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Jerry Angelo’s drafts have busts, but still solid season after season


Of the 12 playoff teams from 2010, the Bears ranked ­seventh with 24 drafted players on their roster.

Team Total

Packers 28

Ravens 28

Falcons 27

Steelers 26

Colts 25

Eagles 25


Patriots 22

Chiefs 22

Jets 21

Saints 21

Seahawks 19

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

He is an easy target, too polite and too proud to defend his oft-criticized draft record.

Jerry Angelo, who will preside over his 10th NFL draft as Bears general manager next Thursday, can’t escape the ghosts of busts past such as Cedric Benson (fourth overall), Michael Haynes (14th) and Dan Bazuin (62nd).

But as NFL history repeatedly shows, scouting players is an ­inexact science, one that can’t be hedged by a battery of mental, physical and psychological tests.

“Just when you think you know everything, the game comes back and bites you in the fanny and lets you know that you don’t know ­everything,” former Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf told the Sun-Times in January. “That’s a magnificent part of the game. There are all these supposed geniuses, and when you think you’re one, something lets you know that you’re not one.”

Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens, Bill Polian of the Indianapolis Colts, Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles and Ted Thompson, Wolf’s replacement in Green Bay, are among the general managers with Midas-touch reputations. Yet they, too, have regrettable picks, such as quarterback Kyle Boller (19th overall, 2003), defensive end Jerome McDougle (15th, 2003), offensive tackle Tony Ugoh (42nd, 2007) and Justin Harrell (16th, 2007).

Unlike figure skaters, NFL personnel executives don’t get style points, so how they pieced together their roster doesn’t matter as long as they consistently field a winner. The preference, of course, is to build through the draft, and Angelo’s track record is on par with the aforementioned men, who have all led their respective teams to a Super Bowl appearance.

Since taking over the Bears ­after the disastrous 2001 NFL draft, ­Angelo’s picks have earned roster spots and contributed to successful teams. Among the 12 playoff teams from the 2010 season, the Bears are seventh with 24 drafted players on their roster, four behind the league-leading Packers and Ravens.

And while defensive tackle ­Tommie Harris is the Bears’ only first-round pick to make a Pro Bowl roster since 2002, the club has distinguished itself by scoring in later rounds with stars such as Devin Hester (second round), Lance Briggs (third) and Johnny Knox (fifth).

With ever-changing rosters, ­successful clubs are fortunate to hit on half of all draft picks. But the Bears have avoided the draft ­shutout, when a class doesn’t stand the test of time. At least one player from each of the club’s last eight drafts is still on the roster.

By contrast, the Detroit Lions have no draft picks from 2002 to 2005 on the current roster. Busts during that stretch include quarterback Joey Harrington (third overall, 2002), receiver Charles Rogers (second, 2003), receiver Mike Williams (seventh, 2004) and receiver Mike Williams (10th, 2005).

So while many will focus on what Angelo does in this draft, it would seem more appropriate to inspect what the Bears will get this season from their 2008, 2009 and 2010 draft classes.

Will Chris Williams, the 14th overall pick in 2008, serve as a competent starter at tackle or guard? Will Matt Forte, a second-round pick from 2008, establish himself among the league’s elite running backs? Will defensive tackle Henry Melton, a 2009 fourth round pick, become the latest late-round gem? And can the team’s top two picks from 2010, safety Major Wright and defensive end Corey Wootton, make meaningful contributions in their sophomore campaigns?

At the NFL owners meeting, ­Angelo was asked if he would feel any additional pressure since the Bears have a first-round pick for the first time since 2008.

“They can’t beat up on the first round picks for the last couple of years, because of the obvious ­reason,” Angelo jokingly said. “But, we feel real good. Our formula to draft well is very, very sound. I’m very comfortable with our philosophy and how we look at the draft.”

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