As is often the case when the Chicago Bears' draft record is discussed, the club’s history at No. 11 overall is complicated.
Since 1936, the 11th pick has been the Bears’ property a grand total of 10 times.
Beginning in 1947, the Bears used the 11th selection on Wisconsin halfback Don Kindt, Marquette halfback Ron Drzewiecki (1955), Michigan State center Dave Behrman (1963) and Missouri running back Joe Moore (1971).
Then in 1981, Chicago hit a homerun at No. 11 when they drafted USC tackle Keith Van Horne, who is probably one of the most underappreciated players from the Mike Ditka era. Van Horne played 13 seasons for the Bears (tied for third most in franchise history), helping Chicago win Super Bowl XX and reach the playoffs seven times from 1984-1991.
Three years after nailing the Van Horne pick, the Bears stuck gold again at 11 when they selected Florida linebacker Wilber Marshall. A ferocious hitter, Marshall was a key cog in the Bears’ famed 46 championship defense under Buddy Ryan. A three-time Pro Bowl selection, Marshall went on to win another Super Bowl in Washington and was voted All-Pro three-times before he retired in 1995.
In 1989, the Bears took Clemson cornerback Donnell Woolford at No. 11 – a pick Chicago received from the Raiders in exchange for speedy wide receiver Willie Gault. Woolford played eight seasons for the Bears, earning a trip to the Pro Bowl in 1993.
Sounds great, right?
Sadly, Chicago’s luck ran out in 1994 when they reached for Division I-AA Alcorn State defensive end John Thierry with the 11th overall pick. A linebacker in college, Thierry struggled as an undersized NFL defensive end. Over five years with the Bears, Thierry did not record more than four sacks in a single season. He had far better success rushing the quarterback later in his career with Cleveland and Green Bay. The Thierry pick symbolized the chronic player misevaluations that were commonplace under former head coach Dave Wannstedt.
To add insult to injury, three years after Thierry, the Bears shipped the 11th pick to Seattle for quarterback Rick Mirer and a fourth-round choice. This proved to be an unmitigated disaster for Chicago. Mirer played just one season for the Bears where he completed 53-of-103 pass attempts for 420 yards, zero touchdowns and six interceptions – 37.7 quarterback rating. The Seahawks eventually maneuvered their way into getting two players in the 1997 first-round – cornerback Shawn Springs and left tackle Walter Jones. Springs and Jones played a combined 26 NFL seasons. Jones is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Fast forward 13 years and the Bears sent No. 11 to Denver as part of the Jay Cutler trade from the previous season.
It remains to be seen what Chicago does at No. 11 overall later in the month, but if history is any indicator, the pick at the very least will be memorable.