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Bears' best draft class featured seven future starters

There is no wrong answer when debating Chicago’s best draft class. The Bears basically won the NFL lottery in 1965, when they selected Illinois linebacker Dick Butkus (No. 3 overall) and Kansas halfback Gayle Sayers (No. 4) consecutively in Round 1, an almost unheard of haul in the modern era.

In 1983, however, the Bears actually outdid themselves when they chose seven future starting-caliber players who went on to help Chicago win Super Bowl XX. Although it’s close to a coin flip, the pick here is ’83.

Here’s a close look at those seven players:

Jimbo Covert, OT, Pittsburgh, first round, sixth overall: Covert belongs in the Hall of Fame. A two-time Pro Bowl selection and first-team All-Pro, Covert was named to the 1980s All-Decade Team. Arguably the strongest and most technically sound offensive lineman in franchise history, Covert helped the Bears win six division titles. Mild mannered off the field, Covert holds the distinction of being perhaps the only player to beat former defensive lineman Steve "Mongo" McMichael in a practice-field fight.

Willie Gault, WR, Tennessee, first round, 18th overall: "Speedy Willie" played five productive years in Chicago before wrapping up his career with the Raiders. A world-class sprinter, Gault led the Bears in receiving yards in each of his five seasons and caught a career-high eight touchdown passes in his rookie year. He had four receptions for 129 yards in Chicago’s Super Bowl XX win over New England.

Mike Richardson, CB, Arizona State, second round, 33rd overall: Richardson played six years for the Bears and led all Chicago defenders with seven interceptions in 1986. He picked off 20 passes for the Bears before joining the 49ers in 1989. Richardson dealt with drug and legal issues following his NFL career, but the former starting cornerback has been present at several Bears alumni functions in recent years.

Dave Duerson, DB, Notre Dame, third round, 64th overall: A two-time Super Bowl champion (Bears and Giants), Duerson went to four Pro Bowls as a member of the Bears. In 1986, Duerson had seven sacks from his secondary position. A one-time recipient of the NFL Man of the Year award, Duerson tragically took his own life in 2011. Researchers later determined Duerson had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of the concussions he suffered during his playing career.

Tom Thayer, OL, Notre Dame, fourth round, 91st overall: Thayer initially signed with the USFL out of college, but he joined the Bears in 1985. Thayer quickly earned his way into the starting lineup at right guard, where he remained until the club waived him following the 1992 season. A native of Joliet, Illinois, Thayer has been a member of the Bears’ radio team since 1997. He has spent the past 15 seasons working with veteran play-by-play voice Jeff Joniak.

Richard Dent, DE, Tennessee State, eighth round, 203rd overall: Possibly the greatest eighth-round pick in NFL history, Dent played 15 seasons in the NFL and recorded 137.5 sacks. He was voted to four Pro Bowls. The MVP of Super Bowl XX, Dent won another Super Bowl ring with San Francisco in 1994. One of the best pass-rushers of all time, Dent was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.

Mark Bortz, DT, Iowa, eighth round, 219th overall: A defensive player in college, Bortz successfully converted to left guard in the NFL. He started on the Bears offensive line from 1984 to 1994. A two-time Pro Bowl selection, Bortz played in 13 career postseason games before calling it quits.

Next-best Bears draft class: 1965. Butkus and Sayers are both in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Butkus is one of the greatest middle linebackers who ever lived -- enough said. Sayers had his NFL career cut short by injuries, but he scored 22 touchdowns in his rookie season. He is still the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame.