The 2020 NFL Draft is upon us.
The Bears have a long list of needs but short list of picks. They are currently slated for two picks in Round 2 (43 and 50) and then don’t pick again until the middle of round 5 (pick 163). But trades could always shake that up.
In order to maximize those limited draft resources, the Bears need to be smart about finding positional value with their picks. We never know exactly how a draft will unfold, but we can examine historical trends to see what positions are most likely to provide value this year.
I looked at every draft from 2010-19 to see how many players at each position were drafted in the top 50 (their 2nd round picks) and top 175 (their 5th round pick). Since this is Bears-specific, I especially focused on their top 4 needs that I identified after free agency died down: wide receiver, offensive line, defensive back, and edge rusher. I also looked at tight end and quarterback since those are two future needs that have gotten a lot of attention from fans this off-season. A few notes:
- My source for this data did not differentiate between CB and S, so I combined the 2 into DB.
- They did differentiate between interior offensive line and offensive tackle, so I kept those separate.
- They had LB and DE as separate, with some edge rushers on both lists. I included all DE as edge rushers (even though some were more 3-4 DEs, not true edge rushers) and manually went through the LB list, looked up scouting reports for every player, and included anybody who was talked about as an edge rusher.
I then found a composite big board that averages player rankings from 18 different draft analysts and used those rankings to compare to historical trends.
Here is the data for players drafted in the top 50. Because every draft is different, I provided a range from the least to most players at that position drafted in the top 50 picks within the last 10 drafts, as well as an average. The last column shows how many players from that position are ranked in the top 50 right now according to the composite big board linked above.
Look at the ranges compared to how many players are currently ranked in the top 50 to get an idea of what positions are strong or weak at the top of this years’ draft.
- For instance, 0 TE in the top 50 tells us the Bears probably aren’t getting value there.
- One interior offensive lineman compared to an average of nearly 4 drafted suggests the same thing.
- On the flip side, WR, OT, DB, and QB all have more players than are typically top 50 picks ranked in the top 50. Let’s look at those positions 1 by 1 to see what value options for the Bears might be.
Generally, it’s a good year to need a wide receiver, as I’ve already talked about (good thing I identified WR as Chicago’s top draft need). History says 3 to 9 WRs go in the top 50, and 9 are ranked in the top 50. Here are the 3rd-10th ranked WRs on that composite big board, in order of their ranking:
It’s pretty obvious this year’s draft will be up towards that 9 number, and maybe even exceed it a little (that’s why I included Mims, who has shown up in a number of 1st round mock drafts since the Combine). Still, the odds are really good that at least one of these players will be on the board when the Bears pick at 43 (and even their 2nd pick at 50). Mims, Reagor, Jefferson, Aiyuk, and Hamler all provide a speed element the Bears desperately need.
I chose offensive line as the Bears’ 2nd biggest draft need, and that seems to match up nicely with offensive tackle, where 3 to 8 players are usually drafted in the top 50 (average 5.8) and the current big board has 6 rated in that range. The table below shows players ranked 3 through 9, plus I threw in interior OL as well (range: 1-8, average 4).
You never know exactly how a draft will fall, but it doesn’t look like the Bears are likely to find value at pick 43 or 50 on the interior of the offensive line. But the 2nd tier of those players has a large number of them grouped similarly together, so that could be a good option to still find value if they trade back.
At offensive tackle, there’s a chance somebody like Josh Jones or Austin Jackson could fall to them in round 2, but the next three names honestly wouldn’t be terrible value at 50 either.
The Bears lost a starter at both cornerback and safety this off-season, so they could be looking at either position for an immediate starter in round 2. A typical draft sees anywhere from 5 to 15 DBs drafted in the top 50, with an average of 9.4. Here are the the 5th to 15th highest rated DBs in the draft this year.
There seems to be some solid value here to match the Bears’ draft picks, with 11 players rated in the top 50 and the next 4 all higher than 60. The 11th DB only went higher than pick 49 once in the last 10 years, so there’s a solid chance that at least half of this list will be on the board when Chicago is on the clock at pick 50.
The last position that seems likely to provide decent value in round 2 based on historical trends is quarterback. In the last 10 years, anywhere from 2 to 6 QBs have been selected in the top 50, with an average of just under 4. Five quarterbacks are ranked in the top 50 this year. The table below shows the rankings for QBs ranked 2 through 7.
QB is a bit weird in that the good ones go quickly; I fully expect Tagovailoa and Herbert to be in the top 10, and Love probably goes in the top 15 as well. But the names after that (I included Hurts since I’ve seen a bunch of fans and media people speculate about him to the Bears) could all be on the board for Chicago at pick 43.
My personal opinion is that Chicago should not invest a high pick in a QB this year. They already traded their 4th rounder for Nick Foles, and don’t have a shot at the top 4 QBs. The odds of anybody hitting after that are low, and they’re clearly trying to win now, so they need day 1 contributors with those 2nd round picks. Take a flier on a QB late in the draft if you want to, but don’t waste a high pick on one. Save that swing for 2021, when you’ll have a 1st rounder again and can nab your guy of the future.
You never know exactly how a draft will fall, so none of this is set in stone. However, studying draft history and comparing it to prospect rankings for this year makes it look very likely that there will be excellent value at WR when the Bears are on the clock in round 2. Apart from that, the positions they appear most likely to find value are OT, DB, and QB. These positional values actually line up pretty nicely with Chicago’s biggest needs, which is a good thing for the Bears.
Stay tuned for an upcoming piece where I apply a similar analysis to the top 175 picks to see where the Bears might find value with their 5th round pick (163).