Chicago Bears: Five biggest draft busts of the past decade

March 28, 2020

Bears general manager Ryan Pace is recognized for his ability to identify late-round talent.  To date, Pace discovered Jordan Howard, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen, Nick Kwiatkowski, Adrian Amos and Bilal Nichols in the fourth round or later.

However, like his predecessor Jerry Angelo, Pace experiences difficulty identifying elite first-round talent. The NEIU Independent lists the Chicago Bears’ five biggest draft busts of the last decade


Honorable mention: Mitch Trubisky

Current Bears’ starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky is an enigma. Possessing remarkable leadership qualities, quick feet and a physical profile consistent with that of a GQ model, Trubisky looks the part of a successful NFL quarterback. And for a brief, almost cruel moment, it appeared general manager Ryan Pace found the ever-elusive franchise quarterback capable of leading the Bears to a run atop the NFC North.

Then came 2019. 

Trubisky’s regression is well-documented. The third-year quarterback averaged a meager 209 yards per game, good for 27th in the NFL among quarterbacks playing in a minimum of eight games. 

The former Tar Heel’s quarterback rating also dipped by just over 12 points from 95.4 to 83.0, the latter figure good for 28th among eligible quarterbacks. To compound upon his 2019 hardships, Trubisky developed a habit of overthrowing wide open receivers, as evidenced by his 63% completion percentage. 

But Trubisky doesn’t make this list because a strong showing in 2020 could reverse his fortunes. 

External factors crippled Trubisky’s maturation. The former Pro Bowl quarterback labored through the lingering effects of a dislocated shoulder and slightly torn labrum for the majority of the season.

Yet despite Trubisky’s injury woes, head coach Matt Nagy essentially abandoned the run game, positioning an already-impaired quarterback in a position where he had to single-handedly engineer the Bears offense. 

Trubisky also didn’t get much help from his skill positions, particularly at tight end, where J.P. Holtz led all Bears tight ends with 91 yards. No, that wasn’t a typo. 

With the Bears bringing former Philadelphia Eagles and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Nick Foles into the mix, Trubisky is operating on borrowed time. However, a strong start supplemented by instant chemistry with newly-acquired tight end Jimmy Graham carries the chance to change the perception surrounding the embattled quarterback.

Leonard Floyd

Another early-round draft miss by Pace, Floyd’s selection at No. 9 overall in the 2017 draft was a controversial one.  His technique and speed were NFL-ready, as the Georgia product raced and maneuvered his way to a successful college career. 

However, Floyd was physically weak relative to the demands of his position, sporting a physique better suited for wide receiver than linebacker. Once Floyd encountered the speed and strength of NFL offensive lineman, he often found himself negated when adequate attention was invested toward him. 

Make no mistake about it, Floyd exhibited flashes of brilliance. As a rookie, Floyd collected seven sacks, good for second on the Bears behind Willie Young’s 7.5 sacks. Floyd also held a propensity for showing up just as fans began preparing for his departure, reenergizing a dormant faith in his ability to develop into a serviceable pass rusher. 

Floyd may still develop into the pass rusher Pace hoped for when he invested a top-10 pick in him. However, following the acquisition of defensive end Robert Quinn, Floyd finds himself in search of a new home. 

Adam Shaheen

The Bears drafted tight end Adam Shaheen in the second round (pick No. 45) of the 2017 draft out of Division II college Ashland University. Bestowed with the nickname “Baby Gronk” in honor of then-New England Patriots’ tight end Rob Gronkowski, Shaheen possessed the size and athleticism to develop into a matchup nightmare for Bears’ opposition. 

Unfortunately, Shaheen’s substandard work ethic remained incompatible with the speed of the NFL. Up to this point in his career, the former college basketball player has failed to exhibit the competitive edge needed to improve, seemingly content with occupying a depth role on a team devoid of top-flight tight end talent. 

Furthermore, despite his enticing measurables, drafting Shaheen was always a gamble. Entering the draft, Shaheen hadn’t experienced Division I competition, instead feasting upon the lesser competition of Division II football. While it’s true that Shaheen has battled injuries through his three-year career, he is yet to prove that he’s an NFL contributor while on the field, hauling in only 26 receptions in 27 games. 

The pick becomes even more painful when considering that San Francisco 49ers’ tight end George Kittle was still available. 

The Bears are set to move forward with Shaheen for one more season. However, don’t be surprised if Shaheen is relegated to the bottom of the depth chart.

Shea McClellin

Former Boise State defensive end Shea McClellin lasted four years in the NFL before the league abandoned him. 

Selected 19th overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, McClellin appeared outmatched and outclassed from the start. While it wasn’t all McClellin’s fault–he profiled best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme despite then-head coach Lovie Smith using him as a defensive end in a 4-3–his play remained uninspired.

By the time former Bears’ defensive coordinator Vic Fangio reverted McClellin back to his natural position, the damage had already been done. By the time McClellin signed with the New England Patriots as a 27-year-old, he was considered irredeemable. 

For his career, McClellin amassed a total of 8.5 sacks and 202 tackles over 66 games. 

Gabe Carimi

When the Bears drafted Gabe Carimi 29th overall in the 2011 NFL Draft, he was considered a steal. It may seem implausible now but entering the draft, the 6-foot-7, 315-pound Carimi earned unanimous All-American honors and was the reigning Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year coming out of the University of Wisconsin. 

Carimi’s career got off to a rocky start when he injured his knee following his second career start, costing him the remainder of the 2011 season. The next year, Carimi adopted the role of utility lineman, starting games at both right guard and right tackle despite having seven sacks and nine quarterback hits attributed to him. 

Two years after the Bears drafted Carimi, he was jettisoned to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a sixth-round pick. By 2015, he was out of the league.

Kevin White

Kevin White is a tragic tale. The former first-round pick out of West Virginia University possessed all the measurables to be an elite NFL wide receiver. White ran a scorching 4.35 40-year dash time, third-best at the 2015 NFL combine. His 6’3, 216-pound frame allowed him to bully smaller corners before outleaping them for jump balls. 

White also had the football IQ to maximize his strengths. White’s mechanical hands and immeasurable competitive drive propelled him to top the NFL draft boards after he led the nation yards after the catch. 

Unfortunately, White’s career never got off the ground after a string of injuries limited him to just 14 career games. Shin splints cost White his entire rookie season before he fractured his fibula in Week 4 of the 2016 season, prematurely ending his sophomore campaign.

In 2017, White dislocated his shoulder in the season-opener, costing him his third straight season. The next year, the Bears declined White’s fifth-year option. 

Barring remarkable exceptions, it’s impossible for general managers and scouts to foresee injuries. While White owned the tools to become an elite wide receiver, his body failed to cooperate with the demands of professional football. 

Enjoy this article? Read more from Matthew Rago:

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