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Clock ticks for Bears to find Jay Cutler's eventual replacement

You have to rewind all the way back to 2003 to find the last quarterback the Chicago Bears took higher than the fourth round.

In the 12 drafts since using a first-round pick on Rex Grossman, the Bears have chosen a grand total of five quarterbacks.

2004: Craig Krenzel, Ohio State, fifth round

2005: Kyle Orton, Purdue, fourth round

2010: Dan LeFevour, Central Michigan, sixth round

2011: Nate Enderle, Idaho, fifth round

2014: David Fales, San Jose State, sixth round

Of the group, Orton is the only one to have developed into a bona fide NFL starting quarterback, with 87 career appearances with the Bears, Broncos, Chiefs, Cowboys and Bills.

Ex-Bears general manager Jerry Angelo temporarily eased the burden on the club to hit on a rookie quarterback when he sent a pair of first-round picks, a third-round choice and Orton to Denver for Jay Cutler in 2009, but Cutler cannot play forever. With just one year of guaranteed money left on Cutler’s deal, the Bears need to get serious about locating his eventual replacement.

The best place, obviously, to accomplish that is via the draft, where the Bears hold the 11th overall pick. The two consensus top quarterbacks in the 2016 class – North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz and Cal’s Jared Goff – may be gone before Chicago is on the clock, but intriguing options could exist after Day 1, according to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

“You look at all these guys and they're pegged to go in the second or third round because they have some flaws, and they have some areas of major concern,” Kiper said on Friday. "But it just depends who the Bears like.

"[Memphis’] Paxton Lynch, two, three, four years down the road, is going to be a really good quarterback. You take him. He’ll need a little time. If you have the ability and he’s afforded that opportunity, he can be really good. If he’s going to be expected to be a great quarterback right away, which unfortunately we expect in some cases, maybe you’ll be a little disappointed. I talked to some teams this week. They think he’s more of a 2, maybe a late 1. There’s not many 6-6, 245-pound quarterbacks with his arm and his mobility.”

Kiper added: “[Mississippi State’s] Dak Prescott is a heck of player but he’s just not a consistent passer. He’s not as precise with the football as you want. Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, had he come out last year, is probably a second-round pick. Now you’re looking at maybe fourth and fifth round. [Arkansas’] Brandon Allen has small hands but he can throw the football. He’s great for West Coast offense teams. Christian Hackenberg, for Bill O’Brien [in Houston], probably looks like a first- or second-round pick. For other teams, he looks like a fourth- or fifth-round pick. Connor Cook, is he a leader? Is he the guy who can be the CEO of your football team? He wasn’t the captain at Michigan State and did not go to the Senior Bowl. But he had a really good career and won a lot of football games. He could be a guy people look at down the line. [Oregon’s] Vernon Adams, if you see a little Russell Wilson in him you can take him in the third or fourth round very easily. Jacoby Brissett from NC State, there’s a lot of mixed opinion on Brissett. Some people think he’s a second-round pick, some people think he’s an undrafted free agent or late-rounder. Nate Sudfeld from Indiana had his moments with the Hoosiers. So what you are looking at there is which one can maybe be a starting quarterback. And you can probably find one or two teams that probably think they could be.”