The Bears haven’t had a pick as high in the draft as this year’s No. 3 since they spent the third choice on tackle Lionel Antoine in 1972.
It’s certainly a lofty position, but as you can see by flipping through photographs of the last 35 players taken at No. 3, it guarantees nothing. Below is my list of the best and worst third overall picks since 1982:
Best No. 3 choices:
1. Running back Barry Sanders, Lions (1989)
Sanders was selected to the Pro Bowl in all 10 of his NFL seasons with the Lions. He averaged more than 1,500 rushing yards per year, topped by 2,053 yards in 1997. He led the NFL in rushing four times, was a six-time first-team All-Pro, was voted to the 1990s NFL All-Decade Team and was chosen NFL MVP in 1997. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004.
2. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals (2004)
Fitzgerald has been selected to 10 Pro Bowls in 13 seasons with the Cardinals. He ranks third in NFL history with 1,125 receptions, ninth with 14,389 receiving yards and eighth with 104 touchdown catches. Last season he led the NFL with 107 receptions (after catching 109 passes in 2015) and was also named the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year.
3. Tackle Joe Thomas, Browns (2007)
Although he has played for the woeful Browns, Thomas is considered one of the top offensive linemen in the NFL. He has been voted to the Pro Bowl in each of his first 10 seasons and has been selected first-team All-Pro seven times. He is the only offensive lineman in NFL history to be chosen for the Pro Bowl in each of his first eight years in the league.
4. Defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, Seahawks (1990)
A dominant inside force, Kennedy was voted to eight Pro Bowls in 11 seasons with the Seahawks, selected first-team All-Pro three times and was named to the 1990s NFL All-Decade Team. He was chosen NFL defensive player of the year in 1992 after recording 14 sacks for a Seahawks team that went 2-14. Kennedy was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 2012.
5. Quarterback Matt Ryan, Falcons (2008)
Ryan has been selected to four Pro Bowls in nine seasons with the Falcons. Last year he was named NFL MVP, NFL offensive player of the year and first-team All-Pro after leading Atlanta to the Super Bowl and topping the league with a career-high 117.1 passer rating. He completed 69.9 percent of his passes for 4,944 yards with 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Worst No. 3 choices:
1. Quarterback Akili Smith, Bengals (1999)
Smith started only 17 games and threw just five touchdown passes in four seasons with the Bengals, completing 46.6 percent of his passes, posting a 52.8 passer rating and compiling a 3-14 record. He went 2-9 as a starter in 2000, connecting on just 44.2 percent of his passes.
2. Quarterback Heath Shuler, Redskins (1994)
Shuler went 4-9 in three seasons with the Redskins—including 1-7 as a rookie—completing just 47.7 percent of his passes for 2,403 yards with 13 touchdowns, 19 interceptions and a porous 58.3 passer rating. He played a fourth year with the Saints in 1997 before leaving the NFL.
3. Defensive end Dion Jordan, Dolphins (2013)
Recently cut by the Dolphins, Jordan has not played in a game since 2014. He was suspended the entire 2015 season for multiple violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy and sat out all of last year due to a knee injury and poor performance in practice.
4. Quarterback Joey Harrington, Lions (2002)
Harrington played four seasons with the Lions, compiling an 18-37 record as a starter while completing 54.7 percent of his passes. After a decent year in Detroit in 2005, he struggled in stints with the Dolphins in 2006 and the Falcons in 2007.
5. Running back Trent Richardson, Browns (2012)
Richardson rushed for 950 yards as a rookie with the Browns. But early in his second season he was traded to the Colts and struggled in Indianapolis, benched late in the year in favor of Donald Brown after averaging only 2.9 yards per carry.