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Data Entry: Positional Draft Trends Should Help Shape Bears Approach

| March 27th, 2018

 

The Bears have picks near the top of days one, two and three of the draft this year. (The picks themselves are in rounds one, two and four.) With several positions of need, the team needs to weigh the value of a position and the depth of players at that position on their board.

One must factor how many players typically get drafted at certain positions in certain parts of the draft. If they don’t draft, say, an edge rusher in round one, how many will likely be gone before they pick again in round two? And if they pass again in round two, how many will typically be gone by the time they’re up again at the top of round four?

With those questions in mind, I looked at the last ten drafts to see how many players were drafted at positions of interest in each round. I looked mainly at positions which are clear needs for the Bears this year, which in my book are edge rusher*, interior OL, cornerback, and offensive tackle. I also looked at wide receivers, tight ends and running backs, because I think the Bears might continue adding more weapons around Mitch Trubisky.

*I’ll note that the edge rusher numbers might be a little off, because I couldn’t find lists that grouped edge rushers effectively. I ended up counting all DEs and OLBs who I know are edge rushers from the ESPN draft positional lists. Full data can be seen here.


Round 2

Let’s start by looking at how many players at each position should be gone before the Bears pick in round two

We’re just looking at data for players drafted in round one because they pick towards the top of round two. I didn’t bother putting tight end, wide receiver, and running back in because those are likely positions that won’t be considered until later in the draft. The table below shows the average for the last ten years, last five years, and the high and low amount from the ten-year sample.

A few thoughts:

  • Edge rushers go early. Pick eight might be considered a reach for any edge in this class not named Bradley Chubb, but the top guys will all likely be gone before the Bears are back on the board.
  • There aren’t many interior offensive linemen who get drafted in the first round, so the Bears could look for value by landing one of the top guys there in round two.
  • Most of the other positions have around four-five guys drafted in the first round of a typical year, while edge mostly hovers in the five-six range. So if you’re looking at what types of players might realistically be there for the Bears in round two, it’s mostly somewhere around the fifth or sixth best prospect. Of course, who that prospect is depends on what board you’re looking at.

Round 4

After picking at 39 in the second round, the Bears don’t have another selection until the top of the fourth round, pick 105. They follow that shortly with pick 115 (all of this assumes there are no trades). Let’s look at how many players are typically gone by then at the various positions, adding in running back and tight end this time.

A few thoughts:

  • Here we see a bit more differentiation among positions. Positions where two plus guys are usually on the field (WR, edge, CB) tend to have 13-15 players drafted in the first two days, while RB and TE, which typically play only one at a time, have five-seven guys go in the first two days. This makes sense given the need for more bodies at spots that have more players.
  • A somewhat interesting exception is at OT and on the interior OL, which typically have fewer players drafted in the first two days despite needing two-three of each on every offensive snap. I don’t think that suggests extra value, as there are typically fewer OTs or G/C selected throughout the draft than WR, CB, or edge. It’s probably just because teams rotate through those other positions more, while offensive linemen play every snap if healthy. Plus the other positions roster more reserves for special teams than OL does.
  • The WR numbers are very interesting to me given the perceived depth at this position in the draft. No more than 15 WRs have been drafted in the first two days over the last ten years, and I’ve seen at least 20 names thrown out as day one or two values. I think there’s an excellent chance that solid WRs fall to the Bears in round four of this draft, especially since the consensus seems to be that most of the top guys are pretty similar overall, and teams will value them differently depending on their scheme. As I’ve written before, the Bears have a clear physical profile to look for at WR in their new offense, and options should be available for them in round four. This seems like an ideal spot to grab a player as the WR4 this year who can hopefully grow into more while providing depth/injury insurance in the meantime.
  • This is also supposed to be a very deep draft at running back, and not a lot of those guys go high either. There could be some value there in round four (or even five) should the Bears want to add a more complete back behind Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen.

Conclusions

I find these numbers helpful to keep in mind as a ballpark for what should roughly happen in the draft, though it’s important to note there is always year to year fluctuation based on the quality of players at different positions in the draft. Still, I think it’s clear to see that the Bears should likely look at an edge rusher somewhere early in the draft, but they can probably afford to wait a bit at wide receiver and running back given the perceived depth there.

In the next few weeks I’ll look at Ryan Pace’s draft history to see what trends I can find, how those might factor in here, and what kind of players he might be interested in (including a few names) for some of these positions.

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