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Which Bears’ NFL Draft class was the worst of the last 10 years?

The NFL Draft hasn’t been kind to the Chicago Bears over the last 10 years. First-round busts outnumber quality starters, and while there have been some hits on days two and three, the Bears’ struggle to consistently compete for the playoffs over the last decade can be traced back to their failures in the draft.

But which draft class is the worst of the last 10 years? According to ESPN’s Career Approximate Value Over Expected formula, which utilizes Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value, the Bears’ 2012 draft haul is the low watermark.

Chicago’s 2012 draft class scored a -47.1, thanks largely to the failure of first-round edge defender Shea McClellin from Boise State. McClellin played four years with the Bears, started 31 games, and totaled just 7.5 sacks. He spent one year with the New England Patriots and was out of the NFL after only five seasons. 

The saving grace (if you want to call it that) of the Bears’ 2012 draft class came in the second round with the selection of South Carolina wide receiver Alshon Jeffery. Jeffery finished his career seventh on the Bears’ all-time receiving list with 304 catches and second in the team’s all-time receiving yards with 4,549. His 26 receiving touchdowns rank ninth. Jeffery’s historical team rankings are more impressive because he only played five years with the Bears before signing a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2017.

The rest of Chicago’s 2012 NFL Draft class is what football nightmares are made of: Oregon State safety Brandon Hardin (third round), Temple tight end Evan Rodriguez (fourth round), Nevada defensive back Isaiah Frey (sixth round), and TCU defensive back Greg McCoy (seventh round).

Rodriguez lasted one season with the Bears. Hardin never played a regular-season game for Chicago. Frey started six games for the Bears as a rookie but was let go during his second season. McCoy was released after his first training camp.

If you’re keeping score, that’s a first-round bust, a second-round gem, and four players who were duds by the end of their first season. Brutal.

Draft classes like 2012 are a cautionary tale for fans who believe championship teams are built through signing high-priced free agents. It doesn’t matter how much a club spends on the open market if they stack draft classes like this one, year after year. The Bears’ 71-90 record since 2012 is evidence of the negative impact missing on an entire draft class can have on an organization, and it isn’t just a horrid 2012 draft that’s haunted Chicago.

What about that 2015 draft class?

The Bears’ 2015 draft class, headlined by wide receiver Kevin White, scored a -41.9 by ESPN’s CAVOE. It was the first draft run by former general manager Ryan Pace, who had more success in the drafts that followed because of mid-round hits on players like safety Eddie Jackson and running back Jordan Howard. He scored good marks for getting it right with defensive lineman Bilal Nichols, running back David Montgomery, and wide receiver Darnell Mooney on days two and three.

Now, with the fate of 2021’s draft class resting on the right arm of quarterback Justin Fields, and the 2022’s draft haul yet to take the field, we’ll see how the next decade of Bears draftees impact the team’s overall record.

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