Fans always like discussing who were the best draft picks of all-time, but the real action has been the complete opposite. Who were the worst first round picks Bears history? This simple question can create a firestorm of debate that will last hour. Such is the lingering pain of what those great misfires created.

This list will attempt to determine once and for all who truly were the worst of the worst, and why. For the sake of clarity, only players in the Super Bowl era will be included. It is in this period when the draft process took on a far greater scientific approach. Thus when whiffs happened, they often came out of nowhere.

That is what made their pain so much greater. Before we get into the real stuff though, it would be unbecoming of this list to not start with some guys who just missed the cut.

Worst first round picks in Bears history (honorable mentions):

Joe Moore (11th overall, 1971)

The Bears needed new blood at running back with Gale Sayers continuing to break down from repeated injuries. Joe Moore seemed like a safe bet in 1971. He was the all-time rushing record holder at Missouri with 2,244 yards including 1,312 in 1969.

Instead of inheriting Sayers’ legacy as a top Bears back, he inherited the health issues. Moore played just 23 games in Chicago and rushed for 281 yards.

Rashaan Salaam (21st overall, 1995)

Buzz on Salaam was off the charts in 1995. He was the Heisman trophy winner, having run for 2,025 yards and 24 touchdowns in his final year at Colorado. The guy looked like a star. Things started off well enough. He went over 1,000 yards as a rookie.

Injuries soon caught up to him though, along with being busted for marijuana use. He barely managed half the yards of his rookie year over his final three seasons in the NFL.

Shea McClellin (19th overall, 2012)

A pick that caught fans totally off guard. New GM Phil Emery fell in love with McClellin due to his unique athletic traits at Boise State, believing the Bears could use him in a variety of different ways. This merely demonstrated he’d badly misjudged both the talent and coaching staff involved.

McClellin never had a chance. He was a linebacker thrust into the role of defensive end and was rapidly overwhelmed by it. Injuries hounded him along the way and not even a myriad of position switches could save it.

07. Gabe Carimi (29th overall, 2011)

The hype:

Carimi had everything going for him. He was a mammoth at 6’7, 320 lbs and moved well for his size. He came from Wisconsin which had produced future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas just four years earlier. His immense power looked perfect for any team that wanted to run the football. The Bears had Matt Forte in his prime at that point, so it looked like a perfect match.

What went wrong:

Everything started out fine for Carimi. He claimed the starting right tackle job in training camp, worked through the preseason, and started the opener against Atlanta. A 30-12 blowout. Then in Week 2 down in New Orleans, he suffered a catastrophic injury, dislocating his entire knee cap. It took extensive surgeries to repair all the damage.

Though he fought to return, it was clear almost right away that Carimi wasn’t the same player he’d been before. The Bears eventually moved him to guard but that experiment didn’t work out. He was finally traded to Tampa Bay in 2012 for a 6th round pick.

Notable names who went shortly after:

  • Muhammad Wilkerson
  • Cameron Heyward
  • Kyle Rudolph
  • Rodney Hudson
  • Randall Cobb

06. Michael Haynes (14th overall, 2003)

The hype:

Haynes looked like he’d been dropped out of central casting. A big defensive end from Penn State, he delivered a huge final season in college in 2002 with 15 sacks. He had size and strength along with solid quickness. On the surface he looked like one of the safest prospects in the draft and a perfect solution to the Bears’ glaring need for pass rush help (35 sacks in 2002).

What went wrong:

It soon became clear that Haynes’ big year in college was a mirage. He’d benefited playing against easier competition and also having some highly talented teammates next to him including future Bear Anthony Adams. When confronted by the talented offensive lines of the NFC North, he was rendered almost completely inert. Haynes had just two sacks as a rookie.

Then matters got worse in 2004. The Bears hired Lovie Smith as head coach and his system was not the one the defensive end had been drafted to play in. Smith didn’t seem to think highly of him because the team traded for Adewale Ogunleye from Miami that same year. Haynes remained a backup for two seasons, had 3.5 sacks and was out of the league by 2007.

Notable names who went shortly after:

Note – The Bears actually traded back from #4 overall. So this will include names they passed on.

  • Jordan Gross
  • Kevin Williams
  • Terrell Suggs
  • Marcus Trufant
  • Troy Polamalu
chicago bears draft bust

05. Stan Thomas (22nd overall, 1991)

The hype:

Thomas had two things going for him that year. He was a massive offensive tackle who was a good athlete. He also played for a top program at Texas who’d just had one of its best seasons in years, going 10-2 in 1990. A schedule which included huge upsets of #3 Houston and #4 Oklahoma. Thomas looked like a nasty mauler who helped drive that machine.

What went wrong:

The roots of this pick can be traced to the state of the Bears hierarchy by 1991. Michael McCaskey, who had been appointed to run the team as chairman, was pushing to get more involved in football-related decisions. Head coach Mike Ditka didn’t think he was qualified and resisted.

Their headbutting reached a fever pitch over the decision to draft Thomas. Ditka saw a player with attitude problems and was clearly raw. He wanted nothing to do with that pick. McCaskey felt different and got his way in the end. Thomas started seven games as a rookie, racking up a ridiculous amount of penalties that eventually got him benched.

It only got worse in 1992. He got shot in the head in February after leaving a nightclub. He had alcohol problems that continued to get worse and things reached a bottom when he had a shouting match with Ditka during a game live on camera. The team demanded he enter rehab to get clean after a DUI in 1993. He refused, left training camp and was soon traded.

Notable names who went shortly after:

  • Ted Washington
  • Henry Jones
  • Roman Phifer
  • Brett Favre
chicago bears 2018 draft position

04. David Terrell (8th overall, 2001)

The hype:

There really wasn’t anything that stuck out about Terrell in terms of red flags. He was 6’2 with decent speed and played the receiver position with good physicality, able to make tough catches in traffic. He became the all-time leader in Michigan history for receiving with a huge final year where he had 1,130 yards and 14 touchdowns.

It was no surprise the Bears, who had the 23rd ranked passing offense in 2000, drafted him. The chance to pair him with emerging talent Marcus Robinson was too good to pass up.

What went wrong:

Things started off pretty well for him. He had over 400 yards and four TDs as a rookie in 2001, helping the Bears go 13-3. Multiple problems began to go against him though by the next year. Terrell suffered an injury that limited him to just five games in 2002, and matters were made worse by the ridiculous carousel of different quarterbacks the team was cycling through.

Jim Miller, Shane Matthews, Chris Chandler, Kordell Stewart, Rex Grossman, and Craig Krenzel were some of the highlights.

It became clear that Terrell wasn’t the sort of special talent who could still make plays despite iffy QBs. He had a quiet year in 2003 before having his best in 2004 with 699 yards. It was too little, too late by that point though. Terrell was cut in 2005. He signed for a year in Denver, didn’t make a single catch, and was out of the league after that.

Notable names who went shortly after:

  • Dan Morgan
  • Marcus Stroud
  • Santana Moss
  • Steve Hutchinson
  • Casey Hampton

03. Curtis Enis (5th overall, 1998)

The hype:

Enis was as proven a commodity as one could hope for in a running back. He dominated at a major program in Penn State. His final two years of college saw him go over 1,500 yards from scrimmage including 32 touchdowns. He had good size, strength, and speed. It seemed like the Bears had finally found their next Walter Payton and Neal Anderson.

What went wrong:

Warning signs emerged almost right away when Enis held out for the entirety of training camp as a rookie, which included two preseason games. When he finally did come in, things seemed fine. He was excellent in his first two games but went through a dry spell for a number of weeks.

Finally in the eighth game he got the nod to start his first game against St. Louis. There he promptly tore the ACL in his left knee and was done for the season. This was back when ligament injuries were still a big deal in the NFL. When Enis returned in 1999, it was apparent he’d lost an extra gear.

Though he ran for over 900 yards, it was at just 3.2 per carry. Injuries continued to pile up and he was finally cut after the 2000 season with less than 2,000 yards in his career.

Notable names who went shortly after:

  • Greg Ellis
  • Fred Taylor
  • Tra Thomas
  • Keith Brooking
  • Randy Moss

02. Kevin White (7th overall, 2015)

The hype:

It might seem unfair to put White this high on the list of worst first round picks in Bears history. Yet facts are facts. The buzz he came into the league with was unbelievable. He torched defenses for West Virginia in 2014 with 109 catches for 1,447 yards and 10 touchdowns. Then he set the field ablaze at the scouting combine with a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash.

At 6’3, 190 lbs he looked like a future beast who could help the Bears replace Brandon Marshall.

What went wrong:

White’s problems started before he even stepped on the field. During offseason workouts, he suffered a stress fracture in his shin that forced him to miss his entire rookie year. When he returned in 2016, he started off well through the first four games including a strong performance in Dallas. Then the next week he broke his other leg against Detroit and missed the rest of the year.

The misery wasn’t over yet though. White returned once again and made it to opening day against Atlanta. While making his second catch of the game, a hard hit from a defender fractured his left shoulder blade. Again he was done for the season. By 2018, the shine was off the apple and White spent most of the year on the bench. He became a free agent the following March.

The final tally was 25 catches for 285 yards and no touchdowns in four seasons.

Notable names who went shortly after:

  • Vic Beasley
  • Todd Gurley
  • Andrus Peat
  • Melvin Gordon
  • Marcus Peters

01. Cade McNown (12th overall, 1999)

The hype:

From 1997 through 1998, McNown was on fire at UCLA. He threw for over 6,500 yards with 49 touchdowns and 17 interceptions while winning 20-straight games over that stretch. His team made it to the Rose Bowl that year where he threw two touchdowns in a 38-31 shootout loss to Wisconsin.

What went wrong:

There were red flags about McNown even before he was drafted. He was 6’1, which is on the shorter side for quarterbacks and there were concerns about his arm strength in the scouting community. If that weren’t enough, he was the fifth quarterback taken when the Bears grabbed him at 12th overall. A clear sign he’d likely been overdrafted.

Things only got worse from there. McNown held out most of training camp over his contract. He became the backup behind Shane Matthews to begin the season but eventually stepped into the starting job by mid-October. Like most rookies he had some good and bad moments, but it was progressing. Then he threw four touchdowns against Detroit.

Everybody was convinced he was the guy at that point. They didn’t know that game against one of the worst pass defenses in the league would be his peak. His time on top wouldn’t even last all of the next season. He made it 11 more starts, went 1-10 in those games, completed barely half his passes and was lost to a shoulder injury.

Chicago traded him in 2001 and he never played another snap in the NFL.

Notable names who went shortly after:

Note – The Bears actually traded back from #7 overall. So this will include names they passed on.

  • Champ Bailey
  • Daunte Culpepper
  • Jevon Kearse
  • Damien Woody
  • Antoine Winfield