Chicago Bears' best third-round NFL Draft picks of the modern era

With no selections in NFL draft until Round 3, we revisit franchise's best third-rounders of past 40-plus years

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[Lauren M. Anderson - landerson@nwherald.com]

It might take a few years to properly assess a draft pick, but with the benefit of hindsight we can already say the reason the Bears aren't picking until Round 3 this time (the Khalil Mack trade) is a lot more satisfying. We can also confirm that neither Major Wright nor Jarron Gilbert made the cut for the best third-round draft picks in the Bears' modern history. And because we're only looking at drafts over the past 43 years, let us first mention legendary Don Meredith (1960) and Frank Broyles (1946).

Meredith is in the Hall of Fame and is considered by many "The Original Cowboy," after George Halas drafted him in Chicago essentially as a gift for the expansion Cowboys, who owned Meredith's rights. Broyles' greatest contribution to the Bears, who selected the ex-Georgia Tech quarterback in Round 3, came as an administrator at University of Arkansas, where he recruited a kid out of Jacksonville Arkansas with only two years of high school experience named Dan Hampton.

With that here are the best third-round draft picks in the Bears' modern-era history.

9. Chris Gardocki (78th in 1991)

With apologies to three-year starting CB Jeremy Lincoln, we're beginning with Gardocki, who wasn't all that special, but it felt like a fitting way to open our list with a specialist. He is one of two in franchise history selected in the first 80 picks (his replacement, Todd Sauerbrun, was chosen 56th overall in 1995), and he was the punter on Mike Ditka's last Bears playoff team. Another commonality between Gardocki and Ditka? They were both fined for using their middle finger on the field, Gardocki when he sent the bird to then-Steelers coach Bill Cowher as a member of the Browns.

8. Bernard Berrian (78th in 2004)

The most dangerous playmaker on the Bears' 2005 and 2006 division-winning offenses, Berrian averaged 14.6 yards per catch and tallied 13 touchdowns in four seasons in Chicago. He parlayed that success into a six-year, $42 million contract with the rival Vikings that made him one of the game's highest-paid receivers, but Berrian's production steadily declined following his first season in Minnesota.

7. Jerry Fontenot (65th in 1989)

The Texas A&M product started 86 consecutive games at center from 1991-96 before enjoying a nice second act with the New Orleans Saints. After his playing career concluded, Fontenot spent 10 seasons as an assistant on Mike McCarthy's Green Bay Packers coaching staff, where he earned a Super Bowl XLV ring.

[Monica Maschak]

6. Tony McGee (64th in 1971)

His best seasons came after his three-year stint in Chicago, but McGee was a menacing inside pass rusher who made 32 starts and recorded seven of his 12 career fumble recoveries with the Bears. McGee arrived to the NFL from Bishop College, where he transferred following his dismissal from the University of Wyoming for protesting as part of the "Black 14."

5. Jim Flanigan (74th in 1994)

You better be damn good if you're going to don Hall of Famer Dan Hampton's No. 99, and Flanigan wore it well, producing a career-high 11 sacks in 1995, his second season and first with the Danimal's digits. It also marked the first of five straight seasons with at least five sacks for the disruptive interior defender.

4. Marty Booker (78th in 1999)

A fearless and highly productive possession receiver, Booker finished his Bears career with 3,895 receiving yards and 25 touchdowns, both top 10 for a franchise that has consistently struggled to produce difference-makers at the position. He was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2004 along with a third-round pick for pass rusher Adewale Ogunleye.

3. Dave Duerson (64th in 1983)

A linchpin on the '85 Bears and their subsequent defenses that claimed four of the next five division crowns, the versatile safety intercepted 20 career passes and notched 16 sacks, making four consecutive Pro Bowls (1985-88). Tragically, Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in 2011, after which his brain was studied and detected to have CTE.

2. Lance Briggs (68th overall in 2003)

All Briggs did was make seven consecutive Pro Bowls and finish as the second-leading tackler (trailing Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher) on all three of the Bears' division championship clubs. Filling one of the more important roles as the "Will" linebacker in Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 'D,' the rangy and dynamic playmaker from Arizona rarely was lost in the shadow of his teammate Urlacher and Hall of Famers Dick Butkus and Bill George, the only linebackers in Bears history with more interceptions than Briggs' 16 (including five pick-sixes, second only to Charles Tillman's 8).

1. Olin Kreutz (64th overall in 1998)

The undersized and salty Kreutz epitomized the kind of player with whom teammates were grateful to share a bunker. He was absolutely nasty throughout his 13 seasons in Chicago, when he made six Pro Bowls and was named a member of the NFL's All-Decades team for the 2000s. His 182 combined regular-season starts are the second most in team annals, behind only Walter Payton. Kreutz's toughness and technique allowed him to tussle with the division's much bigger defensive tackles, including Detroit's Shaun Rogers "Williams Wall" in Minnesota.

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