Bears draft steals and busts: No. 3

Continuing our ESPNChicago.com series featuring Bears steals and busts uncovered during the tenure of general manager Jerry Angelo, we bring you No. 3:

Steal: RB Matt Forte, Tulane, second round (44th overall in 2008)

It’s ashame Forte’s 2010 base salary of $470,000 paid him less than backups Chester Taylor and Garrett Wolfe. So clearly, it’s time to pay him.

ForteOf the entire 2008 draft class of running backs, only Chris Johnson of Tennessee (5,606 yards), Ray Rice of Baltimore (5,038) have gained more yards from scrimmage than Forte (4,731). In fact, since joining the league, Forte ranks fifth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage behind Johnson, Minnesota’s Adrian Peterson, Jacksonville’s Maurice Jones-Drew and St. Louis’ Steven Jackson.

That’s quite an accomplishment considering a shaky 2009 campaign (929 yards rushing and four TDs) marred by injuries, resulting in uncertainty about whether Forte could sufficiently handle the load in 2010. Forte answered all questions about durability and injuries potentially robbing him of his burst by becoming the first player in franchise history to gain at least 1,400 yards from scrimmage (1,606) in each of his first three seasons.

One of just five players in 2010 to rack up at least 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving, Forte has established himself as a focal point in Mike Martz’s offense, who should improve even more once he picks up all the nuances of the system.

Bust: DE Dan Bazuin, Central Michigan
second round (62nd overall in 2007)

It’s not Bazuin’s fault he never played a regular-season down for the Bears. A pair of left knee surgeries stole away the explosive element of Bazuin’s game, which allowed him to leave Central Michigan as its career leader in sacks (35½), and tackles for lost yardage (63 ½) while garnering MAC defensive player of the year (2006) accolades.

So, to bash general manager Jerry Angelo for this pick would be unreasonable. More than anything, Bazuin’s “bust” label comes as a result of chronic knee problems, which led to his release in the summer of 2008.

Highly productive in college, Bazuin was named MVP of the East-West Shrine Game after a 2½-sack performance. Surely, the team had that in mind when it traded down 25 spots in the second round in 2007 to land Bazuin, who -- although undersized and considered a reach -- appeared at the time to be an ideal fit.

Bazuin signed to the practice squad of the Houston Texans in December of 2008, but is currently out of the NFL without having ever played a down in it.