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Friday, March 1, 2024

Chicago Bears Have A Telling History With Two 1st Round Picks In One Draft

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GM Ryan Poles knew that if he was going to set the Chicago Bears up for long-term success, he needed to build them the right way. That meant stacking good drafts together. He needed to pick young players on cheap contracts, develop them, and assemble a roster that could survive a long season. There was one problem. He didn’t have the ammunition when he first started to make that vision happen. At least not quickly. If he was going to change that, he needed a way to stockpile more picks.



Thanks to a bit of luck and some carefully planned roster management, the Bears ended up with the #1 overall pick in the 2023 draft. Poles had a decision to make. He could either take the best player on the board or flip the selection to a quarterback-needy team for a package. He chose the latter, securing wide receiver D.J. Moore and a 1st round pick in 2024. Next spring will mark the first time in 21 years the Bears have gone into a draft with two 1st rounders.

That begs the question. How many times have the Bears actually been in this position? I looked back through the entirety of the post-merger era for an answer. The reason I didn’t go back further was because of the NFL-AFL draft wars in the 1960s, when draft picks often didn’t pan out because they went to play for the other league. People might be surprised by the results and what they indicate about the Bears’ chances in April.

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The Chicago Bears have a solid if erratic, track record in this scenario.

1972

  • OT Lionel Antoine (#3)
  • DB Craig Clemons (#12)

Players they could’ve had: Ahmad Rashad, Franco Harris, Riley Odoms

1974

  • LB Waymond Bryant (#4)
  • DE Dave Gallagher (#20)

Players they could’ve had: John Dutton, Randy Gradishar, Lynn Swann

1979

  • DE Dan Hampton (#4)
  • DE Al Harris (#9)

Players they could’ve had: Keith Dorney, Kellen Winslow, Jerry Robinson

1983

  • OT Jimbo Covert (#6)
  • WR Willie Gault (#18)

Players they could’ve had: Dan Marino, Darrell Green, Joey Browner

1988
  • RB Brad Muster (#23)
  • WR Wendell Davis (#27)

Players they could’ve had: Chris Spielman, Eric Allen, Thurman Thomas

1989

  • CB Donnell Woolford (#11)
  • DE Trace Armstrong (#12)

Players they could’ve had: Steve Atwater, Andre Rison, Eric Metcalf

2003

  • DE Michael Haynes (#14)
  • QB Rex Grossman (#22)

Players they could’ve had: Troy Polamalu, Calvin Pace, Dallas Clark

The history tells a fairly straightforward story. It shows the odds are good that the Bears will end up with at least one really good player next April. Of the seven drafts listed above, only two stood out where both picks were disappointments. That was 1972 and 2003. Bryant was a good player for four years before injuries ended his career. Hampton is a Hall of Famer and Al Harris had 23.5 career sacks. Jimbo Covert is a Hall of Famer and Gault is 9th all-time in Chicago Bears history for receiving yards. Muster and Davis were solid contributors in the early 1990s. Woolford and Armstrong were both Pro Bowlers.

However, this also serves as a reminder that having two picks guarantees nothing. Despite the extra ammunition, they still missed eight eventual Hall of Famers. It is not an exact science. Pressure will be on Poles to make the right decisions. Hall of Fame head coach Jimmy Johnson always had a great quote. The key to success in the draft is not getting those extra picks. The key is picking good players with the picks. It may come down to evaluations and where the Bears end up picking.

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