In 2004, Lovie Smith was signed to the Chicago Bears to be their head coach. What he did in the time he was there was take a team to the playoffs in three of his nine seasons in the brawler division of the NFC North. He only had three losing seasons too and two of them were 7-9. Except for his second year, he didn't have a pick before #14. What he and his GM did was build a consistent team using the draft.
Before we get to the draft, we need to focus on free agency. Out of the nine years Lovie Smith was the head coach of the Bears, they signed/traded for only four marque guys to their roster at the time. First off is Roberto Garza. He played for the Falcons for three years before moving to the Bears. He initially signed for a one year "prove-it" deal. But he has been a started ever since until last year. Then, it was the Jay Cutler trade. He gave them a good QB but they gave up two 1st round draft picks and a 3rd round draft pick. In the end, it was a good trade because in both years, the good QB's were gone by the time they were going to pick. Then it was the Julius Pepper's signing. With them, he put up number similar to when he was with the Panthers, to the tune of an average of ten sacks a season. Lastly, the trade for Brandon Marshall. He not only carried the team in 2012 but helped teach Alshon Jeffery to be a great #2 WR last season. However in every other free agency, the Bears were quiet.
Overall for the 2004 draft, they picked for need and best value. They absolutely needed D-line help as their defense couldn't get pressure on the QB. The offense had QB corral and only Marty Booker was a well-known WR. They went out and got two pressure D-linemen, a burner of a WR, and a ball-hawk of a CB.
In 2004, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: DT, DE, WR, and TE.
For the 2004 draft they drafted:
#14: DT Tommy Harris-He had a decent career but was marred by injuries and in NFL.com writers Bucky Brooke's draft re-do, he has them taking him still 10 years later.
#47 DT/DE Tank Johnson-His career with the Bears was as a back-up for the whole D-line.
#78 WR Bernard Berrian-His career with the Bear's was pretty good. In his 3rd in 4th years, he showed the Bears he could be a #2 WR but they let him go to Minnesota.
#110 CB Nathan Vasher- In his first three years, he grabbed 17 interceptions until he got injured and never returned to form.
Overall, their 2004 offense was awful. They had the QB corral again, Thomas Jones couldn't pass as a full-time running back, and they had no WR over 700 yards. The defense was similar in rank but was able to crank out an 8-8 season. That put their prime focus on the offense in the 2005 draft. Although they pick players that fit the role they needed, it forced them to choose some bad players.
In 2005, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: WR, TE, RB, and OT
For the 2005 draft they drafted:
#4 RB Cedric Benson-He was drafted to be in tandem to Thomas Jones and together they ruled the NFC North until a future draft pick took over as the "Bell Cow" Running Back in 2008.
#39 WR Mark Bradley- He turned out to be Michael Clayton without the rookie year. He wasn't the #1 receiver they were looking for.
#106 Kyle Orton- He turned out to be a decent surprise for a 4th rounder however, injuries and some awful situational game playing turned out to be his demise.
The 2005 season went well for the defense to the tune of #1 in the NFL. The offense, not so much. The Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian couldn't jump start the passing game with Kyle Orton. From a need situation, the 2006 draft went good, at that time. They picked up everyone for the holes they thought they had. They even picked a sleeper with #159 Marc Anderson. However, the evaluations were awful. They traded back from #26 to pick up #42 and #73. In my opinion, they didn't think that would happen and panicked.
In 2006, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: TE, DB, DT, OLB
For the 2006 draft they drafted:
#42 FS Daniel Manning-In his first year, he was a machine. He forced fumbles, tackled well, and they thought he was a great pick. Then he fell off the map in starts, which my assumption is he played the 3rd safety, and landed in Houston.
#57 WR/CB/KR Devin Hester-As we all know, Hester has been one hell of a kick returner. But as a CB and WR, he is situational at best.
#73 DT Dusty Dvoracek-He was drafted at a NT to be a rotation player but flamed out after 2008.
#120 OLB Jamar Williams- Since Briggs and Urlacher were getting old, they drafted this guy. He turned out to be a situational player for the Cover 3 defense.
As it turned out, the 2006 Bears were the best team they had for offense and defense combined. The had a top five offense and defense but was unlucky in the Super Bowl. The 2007 draft was awful. They filled the needs of safety and tight end but missed on every other pick. Other than the players mentioned, they drafted 6 players and 5 of them were out of the league in 4 years.
In 2007, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: S,OL,TE
For the 2007 draft they drafted:
#31 TE Greg Olson- He was the gem of the draft. He played four years with the Bears and although he didn't get any higher than 700 yards in a season, he was very helpful in blocking and getting the QBs out of jams.
#168 CB Corey Graham- Although he played in every game except 3 in his five years of playing in Chicago, he only started in 10 of them.
#221 CB Trumaine McBride-This guy started 10 games in his first two seasons but injuries ruined him in his third season.
By the end of the season, the 2007 Bears were average on offense and defense. Benson couldn't carry the load when Jones left after the 2006 season and the QB corral was back. The defense couldn't stop the run which in turn hurt the passing defense. For the draft, they drafted fairly well for need and found some good talent in the 3rd and 4th rounds. Except that Brandon Albert was taken with the #15 pick to the Chiefs.
In 2008, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: WR, RB, OL, S, DT
For the 2008 draft they drafted:
#14 OT Chris Williams- They drafted him to replace Orlando Pace the next year and he did... but was not that good. He lasted the full five years of his rookie contract but was marred by injuries in the 4th and 5th year.
#44 RB Matt Forte- If you don't know, he turned out to be the RB they were looking for from the 2005 draft. He's gone over 900 yards every season since drafted.
#70 WR Earl Bennett- His first season he didn't play much but when he did play, as #3 WR, he averaged above 12 yards/catch until last season.
#120 SS Craig Steltz- He has been that situational #3 safety in the Cover 3 defense since coming into the NFL.
#142 CB Zack Bowman-He didn't play as a rookie but in his 2nd year he became a star! Until the following year in which he didn't play much.
#158 TE Kellen Davis- He was the #2 TE until Olsen left for the Panthers. Great blocking TE but didn't pan out well for receiving.
With Kyle Orton at the helm, the Bears offense was average. Forte ran the ball well but Hester was top WR at 665 yards. Olsen was second and we all know how good a team is when a TE is the #2 catcher. (2013 Bucs) The defense was #8 in turnovers but was burned often. They drafted well for need considering they traded for Jay Cutler that April.
In 2009, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: WR, DE, OL
For the 2009 draft they drafted:
#105 DE Henry Melton- In his first season he was a rotational player but shot onto the scene with 18 sacks the following two seasons until he injured himself last season.
#119 CB D.J. Moore-Now with the Buccaneers, D.J. was a 3rd CB with Lovie Smith. His first year, he didn't do much but the following 3 years he burned defenses for 22 interceptions.
#140 WR Johnny Knox- Turned out to be a good but short draftee. His first season he played as a 3rd WR but the next two seasons he became the #2 WR. It wasn't until the 3rd season did he get injured and never play again.
#190 SS Al Afalava- Played one season with the Bears as an SS but started 13 games.
#246 G Lance Louis-Although he didn't play his rookie season, he started played at guard for most of the next 3 seasons.
With Jay Cutler at the helm, the offense was still average. The running game behind Forte was one of the worst in the league and Cutler's WRs were awful. The defense was starting to slip and allowed some good yardage for opposing offenses. They drafted fairly well for not having a #1 and #2 pick but forgot to get Jay Cutler a WR in the 2010 draft.
In 2010, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: WR, OL, CB
For the 2010 draft they drafted:
#75 SS Major Wright-Situational in his first season, he started most of the next three seasons for the Bears.
#109 DE Corey Wootton- His first two years in the league was nothing but being low on the depth chart. However when he did play in 2012, he was decent.
#218 OT J'Marcus Webb-The Bears finally hit on an OT however, he did allow some big hits on Jay Cutler.
The offense was the Achilles heel for this team again. The ability to run the ball and pass the ball escaped them. Only Johnny Knox (960 yards) and Matt Forte (1069 yards) got above 600 yards for the entire offense. The defense held this team together in spectacular fashion. The 2011 draft was fairly straight forward except they drafted entirely for defense and forgot about weapons for Cutler.
In 2011, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: OL, DT, LB, and WR
For the 2011 draft they drafted:
#29 OL Gabe Camiri- Well known for his stint with the Bucs. That sums up his career in a nutshell.
#53 DT Stephen Paea- Good situational DT but doesn't provide enough disruptive power.
#93 FS Chris Conte-The Bears starting FS for the last three years.
In the 2011 season, the Bears had a breakout season running the ball. The team ran for over 2000 yards. The bad news is that Cutler got hurt and their passing game was awful. It's a common theme with the Bears. But when Draft Bust Roy Williams is your #2 WR for the season, you know it was bad. On the defensive side, they played well. However even with the inclusion of Julius Peppers, the team suffered from a bad pass rush and the ability to allow big plays. For the 2012 draft, they hit a home run in Alshon Jeffery but missed badly on everyone else. Also, they traded a 3rd rounder for Brandon Marshall.
In 2012, the Bear's draft needs were as follows: WR, DE, OT, CB
For the 2012 draft they drafted:
#19 DE Shea McClellin-Drafted to be a situational sack machine and turned out to be "eh"
#45 WR Alshon Jeffery-In his first season, he played situational #2 WR beside Earl Bennett and Devin Hester but last year he thrived.
For the 2012 season, the offense didn't get going. They had a top 10 running team but passing was still bad because of the musical chairs at #2 WR. The defense was great again but allowed teams to score a lot. They were last in allowing teams to score. In the end, it was the inability to spark the offense that led to the firing of Lovie Smith.
In the end, majority of the drafts by the Bears ended in getting the players that were "needed". There were some blatant needs that lasted a few years like Offensive Line, Wide Receiver, and early on Tight End but were finally fixed. One of the biggest peeves is that he waits so long to draft Offensive Linemen, if at all. Will his defensive mind cloud his judgment of fixing the offense in the future? We may never know.