With the NFL Draft just two days away, you might think that most franchises are working around the clock, cramming like a college student for a final.
“Well, for the most part, all the work is done,” former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “There’s probably more going on over the phone, just networking with other teams, talking to draft (experts), so to speak, just trying to get a better feel for where players are going – not only in the first round but in the later rounds as well. What you’re doing is, you’re trying to create packages for yourself. Who could be our first three picks? And you might jockey that around.”
For example, perhaps a franchise wants a running back in the first three rounds of a draft. If that franchise thinks a quality running back will be available in the third round, it might prioritize taking, say, an offensive lineman in the second.
“It’s usually those types of scenarios that are talked about.” Angelo said. “And certainly there’s going to be some trade talk, given the fact that the rookie scale is much lower now.”
Indeed, the money guaranteed to prospects who haven’t played a single snap in the NFL has decreased in recent years, but it’s still important to hit a home run with a top-10 pick. Actually, scratch that.
It’s more important to just not strike out.
“The one thing you don’t want, you don’t want a bust,” Angelo said. “I think that’s your biggest fear. We have this inflated perception about what a top-10 player should look like. We just want him to be a good player that we can win with. The media drives so much of the perception, obviously, and very few players meet the expectations of those top-10 picks. But I think subconsciously sometimes teams feel like they have to answer the bell and pick a guy that is going to make the all-media team, so to speak. When you start doing that, you open yourself up for error. I’ve learned a long time ago, it’s just not about talent. You got to bring the character into it as well because that determines careers.”
Speaking of talent and character, Angelo was asked about Jay Cutler, who the Bears acquired in 2009, when Angelo was still GM.
“I’ve been asked (about him) a lot,” Angelo said. “The thing is, when we (acquired) Jay, he was an upgrade from what we had. He had success in the NFL. He went to a Pro Bowl. He was young. The arrow (was) going up. I’ve been in this game too long. I don’t look for a utopia. I knew he was a talented player that had NFL experience. You never see a 26-year-old player with his resume come on the market. So we did what we had to do.”
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. Cutler commits turnovers more often than he smiles.
“But the thing is, we won with Jay,” Angelo said. We went 19-7. You can win with Cutler. You just can’t win because of him. I think the Bears got intoxicated with his talent and put all their eggs in his basket. We did not do that. We didn’t compromise our defense or our special teams. I’m from the old school. I got to see it. And until I saw it, I wasn’t going to just throw all our draft picks – all our free-agency money – into offense. Our offense was sustainable, but our calling card was going to be our defense, our special teams.
“The best team we had was in my last year. We were 5-0. We were hot. Jay got hurt, things kind of went downhill. The Cutler I saw when I was there and the Cutler I’m seeing now? Two different players.”
Asked about this year’s draft, Angelo said he would take Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota with the first overall pick, no questions asked.
“I’d certainly take one of the two,” he said. “Winston is more pro-like. He’s more ready-made, easier to evaluate. Not that he doesn’t have his flaws. He does – just like all players. But he’s, to me, an easier player to predict, more pro-ready. Mariota, (through) no fault of his own, just wasn’t in a scheme that grooms NFL quarterbacks.”