Adam L. Jahns’ “Read Options” column appears in Pro Football Weekly, which is available Thursday or Friday in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Rockford Register Star, Northwest Herald, Kankakee Daily Journal, Peoria Journal Star and on ProFootballWeekly.com.
Cornerback Kyle Fuller was good once. Remember that? He made big plays. He provided hope. Heck, at some point, he was considered the long-term replacement for Charles Tillman.
So what the heck happened?
There are plenty of reasons for Fuller’s fall from grace. But his plummet is another example of why the draft order is important. Plenty of picks are blown, but it’s still best to have the higher pick, especially if you’re rebuilding like the Bears are.
In the long term, the most important factor is having the right people in place to handle the drafts. And right now, it’s so far so good for general manager Ryan Pace.
But Fuller’s situation has turned into a classic case of what might have been because defensive tackle Aaron Donald nearly fell to the Bears in 2014.
The Rams, formerly of St. Louis, selected Donald with the 13th overall selection before former general manager Phil Emery took Fuller at No. 14.
A first-team All-Pro selection last season, Donald is arguably the best defensive player in the league. He’s an unstoppable force with 27 sacks over three seasons.
And then it happened again in 2015.
Defensive tackle Leonard Williams nearly fell to the Bears before the New York Jets, who were loaded on the defensive line, selected him with the sixth overall pick. Pace took receiver Kevin White at No. 7.
It’s unknown what White will be in the NFL after undergoing his second surgery on his lower left leg in two years. But Williams has blossomed into a stalwart for the Jets. He has seven sacks this season.
But here’s a positive:
Missing out on Donald and Williams makes the Bears’ bold move to trade up to the No. 9 pick this year to draft outside linebacker Leonard Floyd look even better.
Pace saw a player he liked and made a move to ensure he gets him. He didn’t let him fall.
If Pace doesn’t make that move, Floyd likely is a member of the New York Giants, who had the No. 10 pick, and the Bears might be wondering what might have been for the third consecutive year.
Rookie linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski’s bad day against the Green Bay Packers didn’t bother the Bears too much. It’s part of his learning process.
Coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio actually spent more time this week discussing Kwiatkoski’s ability to break up a screen on the play prior to quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ 60-yard bomb to receiver Jordy Nelson.
Kwiatkoski tackled running back Ty Montgomery for a one-yard loss and hurt guard Lane Taylor in the process.
“[I’ve] been very pleased just with his progress,” Fangio said. “With the opportunities that he’s had, he’s done well. He’s always had a play here or there he’d like to do over, which we all do, but I like his progress. I like his future, and I think he’s a nice fourth-round pick for us.”
This week’s thought about the draft: the Raiders struck gold in 2014.
With two picks, they changed their entire organization and direction, but it didn’t involve forcing the issue at quarterback.
The Raiders, who clinched their first playoff berth since 2002, selected outside linebacker Khalil Mack at No. 5 and quarterback Derek Carr in the second round at No. 36.
There were three quarterbacks that were drafted before Carr: Blake Bortles (No. 3, Jaguars), Johnny Manziel (No. 22, Browns) and Teddy Bridgewater (No. 32 Vikings).
If the Bears’ evaluations warrant drafting a quarterback in the top-five this year, then they should do it. The Bears need a quarterback for the future.
But it’s important to not allow the need of one influence everything. It can lead to disastrous results. See Bortles and Manziel.