INDIANAPOLIS -- The general rule in the NFL is to wait three full seasons before evaluating a draft class. With that in mind, let's take a quick look at the Bears 2008 draft and the contributions made by the first seven players selected that year by Bears general manager Jerry Angelo.
Round 1 (No. 14); Chris Williams, OT, Vanderbilt: Drafted as the Bears' left tackle of the future, Williams has bounced around from right tackle, left tackle and left guard the past three years. Entering 2011, his role on the offensive line is unknown. The Bears insist they want to put the five best offensive linemen on the field next season, but is Williams in the top five? The former first-round pick missed the first seven games of his rookie campaign with a back injury that flared up almost right after Williams signed his contract and reported for training camp. Ironically, that pre-existing injury caused Williams to sit out only a handful of practices in college. It was a bad stroke of luck for the Bears, who flipped Williams to the right side in 2009, moved him back to left tackle to start 2010, only to slide him inside after he returned from an early-season injury. Confused yet? Think how the Bears feel when discussing Williams' future.
Round 2 (No. 44); Matt Forte, RB, Tulane: An excellent pick by the Bears, Forte became the first player in franchise history with at least 1,400 scrimmage yards in each of his first three NFL seasons. He also joined Hall of Famer Walter Payton as the only players in franchise history with multiple seasons with 1,600 scrimmage yards. Heading into the final year of his rookie contract, Forte is in line for a serious raise, probably around the tune of $20 million in guarantees.
Round 3 (No. 70); Earl Bennett, WR, Vanderbilt: Bennett failed to see the field as a rookie, but he has developed as a dependable and tough receiver the past two seasons. He's not flashy, but Bennett runs excellent routes, possesses great hands, and has a nose for finding the first-down marker. The Bears tend to shy away from selecting receivers in the early rounds -- Angelo did take Mark Bradley in the second round in 2005 -- and this year’s crop of wideouts isn't considered all that strong. However, if the Bears can find a Bennett-type in the mid or late rounds, that would be a strong addition to the roster. Overall, Bennett is looking like a very solid selection.
Round 3 (No. 90); Marcus Harrison, DT, Arkansas: Not good. Harrison battled weight issues the past two years, and was inactive 11 times in 2010. The odds of him making the roster appear to be slim. People raved about Harrison's first-round talent leading up to the draft -- an off-the-field incident contributed to the defensive tackle falling to the third round -- but the Bears haven't seen much productivity from the tackle.
Round 4 (No. 120); Craig Steltz, S, LSU: A hard worker with an excellent attitude who excels on special teams, Steltz was given a few opportunities to win a starting job in the secondary, but it just never worked out. With the emergence of Major Wright and the signing last year of Chris Harris, it'll be tough for Steltz to see the field in 2011. The Bears, however, could be losing several key guys on special teams (Corey Graham, Garrett Wolfe, Nick Roach, Danieal Manning, Pisa Tinoisamoa and Rashied Davis) so it might be a good idea to keep Steltz (signed thru 2011) in the mix for another season.
Round 5 (No. 142); Zack Bowman, CB, Nebraska: 2011 will be a really big year for Bowman. After leading the team with six interceptions in 2009, Bowman fell out of favor with Bears head coach Lovie Smith and was replaced in the starting lineup by Tim Jennings in Week 4. A lingering foot injury seemed to put Bowman deeper in Smith's doghouse as the year progressed. Clearly, the Bears aren't sold on the idea of Jennings starting at cornerback in 2011, but the organization is very high on former fifth-round pick Joshua Moore. Even though Bowman has the best combination of size and speed at the position, there is no guarantee he'll be allowed to fairly compete for the job in training camp. If that's the case, what's the point of him being in Chicago?
Round 5 (No. 158); Kellen Davis, TE, Michigan State: Davis' effort was a little spotty early in his career, but after rededicating himself last summer, the tight end has become a pretty nice player. His role on offense could increase next year, but if nothing else, Davis is a valuable contributor on special teams.
Analysis: It's debatable whether or not Williams will be a long-term fixture on the Bears' offensive line. His murky status lowers the overall grade of this particular draft class, but Forte almost makes up for it. On the heels of the Cedric Benson debacle, the Bears had to hit on a running back in the 2008 draft, and they did just that with Forte. Bennett is one of the best receivers on the team, Davis and Steltz are dependable special teamers, and Bowman did show flashes of brilliance in 2009. The selection of Harrison hurts the class for obvious reasons.