Bears fans tend to have mixed perceptions about former Chicago Bears’ general manager Jerry Angelo. He’s the guy who made the blockbuster trade that brought Jay Cutler to Chicago, understanding his team needed to have a franchise QB in this league in order to have a shot year after year. He’s the guy who seemed to find those late-round gems every now and again who would later become solid contributors.
However, there are plenty of reasons why he no longer has an office up at Halas Hall. Failed first-round draft selections are part of the reason. Failing to understand, once he got the QB, how to build around him (see Roy Williams as the Bears’ “No. 1” WR circa 2011) is another part of why he’s downright vilified in Chicago.
New G.M. Phil Emery, however, is rightfully lauded for adding significant talent and depth to this team in a single offseason, but there is no doubt that Angelo’s past three drafts are still to being felt today. And they’re being felt in a positive way.
2009 Draft: players of significance
- Fourth-round: Henry Melton – A RB in college, Melton packed on weight and switched to DE. Coaches saw him as more of a 4-3 under-tackle and developed him in that position. Three years later and Melton is looking like your prototypical 3-tech. He had a breakout season last year and this year is building on that, playing with more consistency as a pass rusher and run defender.
- Fourth-round: D.J. Moore – The undersize DB has found his niche in the League as a nickel back, and he’s one of if not the best. Moore has developed into a ball-hawk and an effective blitzer from the position. There’s been no drop-off this season from the former Vanderbilt CB.
- Seventh-round: Lance Louis – It’s been an up and down career from Louis, where injuries have halted his development. The RG is finally healthy this season and has arguably been the team’s best OL through five games. It’s still early, but the Bears might have a long-term answer at RG.
2010 draft: players of significance
- Third-round: Major Wright – It took three years, but the Bears are finally seeing Wright’s potential. The starting strong safety is finally looking like a solid one. He’s been strong in run support and has looked disciplined and athletic in pass coverage.
- Fourth-round: Corey Wootton – Wootton always had the talent, but he needed to stay healthy in order to show it. Wootton looks like he has his explosion back as a pass rusher as he has collected 3.5 sacks this season in situational duty.
- Seventh-round: J’Marcus Webb – Love him or hate him, the guy has been steady since the disaster in Lambeau. Now it’s just whether Webb can stay consistent throughout the second half of the season.
2011 Draft: players of significance
- First-round: Gabe Carimi – Essentially his rookie season, Carimi has shined mostly in the run blocking department. His pass blocking has been up and down, but a lot of that has to do with his surgically repaired knee and him adjusting to the speed of Pro DEs. He has flashed the potential to be a solid starting RT in this league.
- Second-round: Stephen Paea – Nose Tackle is not the most glorified position in Lovie Smith’s Tampa-2 defense, but it is an important position that Paea has excelled at this season. To give a good indication of how big of a deal Paea has been on the defensive line: according to Pro Football Focus, Paea has the highest grade among the team’s defensive tackles and leads them in hurries with six. Paea and Melton are developing into quite the DT duo as both guys complement each other well on the field.
- Third-round: Chris Conte – Conte played well in his rookie season. Now in his second season, the big, athletic free safety is playing with a confidence and swagger that we didn’t see in his rookie year. He and Wright are starting to develop into a stingy safety duo, that’s making it hard for opposing QBs to convert big plays against.
So far in Emery’s short tenure, indications suggest that he’s a better talent evaluator than Angelo. Emery gets that it is an offensive-driven league, while Angelo didn’t seem to grasp that.
However, the fact of the matter is these young players that are producing are Angelo guys. Makes you wonder if Angelo wasn’t all that bad after all . . .