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updated: 9/13/2011 10:35 PM

Bears GM Angelo's draft history not all bad

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  • Charles Tillman turned out to be quite a catch for the Bears in the second round of the 2003 draft.

       Charles Tillman turned out to be quite a catch for the Bears in the second round of the 2003 draft.
    STEVE LUNDY | Staff Photographer

 
 

As much criticism as Bears general manager Jerry Angelo gets for his early-round foul-ups in the draft, he rarely gets credit for his later-round picks who are again playing prominent roles.

Critics still bring up first-round bust Michael Haynes and the Bears' second first-rounder that season, Rex Grossman, even though those picks were eight years ago.

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And, by the way, Grossman had a 110.5 passer rating Sunday, while leading the Washington Redskins to a victory over the New York Giants.

Naysayers are quick to bring up second-round busts such as wide receiver Mark Bradley and defensive end Dan Bazuin. But three key members of this year's team were second-round picks.

Cornerback Charles Tillman (2003) has been a solid starter in each of his nine seasons and is still going strong. The fumble he forced Sunday was the 25th of his career, more than any other cornerback in the NFL over the past nine seasons.

Offensively, the 2006 second round delivered Devin Hester, the greatest kick-return specialist in the history of the game. Two years later Angelo added Matt Forte in the second round.

Sure, there are third-rounders who never panned out: linebacker Michael Okwo and defensive tackles Jarron Gilbert and Marcus Harrison. Criticism of those picks is valid.

But what about third-round picks such as six-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lance Briggs? How about fifth-round wide receiver Johnny Knox, who led the Bears with 960 receiving yards last season?

Fourth-round defensive tackle Henry Melton, who came in the same 2009 draft as Knox, got off to a slow start in the NFL because he spent his rookie season on injured reserve. But in his first NFL start Sunday he had 2 sacks and barely missed a few more.

There have been entire drafts under Angelo that wound up contributing very little to the cause.

The 2007 draft is difficult to defend beyond first-round pick Greg Olsen, who was a consistent contributor as a pass catcher, even when he was being phased out by Mike Martz last season.

Olsen, traded in the off-season for a third-round pick, may have found the ideal situation for his skill set in Carolina, based on his 4 catches for 78 yards in the Panthers' season opener.

But other than Olsen the only thing the Bears currently have to show from that nine-pick draft is special-teams standout Corey Graham.

Other than Bazuin and Okwo, that crop included Garrett Wolfe, Josh Beekman, Kevin Payne, Trumaine McBride and Aaron Brant.

The 2009 draft, even though it included third-round washouts Gilbert and wide receiver Juaquin Iglesias, included Melton, Knox, nickel corner D.J. Moore and Lance Louis, the opening-day starter at right guard.

If you consider that the first two picks that year went to the Denver Broncos for Jay Cutler, that's a draft class that could wind up being exceptional.

In the seven previous years that Angelo and head coach Lovie Smith have been together, the Bears have won three NFC North titles and played in one Super Bowl and two NFC championship games.

And Smith, too, comes in for an inordinate amount of criticism anytime the Bears don't make the playoffs or lose two games in a row.

So, here's a dose of reality.

Since 2005, the Bears' combined record is 59-38.

That may not be up there with the Indianapolis Colts (75-22) or the New England Patriots (74-23), but it's tied for fifth-best overall in the NFL and tied for first in the NFC with the Giants.

The Bears haven't accomplished that with smoke and mirrors, and they didn't put those teams together with spit and baling wire.

They did it with players procured by Angelo and coached by Smith and his staff.

•Follow Bob's Bears reports via Twitter @BobLeGere and check out our Bear Essentials blog at dailyherald.com.

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