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Why Do Day Three Draft Picks Hit (or Miss)? A Deep Dive…

| May 6th, 2020


Former NFL executive Joe Banner did an interview a few years ago where he referenced a study by an NFL team that found most day 3 picks who turn into successful NFL players are guys who slip through the cracks either because they were from small schools, had an injury in their last year of college, or were undersized for their position.

This made me curious, and since it was a private study without information published, I decided to do it myself.


The Setup

I used the Pro Football Reference database to grab information about every day 3 draft pick from 2007-16. I stopped at 2016 because I wanted players who had finished their 4 year rookie contracts, and started at 2007 to give me 10 seasons’ worth of data. This gave a sample size of 1509 picks.

I then identified players who were a hit based on 2 criteria:

  1. They were a primary starter on offense or defense for at least 2 seasons (as defined by Pro Football Reference).
  2. They had a career AV (a Pro Football Reference metric that attempts to quantify overall impact of each player) of at least 15. I chose this value as the cutoff because Nick Kwiatkoski finished his four years in Chicago with an AV of 15, and that feels about right for the cutoff for a hit.

Any player that hit at least one of these thresholds was considered a hit, while all others were not. I also found that the majority of players who hit this threshold also hit the 1st one, though there of course some outliers.


Results

Let’s take a look at some different factors and see how they influenced hit rates on day 3 of the draft.

Small School

We’ll start with players from a small school, which I defined as anything but the “power 5” conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac 12, SEC). The table below shows hit rates for Power 5 picks vs. small school picks for each round of the draft’s 3rd day.

A few thoughts:

  • Generally, the small schools hit at a slightly higher rate than Power 5 schools, a difference that is more pronounced later in the draft.
  • Given this, it seems weird that teams spend far more day 3 draft picks on Power 5 players than they do small school guys. Between 63%-74% of picks in each round were spent on players from Power 5 schools. Of course, fewer small school players getting drafted probably helps explain why they have a higher hit rate. If you take more small school guys just because, they probably won’t be able to sustain that higher odds of success.
  • Notice rounds 4-5 are fairly similar, but very different than rounds 6-7. In order to have larger sample sizes, I will split day 3 into those 2 groups going forward.
  • With that in mind, general rules of thumb to keep in mind are that roughly 1/3 of picks in rounds 4-5 pan out, compared to roughly 15% (1 in about 6.5) of picks in rounds 6-7. As we look at other factors, we’ll look for anything that changes appreciably from those numbers.

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2020 Defense Can Be Better Than 2018.

| May 5th, 2020


Considering how good the defense was in 2018, believing the 2020 vintage will be better might seem like crazy talk. But the Bears have more talent (and more depth) on the unit than they did two seasons ago.

The biggest difference comes at edge where Robert Quinn has made a career out of sacking quarterbacks. Leonard Floyd made a career out of everyone wondering when he was going to start sacking quarterbacks. Floyd has his strengths and there’s a reason he ended up signing a decent contract elsewhere, but too often teams were able to get away with leaving subpar tackles on an island with a top-ten pick. The addition of Quinn makes the Bears starting third down defense basically unblockable, and he also should make it easier for Akiem Hicks to take snaps off because they’ll still be able to generate pass rush without him.

While seen as a letdown nationally, what the 2019 Bears team accomplished defensively was actually impressive, considering Hicks missed most of the season. They still finished in the top 10 in DVOA and yards allowed and top five in points allowed — just about one point per game more than they allowed in 2018. When you add in the complete failure of the offense to give them any help, the drop was not that far.

May signings are hardly ever big splashes, but the Bears ability to add Tashaun Gipson to the secondary could go down as one of the most important moves of the offseason. The Bears viewed Deon Bush and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix as similar players last year, to the point where Bush was stealing snaps from Clinton-Dix. But Gipson is a step up and a pretty sizable one at that.

While there are some injury concerns with Gipson, there’s no doubting his ability in coverage. The eight-year pro has 23 interceptions and 47 passes breakups. In Houston last year, he allowed an opponent passer rating of 55. That isn’t just better than what Bush and Clinton-Dix allowed in 2019, it’s significantly better than the 73 Adrian Amos allowed in 2018. Gipson was able to do this despite not having anywhere near the kind of supporting cast he’ll have in 2020.

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Data Draft Thoughts: On Small Schools, Selecting Needs & Not Mortgaging Future Picks (Finally)

| April 29th, 2020

Here are some random musings about the Bears’ approach to the draft last weekend.


Mortgage Paid

This draft marked the first time since 2016 that Ryan Pace didn’t trade away a future day 1 or 2 pick.

Because of these frequent trades – and the  Khalil Mack deal – the Bears have had only two 1st round picks and 5 day 2 picks (out of 8 expected) over the last 4 drafts. That kind of continued deficit catches up to you eventually, and Pace has continually borrowed from the future to make up for it.

This year, Pace finally resisted the temptation to trade a high future pick for instant gratification. This is a good thing, because you always pay a steep interest rate on those kind of moves. The typical rule of thumb is that a pick 1 year away is worth a current pick 1 round lower, which we saw in action last weekend when Pace traded a 2021 4th round pick for a 2020 5th rounder and used it to select edge rusher Trevis Gipson. At least he only traded a future day 3 pick, which while less than ideal is still better than trading away a pick from the first 2 days of the draft. Next year the Bears will have close to their full complement of picks with which to work.


Positional Focus

Prior to the draft, I identified wide receiver, offensive line, cornerback, safety, and edge rusher as the Bears’ greatest 2020 needs, with tight end as a looming roster hole for 2021 and beyond. Given that every pick this weekend was spent on these positions, and all of them besides safety were addressed, it seems they mostly agreed with me.

I also did pre-draft work looking at where value was likely to be found in the draft, and concluded:

  • The best value at defensive back is early.
  • Tight end and interior offensive line have better value late.
  • Wide receiver has value throughout the draft.
  • Edge rusher is unlikely to provide value anywhere in the draft.

Well, Pace’s approach in regards to this wisdom was mixed. They did take a defensive back early, but also late. They took a wide receiver and waited on interior offensive line, but grabbed a tight end early and took an edge rusher. Let’s compare where their selections were drafted with where they ranked on the Athletic’s consensus big board. Note Hambright and Simmons did not appear on the 300 player big board.

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While the League Zigs, the Bears Will Zag in 2020

| April 28th, 2020

“When They Zig, You Zag”

-Siimon Reynolds


The Zag.

As the rest of the National Football League tries to get faster, the betway平台 added a 260-pound tight end with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Then they raved about his potential as a blocker.

The Bears are doing something very different in 2020.

According to Sharp Football, the Bears ran ’12’ personnel – one RB, two TEs and WRs – on just 13 percent of their snaps in 2019 and 17 percent in 2018. The drafting of Cole Kmet with the 43rd pick was a clear indication that the Bears are going to use the second tight end more. Way more.

After making the pick, GM Ryan Pace raved about Kmet’s all-around ability. He spoke about his size, hands and ability to “post up” and get position. But where Pace really got excited was talking about run blocking. “He’s got the frame and the size, the temperament and the demeanor where we think he’s going to get a lot better as a blocker,” Pace said.

In many ways, the drafting of Kmet was a commitment to a different style of offense, one that will surely feature running back David Montgomery more.

Playing Big.

The Bears didn’t play big in 2019 because they couldn’t succeed that way.

They didn’t have a single, good tight end.

The team passer rating in ’12’ personnel was below 70 and they averaged fewer than four yards per carry. The hope is that Kmet’s ability as a blocker and a receiver makes ’12’ personnel package dangerous.

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Where is the Positional Value for the betway平台 in the 2020 Draft? (Part Two)

| April 21st, 2020

Yesterday I looked at top 50 prospects and found there is likely to be excellent value at WR, with solid value expected at DB, OT, and QB. Today, I want to look at the top 175 prospects to roughly fall in line with the Bears’ 3rd pick, which is 163.

The table below shows how many players were drafted in the top 175 picks at each main Bears position of need in the 2010-19 drafts. Because every draft is different, I provided a range from the least to most players at that position drafted in the top 175 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 175 right now according to a composite big board.



 

Look at the ranges compared to how many players are currently ranked in the top 175 to get an idea of what positions are strong or weak in terms of depth for this year’s draft. For instance, 28 WRs are ranked in the top 175 prospects this year, while an average of 21.4 go in that range, and never more than 25 in the last 10 years. That suggests there is likely value to be found at WR in round 5 (though we never know exactly how a draft will unfold). A few other thoughts:

  • Offensive tackle likewise sees a higher number of prospects ranked than have been drafted in the last 10 years. This position was strong in the top 50 as well, suggesting quality options can be found throughout the draft.
  • Interior offensive line and tight end both presented poorly in the top 50 but are above average in the top 175, suggesting the depth is better than the top end talent and the Bears might do well looking to address these spots on day 3.
  • On the flip side, quarterback and defensive back are both below average in the top 175 but above average in the top 50. This suggests the Bears likely want to focus their attention on those spots with high picks if they’re going to be selected.

Let’s go through position-by-position at the likely value spots for the Bears’ 5th round pick and see what players are likely to be options.

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Where is the Positional Value for the betway平台 in the 2020 Draft? (Part One)

| April 20th, 2020

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.


The Setup

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.


2nd Round

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.

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ATM: Draft Moves Bears Should Make (But Won’t)

| April 15th, 2020

When it comes to predicting what will happen in the NFL draft, nobody should ever speak (or write) in certainties. Crazy stuff happens. That said, there are a few moves the Bears should definitely consider, but very likely will not.

The reasoning varies from move-to-move, but one thing we have learned in free agency is that the Bears fully intend on winning a lot of games in 2020-21. Publicly, they’ll say their intent is to win a Super Bowl – and there surely is some truth to that – but the reality is Ryan Pace needs to put a winner on the field to keep his job.

The draft is typically used for future needs and Pace has often talked about taking the best player available – even if his practice in doing so is a little hit and miss.

With two second round picks, the Bears are in a position to do some interesting things, it just seems unlikely that they’ll pull the trigger.


Draft Akiem Hicks’ eventual replacement

Why they should: We saw last year how much the Bears struggled in all areas up front once Hicks was injured and, unfortunately, there is no guarantee that Hicks is going to be the player we’re used to seeing.

Forget about the elbow injury that cost Hicks most of the 2019 season. Before that ever happened he missed a game because of a knee ailment. He didn’t suffer a specific injury to his knee, and Matt Nagy described it as wear and tear. It doesn’t take a doctor to tell you that a soon-to-be 31-year-old who is having to miss time due to wear and tear is concerning.

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Looking at RB Fits in the 2020 NFL Draft

| April 14th, 2020


Running back isn’t one of Chicago’s biggest needs heading into the draft, but they do need to add speed and diversify how they use their backs, so they might look for a player who can combine some of Tarik Cohen’s big-play ability with David Montgomery’s steady presence as a lead rusher.

With that in mind, let’s look at what running backs in the draft could be fits for this offense. Last year I identified four physical characteristics that running backs who thrive in this offense generally share:

  • Short. This is measured through height, which usually comes in at or below the average RB at the Combine (5’10”).
  • Well built. This is measured through weight, which usually comes in at or above the average RB at the Combine (214 pounds).
  • Good acceleration. This is measured through the first 10 yards of the 40 yard dash, which should come in above average (1.59 seconds or better).
  • Explosive. This is usually measured through the vertical and broad jumps, which typically measure out better than the overall RB average of 35″ and 118″, respectively.

Every running back Andy Reid brought in to Kansas City for this offense hit at least 4 of those 5 thresholds (explosiveness has 2). David Montgomery, Chicago’s 3rd round pick last year, hit 3 of 5. So this is clearly a physical profile that the coaches are looking for.

As always, these test results are not a way to say how good or bad a running back will be, but simply if they match the physical characteristics of previous players who have excelled in this offense.


4-5 Thresholds Hit

As was the case with WR (but not TE), this is a physically gifted draft class for running backs. 16 of the 28 who did at least 4 of the 5 tests hit 4 or more of the physical thresholds. They can be seen below, with missed thresholds in red.

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ATM: Trubisky’s Development Still Important

| April 8th, 2020

We’ve all seen the flashes from Trubisky.

The arm strength, the mobility.

But there is a mental block preventing him from becoming the quarterback Ryan Pace thought he drafted. At this point, it certainly seems like that mental block will keep Mitch from being the guy who ends the franchise’s historical quarterback drought. But crazier things have happened, haven’t they?

Because while the trade for Nick Foles means the Super Bowl window should be open for the 2020 betway平台 , the club’s best chance at keeping it open longer is still dependent on Trubisky’s development, barring the team selecting a new “quarterback of the future” in the second round of the upcoming draft.

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Looking at WR Fits in the 2020 NFL Draft

| April 7th, 2020

Last week I identified wide receiver as Chicago’s biggest roster need heading into the draft, so today I want to look at wide receivers in the draft and see which ones might be a fit for this offense. I’ve done previous work looking at wide receivers Andy Reid brought in to Kansas City, where he trained Matt Nagy. When examining their Combine performance, all typically excelled at three drills:

  • 40 yard dash: 4.51 seconds or better
  • Vertical jump: 35.5 inches or higher
  • Broad jump: 10 feet or longer

Receivers who were targeted for that offense usually hit at least 2 of those 3 thresholds, with many of them hitting all 3. And this seems to hold true in Chicago, at least in terms of the wide receivers in which the Bears have invested most. Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel all hit at least 2 of 3 thresholds. 2019 4th round pick Riley Ridley only hit 1/3, and 2018 7th round pick Javon Wims 0/3. (A day 3 pick is less of an investment.). Given that the Bears are likely considering WR in round 2 again this year, I think it’s worth looking at what players who might be good physical fits for this offense.

As always, these test results are not a way to say how good or bad a wide receiver will be, but simply if they match the physical characteristics of previous players who have excelled in this offense.


2+ Thresholds Hit

Unlike at tight end, this is a very athletic wide receiver class; 31 of the 45 WRs who did at least 2 of these 3 tests at the Combine hit at least 2 of the three thresholds. Their results are shown in the table below (missed thresholds are shown in red).

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