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NFL Draft, Rounds Two & Three, Open Thread

| April 29th, 2022

Pick # 39

Washington, CB, Kyler Gordon

From NFL.com: “Cornerback who comes with an elite, high-performance engine but a GPS still in the process of loading. Gordon’s dynamic athletic qualities will show up in testing, but more importantly, they are all over his tape. His blend of play strength and explosive burst affects the passing game from press, off-man and zone coverages. He plays with an alpha demeanor and hitting is definitely part of his overall package. Gordon lacks polish and needs to play with better route recognition and anticipation, but if those elements click, his ball production could be near the top of the league as one of the top playmakers in the game.”


Pick #48

Penn State, S, Jaquan Brisker

From NFL.com: “Athletic safety prospect whose versatility and toughness will endear him to coaches during the evaluation process. Brisker continued to pick up elements of the defensive scheme and his play has steadily transformed from hesitant in 2019 to downright instinctive in 2021. He has the versatility to become a moving chess piece in a variety of coverages and has the size and talent to match up with both “Y” and “F” tight ends. He played with a banged-up shoulder in 2021 so his 2020 tape is a clearer indicator of his run support acumen. Brisker is an ascending talent with the NFL traits to become a long-time starter as a Day 2 draft pick.”


Pick #71

Tennessee, WR, Velus Jones Jr. 

From NFL.com: “Special-teams specialist with good size. Despite spending six seasons in college between his time at USC and Tennessee, Jones has very modest production as a wideout, but flashed potential in that area in 2021. He’s fearless with the ball in his hands after the catch and as a kick returner. He’s not a very fundamentally sound route-runner but might not need to be if teams view him as a catch-and-run specialist in the quick game underneath. Jones has a chance to ride his special teams versatility into a specialist spot on a roster.”

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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.

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My Draft Crush: Memphis WR Calvin Austin III

| April 26th, 2022


It’s no secret that the Bears need a WR, but I would take it even further; they should enter the weekend with the goal of drafting two wideouts they think can contribute right away.

One of those has to be a bigger-bodied WR, which they are sorely missing right now, but my draft crush does not fit that bill.

In fact, Memphis WR Calvin Austin III comes in at the other end of the spectrum for WRs. He stands only 5’7″ and weighed in at the Combine at only 170 pounds. If you’re going to be that small, you need to be an athletic freak to make it at the NFL level, and Austin certainly fits the bill.



This is Austin’s Relative Athletic Score, or RAS, based on his Combine performance. RAS scales everything against historical players at your position from 0 (worst) to 10 (best). As I’ve already said, Austin is tiny, but he scores in the top 8% amongst WRs in literally every athletic testing metric (credit to Kent Lee Platte for RAS data), placing him in the top 6% overall in total athletic ability.

That athleticism certainly shows up when you watch Austin play. He’s both fast and quick, and his change of direction abilities are noticeable in tight spaces. This speed and acceleration lets Austin excel after the catch, as he had the 5th highest yards after the catch/catch mark of all WRs in the 2022 draft.

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Current Roster Construction Provides Obvious Off-Season Approach

| January 24th, 2022

The Bears have limited resources to improve their team this offseason, and a lot of attention is going to be focused on using those resources to fix the offense. On the surface, this makes quite a bit of sense; as you can see in the table below, which looks at a variety of all-encompassing stats for each side of the ball, the Bears had an average to below-average defense and one of the worst offenses in the NFL.

However, the Bears would be wise not to ignore the defense, either. For starters, that unit has several key contributors from 2021 who are scheduled to be free agents, including five players who spent the bulk of the season as starters (Akiem Hicks, Bilal Nichols, Alec Ogletree, Artie Burns, Tashaun Gipson). Those players will need to be re-signed or replaced, and none of them have obvious in-house replacements already on the roster.

But Chicago has to be careful not to overspend on defense, because the offense definitely needs investment as well. The table below shows the veteran players currently under contract for 2022 on both offense and defense with a cap hit of at least $3 million. The offense is shown on the left in blue, and the defense on the right in orange. As you can see, it’s quite lopsided (data from Over the Cap).

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Using Historical Trends to Guide Chicago’s Draft Approach

| April 28th, 2021


The 2021 NFL draft starts tomorrow, so I want to take a 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 a study I did last year, so here’s a quick recap of the approach:

I looked at every draft from 2010-20 to see how many players at each position were drafted in the top 50 (their 2nd round pick is #52), top 85 (their 3rd round pick is #83), and top 175 (their 5th round pick is #164). I didn’t bother looking at their 1st round pick because the top of the draft is more about a small pool of individual players as options, and the heavy focus in draft media on the 1st round means most fans are already pretty familiar with those names.

  • 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 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 identified as 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.


Round Two (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 2010, 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:

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Analyzing Pre-Draft Roster Needs and Resources

| April 12th, 2021

The NFL draft, which begins on April 29, is just a few weeks away, and free agency has quieted down significantly. That means we know roughly what the Bears’ roster will look like heading into the draft, which can be seen in their current presumed depth chart below.

With that depth chart in mind, let’s look at Chicago’s biggest needs as they prepare for the draft. I’m going to start with immediate needs, spots where the Bears need to find somebody who can step in and start on day 1.

  • Cornerback. Teams need 3-4 good CBs, and right now the Bears might have 0. Sure, Desmond Trufant was good in 2018, and Jaylon Johnson played well for a few games in his rookie year before falling off hard down the stretch, but there’s not a single CB on the roster you can confidently rely on. This is easily the biggest immediate hole on the team. The bad news is that a rookie is unlikely to help much in the here and now, as the adjustment to the NFL is a steep one. Still, Chicago should be looking to invest a premium pick in this premium position to make up for the loss of Kyle Fuller.
  • Offensive Tackle. Charles Leno is nothing special, but he’s an adequate left tackle, especially when the guard playing next to him is good (his play noticeably improved in 2020 after Cody Whitehair moved back to left guard). Germain Ifedi is ideally suited to be a swing tackle, just like current swing tackle Elijah Wilkinson. This is a group that looks like a weakness right now, but could easily be a strength if the Bears draft a tackle somewhere in the early rounds in what is supposed to be one of the best OT draft classes in years. Given that Leno, Ifedi, and Wilkinson are all free agents after 2021, double-dipping with a developmental prospect on day 3 wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

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