Just because the Bears don’t pick until No. 49 in Saturday’s 2009 NFL Draft, that doesn’t mean there won’t be anything for Bears fans to watch. Seeing what division rivals Detroit, Green Bay, and Minnesota do will be just as vital to the future success of the Bears.
The Vikings, last year’s NFC North champions, will pick No. 22 overall and are hoping to add a player that can push them farther in the playoffs, should they happen to win a wild card spot this year — that’s assuming the Bears win the division as I’m predicting they will.
Meanwhile, the Packers are a much better team than their 6-10 record in 2008 would indicate. And with the 9th overall pick, they can certainly add a player that will help make them even more competitive for the immediate future.
But perhaps even more intriguing than what the Packers and Vikings will do is what the reigning 0-16 Lions will do with the first overall pick. It’s become commonplace in recent years for the team that holds that top spot to sign their draft choice to a contract before ceremoniously selecting him on draft day. There are rumors that the Lions are trying to get a deal done with Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, or, if that fails, they are also looking at Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry, who is perhaps the most complete player in the draft. Curry has even said he’ll take less money to go to Detroit.
As a Bears fan, I would much rather see Stafford in a Lions jersey than Curry. In the past decade, there has been an inordinate amount of high, first-round busts at the quarterback position. Sure, there’s been some successes like Carson Palmer, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger. And last year, Matt Ryan had some success taking the Falcons to the playoffs as he earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
People will also point out the success of Joe Flacco, but I’ll counter that argument by saying Flacco had the No. 2 defense and the No. 4 rushing offense complementing him. Ryan also was aided by the No. 2 rushing offense.
But with that handful of quarterbacks, there’s also a long list of disappointments. The list of first round quarterbacks since 2000 that have not lived up to expectations includes JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith, J.P. Losman, Byron Leftwich, Kyle Boller, Rex Grossman, David Carr, Joey Harrington, Patrick Ramsey, Michael Vick, and Chad Pennington.
Taking a quarterback in the first round is like playing the lottery; you have a better chance of missing than hitting. And I’d prefer the Lions take that risk on Stafford, whom I believe is not as much a sure thing as Curry is.
The Lions have already improved on defense by hiring defensive-minded head coach Jim Schwartz and acquiring linebacker Julian Peterson in a trade with the Seahawks, as well as some other free agent signings. Should they add Curry, he could be one of their cornerstones on that side of the ball for years to come. Suddenly, the Bears would be looking at much more physical games that could take their toll on the team. I don’t want to hear Curry’s name being called two Sundays a year for the foreseeable future.
I expect to see Stafford holding up a Lions jersey Saturday at the draft as the Lions should come to terms on a contract with him shortly. But anything is possible.