox’s former teammate at Abilene Christian, would have added nice depth at the receiver position.
Pick grade: D
Round 5: Nathan Enderle, QB, Idaho
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The only upside I can see with Enderle is the defensive argument: draft him because if you don’t, your rival will. Despite surprisingly snagging Christian Ponder with the 12th pick, the Vikings were thought to be very high on Enderle as well. Maybe the Bears wanted to keep Enderle from being the next sleeper quarterback to kill them in the division for years.
They also know they can make use of the QB depth in any case. Great. Even in the fifth round your pick should evoke more than a "no-harm-done" shrug. At that point the Bears should still have been thinking about adding guys who will actually get on the field. Caleb Hanie is locked in at the number two spot anyway, for better or worse. Grab a free agent later for that QB3 spot.
Pick grade: C-
Round 6: J.T. Thomas, OLB, West Va
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The Bears do love these undersized linebackers, and it’s hard to argue with their track record. J.T. Thomas was a very productive tackler in Morgantown, but only projects as a backup at best for the Bears. Thomas has played the last three years on the weak side, and the Bears 2011 unit will again rely on Lance Briggs at that position.
This is another pick the Bears made essentially just to fill out the depth chart. Obviously that is the overarching aim of the draft. But all the way down to Thomas at pick 195, this year’s crop of Bears picks really demonstrates the lack of a vision for what this football team is about and how they want to develop players.
J.T. Thomas is going to have to force a couple fumbles on special teams to make this pick look smart.
Pick grade: C+
Second Guessing and Moving Forward
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Tyron Smith, Nate Solder and Anthony Castonzo are left tackle prospects that would’ve been worth trading up to select (G/C Mike Pouncey would also have been totally worth it). The Bears could still have gotten Paea, Conte and a QB roughly equivalent to Enderle had they made a first-round move.
The Bears feel they got their guy in Carimi, but I now find myself scouring the list of left tackle free agents (and not feeling so reassured). There are some interesting names on the free agent receiver list though, and we should all hope Jerry Angelo is taking a long look at that group after not selecting a WR this weekend.
The Bears could be very good again, but the team is stuck in second gear trying to get up a very steep climb back to the Super Bowl. Take a look at what teams like the Patriots, Steelers, Colts and of course the Packers did for themselves in this draft. With a relatively weak showing in the 2011 Draft, the Bears made it clear once again that they are not ready to join the list of elite NFL franchises.
Bears draft grade: D+