To assess how Ryan Pace stacks up against his counterparts in the NFC North, Matthew Hendy analyzed all of the draft classes from 2015 – 2018 and compared them to the those of the Packers, Vikings and Lions. The results reflect pretty favorably on the Bears General Manager.
Build through the draft
All fans of professional sports clamor for big name Free Agent signings. Bears fans were ecstatic to land Khalil Mack, Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Trey Burton in the off season. NFL experts though will tell you that building a team through the draft is the only genuine, sustainable way of moulding a successful franchise.
As the Bears fortunes ebb and flow week to week, you hear many conflicting views on Ryan Pace’s ability to spot and draft talent. There is consensus about the value of players like Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, and Eddie Goldman. There are mixed views about Leonard Floyd, Jonathan Bullard and even Mitchell Trubisky. Then fans will point to Hroniss Grasu and especially Kevin White as examples of major draft disappointments
The grass is greener?
Fans tend to look inwardly at problems. it’s easy to believe that “the grass is greener” elsewhere and other teams are out-drafting your own. How many times have you heard comments like:
“the Packers always find weapons in the draft”, or
“the Vikings young core is the foundation of their success” etc. etc.
But is that actually true? To try and unlock the true story, we had a look at the drafts of all of the teams in the NFC North over the period since Pace took over as General Manager. Coincidentally, Pace’s first picks are now in the last years of their rookie contracts so, you could say, he has had one full cycle to “build through the draft”.
Since 2015, the Bears have had the fewest picks in the division as the below chart shows. In fact, they had 30% fewer picks the Minnesota Vikings:
Highest % of retained picks
However, in terms of the number of picks made since 2015 that are still on the current 53-man roster, the Bears far outstrip their rivals. Nearly 85% of all Bears picks remain whereas only 50% of the Packers picks are still on their roster. Next time you hear someone saying that Pace’s first draft class didn’t pan out so well, remind them that none (that’s zero) of the Packers eight draft picks from that season are currently on their 53:
Contribution of retained players
What’s the use of players hanging around if they’re not contributing? Despite drafting fewer players than every other team, the Bears have the highest number of snaps being contributed by drafted players since 2015 at a shade over 603 per game. The packers are getting 25% less of a return from their draft investments and remember, this is just from the guys that are still with the team. The Bears have had more success, more often:
Maybe the Bears were so weak on one side of the ball, that they drafted to plug holes? In terms of contribution of draft picks on Offense and Defense, the Bears also have the best balance in the Division. As you’ll see from the below, the Packers are getting a minuscule return from their drafted players on Offense whereas the other teams have fairly even returns from their draft capital expenditure.
Conclusion: Pace is winning
None of this analysis speaks to the quality of the players that were drafted or the quality of the snaps that were contributed. However, whichever way you look at it, the Bears are drafting players that they retain, and those players have had a very active role in propelling the Bears to the top of the Division. Whatever holes you try and pick in Pace’s individual selections, the general trend is one of building quality through the draft. Couple that with his aggression in acquiring veterans who can immediately improve the team and the Bears have the foundations of a very successful franchise for years to come.
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