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Re-Grading the Chicago Bears' Past 5 Drafts

Matt EurichAnalyst IApril 23, 2014

Re-Grading the Chicago Bears' Past 5 Drafts

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    Nam Y. Huh

    In just little over a week, the Chicago Bears and the rest of the NFL's front office will be heading to New York City to begin the 2014 NFL draft.

    Every team in the league wants to be able to draft and develop players who can contribute to their team for years to come. Unfortunately, not every pick is a "hit," and teams will once again have to go back to the drawing board to find another option in the next draft.

    In order to determine what the team needs are moving forward, they need to look at what they have done in the past.

    In this article, each of the Chicago Bears previous five draft classes have been reviewed and each pick has been assigned a grade.

    "A" and "B" grades were given to players who showed, or have shown, steady improvement since being drafted. "A-graded" players have become impact players on either offense or defense.

    A "C" grade was given to any player who was average in his abilities on the field but has yet to show marked improvement, or failed to do so, while with the team. 

    "D" and "F" grades were given to players who were unable to adjust to the level of competition in the NFL and were, or currently are, lacking consistent production.

    Since sixth- and seventh-ound picks are rarely expected to have much of an impact, each of those picks were awarded at least a "C" grade.

    In order to determine the overall grade for each draft class, the average grade for each player in that class was used to determine the grade as a whole. 

    Here is our re-grading of the Chicago Bears' past five drafts.

2013

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    USA TODAY Sports Images

    First Round: Kyle Long

    A slight reach at No. 20 for the Bears, Kyle Long silenced some of his critics during his rookie season by starting all 16 games at right guard and being named to the Pro Bowl. 

    A raw prospect out of Oregon, he quickly earned the starting role in training camp and never looked back. One inconsistency in his game was giving up pressure early in the season, but he appeared to come into his own during the team's final stretch of games.

    Hitting on Long in the first round helped solidify an offensive line that had been a hindrance to the Bears during Jay Cutler's first few seasons in Chicago. While past drafts were spent trying to find pieces to solidify the line, Long's pick in 2013 will keep the Bears from needing to look at the offensive line early in the 2014 draft.


    Grade: A

     

    Second Round: Jon Bostic

    Touted as a big-hitting, downhill middle linebacker, Jon Bostic made his presence felt early in the preseason with an interception taken back for a touchdown off of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton and a big hit against the San Diego Chargers in front of the home crowd at Soldier Field.

    Bostic saw extensive playing time during the regular season after D.J. Williams was lost for the season with a ruptured pectoral muscle. He struggled at times to read and react to plays, often hitting the wrong hole or finding himself out of position to make a play.

    According to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times, the Bears plan on having him compete with Shea McClellin for the strong-side linebacker position in training camp this summer. With Bostic's move to strong-side linebacker, the team will likely still need to address the middle linebacker position in this year's draft. 


    Grade: C

     

    Fourth Round: Khaseem Greene

    A former Big East Defensive Player of the Year, Khaseem Greene was viewed as more of a project for the Bears before injuries forced him onto the field in 2013.

    After an injury that sidelined Lance Briggs for several weeks, Greene was thrust into the starting weak-side linebacker role and, much like Bostic, struggled to read-and-react and was often out of position.

    It is hard to criticize Greene too much, considering he was never expected to start in 2013, but there were parts of his game that are still a concern if he cannot correct them moving forward.


    Grade: C

     

    Fifth Round: Jordan Mills

    Looked at as a solid depth pick and development player, Jordan Mills quickly ascended to the top of the Bears' depth chart at right tackle, beating out veterans J'Marcus Webb and Jonathan Scott.

    Mills eventually started all 16 games for the Bears alongside Long at right tackle. While he showed flashes, he struggled at times in pass protection, giving up the most quarterback hurries in the league with 62, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

    Despite his struggles in pass protection, he played well in the running game and far exceeded the expectations of a fifth-round pick.


    Grade: B

     

    Sixth Round: Cornelius Washington

    A bit of a surprise that he fell to the Bears in the sixth round, Cornelius Washington was viewed as a pass-rushing outside linebacker/defensive end who could find a role as a third-down edge-rusher.

    Washington ended up appearing in just two games in 2013 for the Bears. Despite the team's additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young, via ChicagoBears.com,  the team may still look to find a young, developmental pass-rusher in this year's draft.


    Grade: C

     

    Seventh Round: Marquess Wilson

    Marquess Wilson dropped to the Bears in the seventh round following his fallout at Washington State University that ultimately led to him leaving the team.

    He was suspended late in the 2012 season and decided to quit the team, while ripping head coach Mike Leach on his way out the door.

    Wilson played in 10 games for the Bears in 2013, finishing with two receptions for 13 yards. The team plans on giving him a more expanded role, according to head coach Marc Trestman, who said, per the Chicago Tribune

    I think he showed that we can work with him and develop him. He’s got the football intelligence that we’re looking for and the ability to be flexible within the offense. He was consistent. So we’ll see how it goes. 

    It appears that Wilson will get the first crack at being the team's No. 3 wide receiver in 2014, but that likely won't deter the Bears from looking for another young receiver in the draft.


    Grade: C

     

    Overall Class Grade: C

    Grading a draft after just one season is not a fair representation of what kind of impact the class will have on a team in years to come, but it helps give some substance to the team's draft plans moving forward.

    Long and Mills proved in their rookie seasons that they have the ability to at least be consistent starters in the NFL, and Bostic and Greene showed their abilities in spurts on the field.

    Wilson may be the most intriguing prospect on this list and the one with the biggest potential to burst onto the scene in 2014.

2012

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    USA TODAY Sports

    First Round: Shea McClellin

    General manager Phil Emery's first draft started off with a bang when the team selected Boise State linebacker/defensive end Shea McClellin with the team's 19th pick in the 2012 draft.

    He registered just 2.5 sacks in his rookie season, often struggling to match up with bigger, stronger offensive lineman. His sack totals improved in 2013 when he finished with four, but he was a liability against the run, and the team has decided to have him compete at strong-side linebacker in 2014, according to ChicagoFootball.com.

    McClellin has been working to improve himself this offseason, evident by this tweet from his trainer Scot Prohaska:

    Shea McClellin after 10 wks with me. Shea "I've never been under 14% Body fat" #ProhaskaPower #ChicagoBears #NFL pic.twitter.com/Zza1aOETf5

    — Scot Prohaska (@ScotProhaska) April 18, 2014

    The Bears were expecting to get someone who could use his speed and athleticism to get after the quarterback in McClellin, but he has been nothing short of a disappointment in Chicago. 2014 will be his make-or-break year.


    Grade: D

     

    Second Round: Alshon Jeffery

    After a rookie season that had its share of ups and downs, as he battled injuries and inconsistency, Alshon Jeffery burst onto the scene in 2013.

    The Bears moved up in the draft in 2012 to select Jeffery in the second round, sending a fifth-round selection to the St. Louis Rams in order to move up five spots to select him.

    Last season he finished sixth in the league with 1,421 yards receiving and was named to his first career Pro Bowl. En route to that first Pro Bowl, Jeffery made spectacular catches look routine and combined with Brandon Marshall to become one of the league's most productive wide receiver duos.


    Grade: A

     

    Third Round: Brandon Hardin

    A reach in the third round, Brandon Hardin failed to make much of an impact during his first training camp. He eventually was placed on injured reserve following a neck injury he sustained in the preseason.

    He was given an opportunity to fight for a roster spot in training camp last summer, but he was once again hit by the injury bug in the preseason and was subsequently released. The Bears have struggled to find contributors at the safety position in the draft, and because of Hardin's inability to stay healthy and develop, the team will need to look to improve the position again in the 2014 draft.


    Grade: F

     

    Fourth Round: Evan Rodriguez

    Originally drafted as a tight end, Evan Rodriguez saw extensive playing time at fullback for the Bears in 2012. In 12 games he had five starts and caught four passes for 21 yards.

    Rodriguez was arrested twice in the span of two months last offseason and was released in early June.


    Grade: D

     

    Sixth Round: Isaiah Frey

    After not appearing in a game for the Bears in his rookie season, Frey was handed the team's nickelback position in training camp last summer following an injury to veteran Kelvin Hayden.

    Frey played in all 16 games last season for the Bears as the team's nickelback, finishing the season with 47 total tackles and one pass deflection. While his numbers do not jump off of the page, he proved to be a solid contributor in 2013.

    Frey is one of the rare instances in which the team has been able to develop a late-round cornerback into a serviceable piece. The team still has a need to get younger at the position and likely will be looking at the draft to add depth.


    Grade: B

     

    Seventh Round: Greg McCoy

    Expected to compete with Frey for the final cornerback spot on the roster, Greg McCoy failed to make an impact in training camp and was waived before the start of the 2012 regular season.


    Grade: C

     

    Overall Class Grade: C

    Out of the six picks that Phil Emery made in the 2012 draft, only three remain on the roster in McClellin, Jeffery and Frey. Without the stellar production of Jeffery in 2013 and the consistency from Frey, the 2012 class would look like a complete failure.

    If McClellin can transform himself into a viable option for the Bears at strong-side linebacker, then there will still be some hope for this draft class. 

    Not hitting on McClellin as a pass-rusher or Hardin at safety will likely result in the team looking to add to those positions through the 2014 draft.

2011

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    Charles Cherney

    First Round: Gabe Carimi

    Drafted 29th overall in the 2011 draft, it appeared that the Bears got a steal in Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi. 

    Carimi won the Outland Trophy in 2010 as the nation's best offensive lineman as well as being named a first-team All-American and Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. 

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller was very high on Carimi, tweeting at the time:

    If a team finds Gabe Carimi on the board in the 20s they are going to have a steal on their hands. Should go top 15 based on grade

    — Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 25, 2011

    He began the 2011 season as the team's starter at right tackle but was injured in Week 2 and missed the rest of the season. He struggled in 2012 at right tackle before being replaced and eventually moved to right guard due to injuries.

    The team traded Carimi last offseason to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for a sixth-round pick in 2014.


    Grade: D

     

    Second Round: Stephen Paea

    Best known for his weight-lifting display in the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine, Oregon State's Stephen Paea has become a solid, albeit unspectacular, defensive tackle for the Bears in his first three seasons.

    Paea has shown he can be a consistent threat against the run, and he has the burst and ability to get after the quarterback, registering six sacks in his first three seasons.

    His struggles with injuries have slowed down his progression, but he remains a key piece for the Bears in their defensive tackle rotation.

     
    Grade: B

     

    Third Round: Chris Conte

    A converted cornerback, Chris Conte has had his share of ups and downs while in a Bears uniform. 

    During his first two seasons, Conte started 24 games and hauled in three interceptions, and he was expected to take a leap in his progress last season. He started all 16 games in 2013 and notched a career-high three interceptions, but due to a decimated defensive line in front of him and poor tackling on his part, he regressed last season.

    Despite an abysmal 2013 season for Conte, he was expected to compete for the starting free-safety spot. Now, his opportunity will be in jeopardy after the team announced, via Larry Mayer of ChicagoBears.com, that he will be out four to five months after undergoing shoulder surgery in late March. 

    Conte, on paper, has the talent to be an above-average safety in the league, but because of his struggles last season, it is not clear if he will be able to bounce back mentally. Because of his struggles in 2013, the Bears will likely look toward the 2014 draft to find a playmaking safety.

     
    Grade: C

     

    Fifth Round: Nathan Enderle

    A project pick in the fifth round, Idaho's Nathan Enderle never saw the field for the Bears during his one season with the team.

    He was a prototypical, pocket-passing quarterback who blended well with then-offensive coordinator Mike Martz's offense. 

    He backed up Caleb Hanie for a handful of games in 2011 when Jay Cutler was out with an injury, but he was eventually released by the team in June 2012.


    Grade: D

     

    Sixth Round: J.T. Thomas

    A speedy, athletic linebacker out of West Virginia, J.T. Thomas played well in the preseason in 2011 but was placed on injured reserve prior to the regular-season opener.

    He bounced back and again played well in the 2012 preseason. He spent time on the team's practice squad that season, but he was eventually released during the 2013 preseason.

    JT Thomas had a fine preseason on special teams. Blocked punt, was good on coverage. He bought into role. Could land somewhere soon.

    — Brad Biggs (@BradBiggs) August 31, 2013

    Thomas had an opportunity to claim a role as a special teams contributor,but due to the commitments of the 2013 drafts picks, Jon Bostic and Khaseem Greene, he never got the opportunity to prove himself in Chicago.


    Grade: C

     

    Overall Class Grade: D

    Only two picks from Jerry Angelo's last draft class in 2011, Paea and Conte, currently remain on the team.

    Both Paea and Conte have shown flashes at times, and both will be looking at 2014 as a "prove it" year with their contracts set to expire at the end of the season.

    Carimi has recently gone from the Buccaneers to the Atlanta Falcons, via AtlantaFalcons.com, while Thomas has been with the Jacksonville Jaguars since his release from the team last August. Enderle spent time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and San Diego Chargers since his release. He is no longer in the NFL.

    The inability of Carimi to cement himself as the team's long-term solution at right tackle was likely tied to the team's decision to fire Angelo after the 2011 season. There is still hope for Paea and Conte to turn it around, but Angelo's poor drafting will continue to have an effect on the team's draft in 2014.

2010

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    Nam Y. Huh

    Third Round: Major Wright

    The Bears held no first-round pick (Jay Cutler trade) or second-round pick (Gaines Adam trade) in the 2010 draft, resulting in the team taking Major Wright with their first pick in the third round.

    During his rookie season, Wright played in 11 games and recorded 20 total tackles. He saw his role increase in 2011, starting 11 games and finishing with 42 tackles and three interceptions. 

    The 2012 season looked like a turning point for Wright, as he finished with a career-high four interceptions and looked to be on the upswing for 2013.

    Just like Conte, Wright struggled mightily in 2013. He was not re-signed by the team this offseason and reunited with former head coach Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay, via NFL.com.

    For a while he looked like a player who was developing into a solid starter during his first three seasons, but he was plagued by inconsistencies, and his bad 2013 season was the tipping point for his departure. His struggles in 2013 will likely lead to the team looking for a safety in either of the first two rounds of the 2014 draft.

     
    Grade: C

     

    Fourth Round: Corey Wootton

    Injured for most of the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Corey Wootton finally become a consistent contributor for the team in 2012 and 2013. In 2012 he finished with seven sacks, and he showed off his versatility in 2013 when injuries forced him to move inside to the 3-technique tackle position. 

    According to ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson, Wootton underwent arthroscopic hip surgery this offseason.

    The Bears opted to move on from Wootton, and he signed with the Minnesota Vikings, via ESPN.com.

    When healthy, Wootton proved he was a versatile defensive lineman who could get after the quarterback and set the edge against the run. Unfortunately for him, the Bears felt they were better-suited to move on from him in 2014.


    Grade: C

     

    Fifth Round: Joshua Moore

    At 5'11", 184 pounds out of Kansas State, Joshua Moore failed to make much of an impact for the Bears during his rookie season.

    According to Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com, there were questions surrounding Moore's strength because he was only able to bench-press 225 pounds at the combine twice.

    Despite the Bears considering him the team's best cover corner at the time, according to Vaughn McClure of the Chicago Tribune, Moore was released prior to the start of the 2011 season.

    While it is hard to find major contributors the further down the draft you go, Moore was not even able to provide the team with consistent play on special teams and ended up being yet another wasted pick during the Jerry Angelo era.

    Failing to hit on a young cornerback like Moore in 2010 will once again force the Bears to look to the draft to find a young cornerback they can develop in 2014.

     
    Grade: F

     

    Sixth Round: Dan LeFevour

    A 6'3" native of Downers Grove, Ill., Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour was a record-setting quarterback who thrived in a shotgun-based offense. 

    The Bears needed to develop a young quarterback behind Jay Cutler and Caleb Hanie, but LeFevour struggled during the preseason. In four preseason games he completed just 19 of 41 passes for 204 yards with one touchdown, one interception and was sacked six times.

    The Bears released him prior to the start of the regular season and eventually saw time with the Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars. He is currently out of the league.


    Grade: C

     

    Seventh Round: J'Marcus Webb

    One of the more polarizing Chicago Bears in recent memory, J'Marcus Webb went from a seventh-round pick in 2010 to the team's starting left tackle in 2011.

    In three seasons, Webb started 44 games for the Bears, including 32 straight at left tackle.

    After the Bears signed Jermon Bushrod during the 2013 offseason, Webb moved back to right tackle to compete with Jordan Mills, Eben Britton and Jonathan Scott.

    Webb had a great combination of size and athleticism but struggled with the mental aspects of the game. He was released by the team prior to the start of the 2013 regular season.

    Despite all of his struggles, Webb was just a seventh-round pick who, at times, showed the potential to be a solid NFL starter, but that potential never materialized.


    Grade: C 

     

    Overall Class Grade: D

    After four seasons, none of these five players remain on the team's roster. Wright and Wootton have moved on to the Bucs and Vikings, while Webb is currently a free agent.

    Moore is no longer in football after a brief stint with the Denver Broncos, and LeFevour currently plays for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League. 

    It would be hard to pinpoint one circumstance that began Angelo's demise in Chicago, but the 2010 draft would be a good place to start.

    Having no first-round pick was understandable because of the trade to acquire Cutler the year before, but trading a second-round pick for Gaines Adams (who passed away during the 2010 offseason) proved that Angelo failed to understand how important the first two rounds of the draft are for a team.

2009

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    Nam Y Huh

    Third Round: Jarron Gilbert

    Fresh off of the Cutler trade earlier that month, the Chicago Bears did not select their first draft pick until the third round in 2009. San Diego State's Jarron Gilbert was athletic and most well-known for a video of him jumping out of a pool.

    Gilbert played in just one game for the Bears in 2009 and registered one tackle. There was hope that he could transition into a solid 3-technique in the Bears' Cover 2 defense, but his athleticism failed to translate onto the field. Gilbert was released in the summer of 2010.

    The Bears were lucky that Henry Melton was able to develop into a solid 3-technique, but five years later the team is still looking for a long-term solution at the position and could be looking for one early in the 2014 draft.


    Grade: F

     

    Third Round: Juaquin Iglesias

    Not only one of the worst picks in the 2009 draft, Juaquin Iglesias could also be viewed as one of the worst during Angelo's five years in Chicago.

    Iglesias was expected to compete for the third wide receiver spot but was only active for one game during his rookie season. The Bears released Iglesias prior to the start of the 2010 season.

    The Bears continued to struggle to find Cutler a No. 1 wide receiver until an offseason trade was made in 2012 to bring Brandon Marshall to Chicago. Despite the terrific play of Marshall and Jeffery in recent years, Iglesias serves as a reminder to a time in which the team struggled on a year-to-year basis to find a No. 1 receiver.


    Grade: F

     

    Fourth Round: Henry Melton

    A converted running back turned into a defensive end, Texas' Henry Melton had plenty of potential coming out of college. Despite that potential, he was viewed as a project, considering his limited playing time on defense.

    Melton registered 13 sacks between 2011 and 2012 and was named to his first Pro Bowl following the 2012 season. The team attempted to re-sign him that offseason but were forced to use the franchise tag on him. He started just three games in 2013 before being placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL.

    Melton became a free agent at the end of the season and signed a one-year deal with a club option for three more, via DallasCowboys.com.

    Despite his checkered off-the-field history, Melton was a productive piece of the Bears' defensive line, and they suffered in 2013 when he was injured. Losing Melton in free agency will likely force the Bears to take a look at guys like Pittsburgh's Aaron Donald and Florida State's Timmy Jernigan in the first round to help shore up their defensive tackle position.


    Grade: B

     

    Fourth Round: D.J. Moore

    Drafted as a potential backup to Charles Tillman, D.J. Moore saw limited time during his rookie season in 2009. Despite having limited playing time he became the team's nickelback prior to the 2010 season.

    In 2010 and 2011, Moore intercepted eight total passes and became a key part of one of the league's best defenses during that time.

    He fell out of favor with Lovie Smith during the 2012 season and eventually lost the nickelback role to Kelvin Hayden. Despite the demotion he still finished with two interceptions on the year.

    Moore left to join the Carolina Panthers in 2013 and recently signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, via Buccaneers.com.

    He was never spectacular during his tenure in Chicago, but because of the emergence of Frey and the play of Hayden, there was no need to bring him back.


    Grade: C

     

    Fifth Round: Johnny Knox

    Johnny Knox quickly made himself known to Bears fans when he hauled in his first career catch against the Green Bay Packers in Week 1 of the 2009 season, a 68-yard bomb from Cutler.

    Knox finished his rookie season with 45 catches for 527 yards with five touchdowns and was named to the Pro Bowl as a kick returner.

    He made a bigger splash in 2010 when he caught 51 balls for 960 yards and five touchdowns.

    He appeared to be on his way to another solid season in 2011 when he suffered a serious back injury against the Seattle Seahawks that December. Because of the injuries he sustained that Sunday, Knox was unable to return in 2012 and officially retired in the spring of 2013, via Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. 

    Regardless of his injury, Knox proved he had the ability to stretch defenses in the passing game and could be a threat as a kick returner. The Bears have been able to solidify their passing game with receivers Marshall and Jeffery, but they are still looking for a receiver with the kind of speed Knox had that can beat safeties deep.


    Grade: B

     

    Fifth Round: Marcus Freeman

    A fifth-round pick, Marcus Freeman was expected to compete on special teams and sit behind Briggs on the depth chart.

    Freeman was unspectacular during training camp and was released prior to the regular season.

    He spent time with the Buffalo Bills and the Houston Texans before retiring in 2010, after discovering he had an enlarged heart, via NationalFootballPost.com.


    Grade: F

     

    Sixth Round: Al Afalava

    A 13-game starter in his rookie year, Al Afalava was released prior to the start of the 2009 season. 

    Average at best, Afalava failed to make any spectacular plays on defense for the Bears during his one year. After spending some time with the Indianapolis Colts and the Tennessee Titans, he is no longer in the league.


    Grade: C

     

    Seventh Round: Lance Louis

    Initially drafted as a tackle, Lance Louis got his first significant playing time for the Bears during the 2011 season. 

    He started 13 games in 2011 and 14 in 2012 before tearing his ACL against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 12.

    While the offensive line struggled mightily during his time on the Bears, he was one of the team's few bright spots. He was a terrific run-blocker and an athletic pass-blocker, but the team opted to move on from him last offseason when they signed veteran Matt Slauson.


    Grade: B

     

    Seventh Round: Derek Kinder

    A 6'1" wide receiver out of Pittsburgh, Derek Kinder played sparingly during the 2009 preseason and was released prior to the start of the regular season.


    Grade: C

     

    Overall Class Grade: D

    The 2009 draft class gave the Bears two Pro Bowlers in Knox and Melton, but it also gave the team two of its biggest busts in recent memory, with Gilbert and Iglesias.

    The production the team got out of Moore and Louis during their tenure was an unexpected surprise. The class as a whole is difficult to judge because it did not have a first- or second-round pick.

    The Bears have done a nice job of adding guys like Marshall and Slauson to fill needs at positions that the team has struggled with finding selections in the draft, but with no players remaining on their roster from the 2009 draft, it proves just how difficult it is to hit on good players consistently. 

     

    All stats and measureables courtesy of NFL.com.

    Matt Eurich is an NFL/Chicago Bears Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

    Follow @MattEurich

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