<
>

Bears planned to draft James Starks*

1/11/2011

Here's the kind of blog post you don't read every day.

During the 2010 draft, according to the National Football Post, the Chicago Bears called Buffalo tailback James Starks to say they planned to draft him with the No. 181 overall pick. At the last moment, however, general manager Jerry Angelo changed his mind and selected Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour instead.

How did the National Football Post get this information? The blog post was written by Greg Gabriel, who was the Bears' director of college scouting at the time and the man who had Starks on the phone when Angelo announced his final decision. Gabriel called it "the most embarrassing moment I had experienced while scouting" and made clear he favored Starks over LeFevour:

I was in Starks' corner. The reason being his talent, and the plan was to carry only two quarterbacks on the active roster. With Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie under contract I did not see how LeFevour could make the team. I had watched Starks play live 4 times during his career; there was not a doubt in my mind that he would contribute to the Bears. I liked Dan LeFevour as well. He had great intangibles, is very smart, has a strong arm and was a fit for Mike Martz' offense. But under the circumstances it would be difficult for him to make the team.

Ultimately, the Green Bay Packers took Starks 12 spots later in the sixth round at No. 193 overall. As we all know by now, he rushed for 123 yards in the Packers' wild-card playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bears lost LeFevour to the Cincinnati Bengals when they tried to pass him through waivers to get him in on the practice squad in September.

Disagreements and last-second changes of heart happen all of the time on draft day. You just don't hear too many examples quite as specific as this one. But the Bears parted ways with Gabriel after the draft and he is no longer obligated to keep company secrets.

*Update: Angelo confirmed Garbiel's version of this story in a conversation with Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. Angelo said he felt embarrassed by the situation but felt worse for Starks, who was put in an awkward situation.