One of the primary reasons the Chicago Bears haven’t had a winning season since 2012 is because of the disparity in talent between them and the other teams in the division and league. Funny how that works, right?
But a chunk of that disparity can be attributed to the woeful efforts of former general manager Phil Emery.
The Bears waived Ego Ferguson on Friday, ending his three-year stint with the team. It was an unproductive run, partly due to a knee injury costing him 12 games in 2015 and a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the entire 2016 season. While Ferguson was mostly unproductive and/or unavailable for most of his Bears tenure, cutting ties with him still stings when you remember Ferguson was a second-round pick (51st overall) in a draft that occurred just three years ago.
By taking Ferguson, the Bears passed on two Pro Bowl wide receivers (Jacksonville’s Allen Robinson and Miami’s Jarvis Landry), and highly-touted quarterback-of-the-future type Jimmy Garoppolo. But missing out on high-upside talent that hurts the Bears’ current efforts was not the only issue – it was whiffing on potential starting-caliber players. After Ferguson was drafted, nine of the next 13 picks have played in a starting role for the team that drafted them – including six players who have been starters for the last three seasons.
The only player the Bears have from that draft who has been a starter for each of the last three years has been punter Pat O’Donnell. Offensive lineman Charles Leno Jr. and cornerback Kyle Fuller each have two seasons of being a primary starter under their belt. The other five picks from that draft – Ferguson included – don’t have any such seasons.
That year’s draft and the Ferguson pick are but one example.
Out of 20 Emery draft picks, here are the only ones left on the Bears’ active roster, broken down by class (with draft round in parentheses):
- 2014: Kyle Fuller (1), Will Sutton (3), Ka’Deem Carey (4), Pat O’Donnell (6), Charles Leno Jr. (7)
- 2013: Kyle Long (1)
- 2012: None.
Only six players remain from Emery’s three draft classes. Full stop.
Long and Leno project to be starters, while Fuller could be in the mix if he can prove to be healthy in 2017, and Ka’Deem Carey should continue to be a significant contributor as a special teamer.
All in all, Emery’s drafts produced only two Pro Bowlers – Long and receiver Alshon Jeffery – and just one starter (Jeffery) at a skill position. No wonder the offense has struggled as mightily as it has in recent years.
A critical part of current GM Ryan Pace’s job is fixing what was broken in the past, and the only proper way to do so is through the draft. Pace’s drafts have graded out well so far, but more are necessary if the team is to truly turn the corner and start competing on an annual basis again.