Cade McNown in 2001

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McNeil: 10 Biggest 1st-Round Mistakes In Bears Draft History

These players came with high expectations and didn't come close to fulfilling them.

Dan McNeil
April 26, 2018 - 12:06 pm
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By Dan McNeil--

(670 The Score) Nothing perks up conversation better than a list. Or so I'm told.

This isn't a list to which you want your name attached. It's a collection of failures, of expectations unmet. The Bears have had many of those. Narrowing it to 10 is no easy feat, but with the start of the NFL Draft awaiting Thursday evening, here you go ... the top 10 first-round flops in Bears history.

10) Alonzo Spellman, DE, Ohio State, drafted 22nd overall in 1992

I give Spellman credit for the manner in which he took care of himself. Physically, he was one of the more impressive-looking specimens of his era. Production, however, isn't measured by how badass you look stepping off the team bus. Spellman's best season was his fourth, when he had 8.5 sacks. In his six years in a Bears uniform, Spellman accrued only 32 sacks, hardly the Charles Haley-type performer whom Dave Wannstedt thought he was getting.

9) Kevin White, WR, West Virginia, drafted 7th overall in 2015

It's always been my conviction that it's silly to grade a draft after it concludes. Three years is the requisite amount of time required before slapping a letter on a player or a draft class. Well, it's been three years and Ryan Pace's maiden voyage into being an NFL general manager opened with a big, fat F. White missed his entire rookie season in 2015 and has played in only five games since. As a professional, White has caught 21 passes for 193 yards.     

8) John Thierry, DE/LB, Alcorn State, drafted 11th overall in 1994

Thierry is a great example of why projects are a risky proposition high in the draft. He was a classic 'tweener, too light to play with his hand on the ground every snap and too slow to play sideline-to-sideline as an outside linebacker. To his credit, Thierry was a hard worker and did whatever he was asked to do. Unfortunately for the Bears, what he did well never added up to anything close to matching the talent required to justify the 11th overall pick.  

7) David Terrell, WR, Michigan, drafted 8th overall in 2001

Expected to be a game-changer, Terrell never was more than a complementary target. Marty Booker, acquired via trade with Miami, was quarterback Jim Miller's favorite go-to guy in that era. Terrell missed 11 games with an injury in his second year. He concluded his four-year Bears career with only nine touchdown receptions and best-season standards of just 43 catches and 699 receiving yards.

6) Curtis Enis, RB, Penn State, drafted 5th overall in 1998

Enis endeared himself to the Bears by holding out of training camp, then reporting out of shape. A bellcow back in college, Enis blew out his knee in Week 9 of his rookie year. He returned in 1999 for his most productive season (287 carries, 916 yards, 3 touchdownss, 45 receptions, 340 yards, 2 toucodwns) but was a fast fizzle and made only 18 starts in his three seasons in a Bears uniform.

5.  Michael Haynes, DE, Penn State, drafted 14th overall in 2003

Because Arizona State's Terrell Suggs ran unimpressively in a 40-yard sprint, then-Bears general manager Jerry Angelo got cold feet regarding the nation's sack champ (22.5) and traded down for Haynes and Rex Grossman. In Bourbonnais, Haynes expressed displeasure over assistant coaches using salty language. He didn't earn a start his entire rookie season and by the time the Bears cut him after three seasons, even Haynes' parents were swearing at him.

4. Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise State, drafted 19th overall in 2012

It was decisions like this one that precluded general manager Phil Emery a longer tenure and more chances to provide content for pieces like this one. Overwhelmed by the bright lights of Kankakee County during his rookie training camp, McClellin earned more playing time in his second year. McClellin always will be remembered for ending Aaron Rodgers' season in Week 9 in 2013, separating his collarbone on one of his three sacks. And as a reminder of the two-year speed bump that was Emery and Marc Trestman.

3.  Cedric Benson, RB, Texas, drafted 4th overall in 2005

I thought it was childish when Benson's defensive teammates "welcomed" him to camp -- following a holdout -- but hitting him full speed in a "thud" drill.  Those who participated in the hazing were veteran players and should have recognized Benson's brief absence was merely business.

In the three years that followed, however, Benson never earned anybody's respect by living up to the hype coming out of Texas. Angelo chose Benson over Thomas Jones because "the two couldn't co-exist," another blemish on the record of the Bears' front office. Benson rushed for 1,593 yards in three seasons with the Bears. That falls decidedly short of satisfactory for going forth.

2.  Stan Thomas, OT, Texas, drafted 22nd overall in 1991

On and off the field, Thomas has earned the distinction of being one the Bears' biggest goofs in team history.  Mike Ditka divorced himself from Thomas early, tossing the culpability of the pick in the lap of owner Michael McCaskey. Thomas played only two seasons with the Bears. 

And the biggest first-round bust in Bears history is ...

1.  Cade McNown, QB, UCLA, chosen 12th overall in 1999.

If the "franchise quarterback" of tomorrow went 3-12 in his rookie season, you wouldn't write him off yet, would you? Some Hall of Famers have experienced growing pains, including Troy Aikman, who was at the wheel for the Cowboys in their early 1990s dynasty.

Unfortunately, that's McNown's entire body of work as a Bears starter: 3-12. In his career. In his short time here, the fiery left-hander (I think I recall him being left-handed), McNown threw 16 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions.

It's hard to imagine anybody being more disappointing than that.

Dan McNeil is a co-host of the "McNeil and Parkins Show" in afternoons. You can follow him on Twitter @DannyMac670.