By Laurence W. Holmes–
(CBS) It’s perfectly fine for you to root for the Bears this Sunday against the Lions in a contest between a pair of 6-9 teams that has no playoff implications. You don’t have to fight against your instincts in wanting to see good play from “the beloved” this weekend.
Over the last few years, fans and media members have become enamored with the idea of tanking. Most notably, we’ve seen it in the NBA, where it doesn’t necessarily work, as evidenced by the 76ers’ lack of progress.
In football, it’s really about the talent evaluator. Think about how many high picks that have busted. With that in mind, you should want the Bears to play as hard as they can and try to win Sunday instead of securing a higher draft pick with a loss.
Now, that doesn’t mean Chicago needs to put anyone in harm’s way. The Bears won’t, as they’ve already placed receiver Alshon Jeffery on the injured reserve list because he’s still suffering from nagging injuries. Still, coach John Fox and the boys should be full speed ahead.
I know some of you are worried about the draft pick, but let’s take a closer look at this. Tribune beat writer Rich Campbell has crunched the numbers, and depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game, the Bears can pick anywhere between No. 9 and No. 18 in the first round of next year’s draft.
The probability of picking ninth is remote. For that to happen, there would have to be a tie in the Eagles-Giants game, the Bears would have to lose and then some upsets would have to happen.
Regardless, I went back and looked at the 9-18 range from the 2014 draft and evaluated how those 10 players have done, as we now have nearly two full seasons of evidence in deciding what type of difference-maker they are.
Here’s a look at how the players drafted 9-18 from 2014 are doing:
9. Anthony Barr, LB, Vikings
Barr’s Minnesota’s best linebacker, and he’s quickly becoming one of the best in the game. He’s won games by forcing turnovers and has picked up NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. He’s off to a great start with a bright future.
10. Eric Ebron, TE, Lions
Ebron had an up-and-down rookie season, then was much better this year with 42 catches, 512 yards and four touchdowns with an average of 12.2 yards per catch.
11. Taylor Lewan, T, Titans
Taylor’s been a starter at left tackle since midway through his rookie season and was named a captain at the start of this season.
12. Odell Beckham Jr., WR, Giants
He’s a two-time Pro Bowler and perhaps the best receiver in the game. He’s racked up 2,701 yards and 25 touchdowns in 26 career games. He might be the most exciting player in the NFL.
13. Aaron Donald, DT, Rams
Donald should and will get votes for Defensive Player of the Year. He’s been a menace in the middle of the Rams’ defensive line with 11 sacks this season. He posted the highest grade in Week 16 of any defensive player, per Pro Football Focus.
14. Kyle Fuller, CB, Bears
The jury is still out on Fuller, who showed flashes in his 2014 rookie season, then fell apart after about Week 6. He started shaky this year but has gotten better as the season has gone on.
15. Ryan Shazier, LB, Steelers
Shazier’s a solid and productive player for Pittsburgh who has 80 tackles, two forced fumbles and an interception this year.
16. Zack Martin, OL, Cowboys
Since he was drafted, Martin’s started every game at guard for Dallas. He had the second-best pass blocking grade for any guard in 2014, according to Pro Football Focus.
17. C.J. Mosley, LB, Ravens
Mosley’s already been a second-team All-Pro player and a Pro Bowler. He’s a terrific player.
18. Calvin Pryor, S, Jets
Like with Fuller, the jury’s still out on Pryor, who’s been more productive in 12 games this season than he was in 16 last year. He still makes some mistakes, but the better play up front by the Jets has made him look better.
So, what’s this list show? That even if the Bears win Sunday and end up picking at No. 18, they can find a quality player and, perhaps, a franchise building block.
Where the Bears draft isn’t nearly as important as who’s doing the drafting. I don’t think that general manager Ryan Pace hit a home run last year, but when you look at his picks, there’s enough to be optimistic that he has a grasp on team-building. Plus, the Bears will have between $60 million and $70 million in cap space to go shopping on the free agency market.
So come Sunday, enjoy yourself in rooting for the Bears to win.
Laurence Holmes hosts the Laurence Holmes Show on 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @LaurenceWHolmes.