Using Historical Trends to Guide Chicago’s Draft Approach

| April 28th, 2022

Let’s look at historical trends to see where the Bears can expect to find positional value at various points in the draft. This builds very closely off work I’ve done each of the last two years, and here’s a quick recap of the approach:

  • I looked at the last 15 drafts (2007-21) to see how many players at each position were drafted in the top 50 (their 2nd round picks are #39 and 48), top 70 (their 3rd round pick is #71), and top 150 (their next picks are #148 and #150). I didn’t look at the 1st round because the Bears don’t have a 1st round pick this year.
    • My source for this data did not differentiate between CB and S, so I combined those into DB.
    • They did differentiate between interior offensive line and offensive tackle, so I kept those separate.
  • I then used The Athletic’s composite big board, which averages rankings from a number of different draft sources, to compare to historical trends. I focused especially on positions which I believe are the primary needs for the Bears. The idea here is that positions with more players than usual ranked in a given range are more likely to have somebody highly rated slip through the cracks, while positions with fewer players than usual ranked in a given range are more likely to have somebody reach for them to fill a need.

This is my third year applying this approach to the draft, and I was a bit hesitant about it at first, because it seems risky to rely on draft rankings from people who don’t work in the NFL. It’s quite possible that people in the NFL view these players entirely differently. However, I think the track record has been pretty solid over the last two years. For instance:

  • In 2020, I found the Bears should look to grab a defensive back early, because the depth on day three was not very good, and they landed Jaylon Johnson in round two. I also found the value at WR should be good throughout the draft, so the Bears could add there at any point, and they found Darnell Mooney in round five.
  • In 2021, I found the QB class was loaded at the top but not deep, so the Bears should look to take a QB early. At the same time, I found the OT class was historically deep, so they should look to draft one early and another late. They ended up with Justin Fields, Teven Jenkins, and Larry Borom all contributing as rookies.
  • Of course, it hasn’t all been great. In 2020 I said the Bears would not find value at TE in round 2, and they landed Cole Kmet, who has at least been a capable player (even if I don’t think he’s particularly great).

This is definitely an inexact science, and we don’t want to put too much stock in it, but I think it’s a useful exercise to see what positions might have more good players than usual, and thus possibly value for the Bears.

Round 2 (Top 50)

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 since 2007, 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.
  • Positions that are particularly good or bad are highlighted in colors (red for historically low, orange for near the low end of the range, light green for near the top end of the range, and green for historically good).

A few thoughts:

  • It’s a good year for the Bears to need a WR, especially at the top of their draft. There are nine WRs ranked in the top 50 on the composite big board, there have been eight or fewer WRs taken in the top 50 13 times in the last 15 drafts. If history holds here, the Bears should have some solid value options at WR with either of their second round picks.
  • There also seems to be pretty solid value at defensive back, where 12 players are ranked in the top 50 and 13 of the last 15 drafts have seen 11 or fewer DBs selected in that range. The Bears could use starters at outside CB, nickel CB, and safety, so they may look to fill one of those spots in the second round.
  • The rest of the Bears’ biggest need positions are right around their historical averages, meaning there may or may not be value present for the Bears, depending on how the draft falls.

Round 3 (Top 70)

Here’s the same table as above, only now expanded to include the top 70 picks, which lines up pretty well with Chicago’s third round selection.

A few thoughts:

  • There is still some value to be found at WR later on in day two of the draft, which could line up nicely for the Bears to double-dip there. It doesn’t appear to be as great of depth (relatively speaking) as in round two, though, as six of the last 15 drafts have seen at least 11 players selected in the first 70 picks.
  • All of their other main needs are once again right around their historical averages, so there are no clear trends to be found here. At least none of these needs are near the low point of available players in the top of the draft.

Round 5 (Top 150)

The Bears don’t currently have a fourth-round pick, so it’s a long wait after pick 71 until they reach 148 (barring any trades). However, they will get two picks in quick succession, as they come up again at 150. Let’s see what the positional depth looks like at this point in the draft.

A few thoughts:

  • Here we see a few changes from the day two trends. To begin with, WR is back to around its historical averages.
  • A new deep position has emerged on the interior offensive line (IOL), where the 15 players ranked in the top 150 are more than have been drafted in that range in all but three of the last 15 drafts. I will be quite surprised if the Bears don’t draft an offensive lineman on day two, but they might do well to consider a second pick spent on an interior lineman with one of their two fifth-round selections. This is also one of the positions with the highest hit rate in this range of the draft, adding to the appeal of taking a player here.
  • Defensive tackle (DT) also emerges as a position lacking quality depth. It was around average for day two, and I imagine the Bears will be looking to add a 3-technique after they missed out on Larry Ogunjobi, so that seems like a spot they’ll invest in on day two.

Lessons Learned

  • It’s a good year to need a WR on day two, so the Bears should look to grab one (or ideally two) there.
  • Offensive tackle seems to have roughly average depth throughout the draft, while the interior offensive line seems average through day two and strong for day three depth. They might do well to spend one pick on the OL on day two and another with one of their two fifth-round picks.
  • If the Bears want to add a defensive back, which seems likely, it appears the value will be best in round two.
  • If the Bears want to add a defensive tackle, which also seems likely, the value falls off after day two.

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