This is the second part of the series I started a couple weeks ago. You can find the first part here. The first part graded the Bears' draft classes between 2010 and 2013. As a reminder, the goal of this grading system is not to grade the quality of the players, but the basic level of contribution that they made to the team. This does not take into account factors such as Pro-Bowl appearances, DPOY/OPOY/DROY/OROY awards, player rankings, or anything of that sort. It also does not take into account outside factors such as the player being pressed into service because of other shortcomings on the team. It only takes into account the number of starters and contributors acquired. In other words, I'm grading how much the general manager improved the team through the draft in year 1, and how the coaches improved the team using those draft picks in future years.
Also, I did not include any of the players for whom we traded using draft picks.
As a refresher, here is the grading method I came up with, taking into account development over the course of the players' rookie contracts.
In the first year, I would expect a number of immediate contributors who will come into camp, beat out the competition, and make the team. Not all of the rookies will do this, but a number of them should be able to. So, the baseline numbers for year 1 are 1 starter for every first-round pick (NOT that the first-round pick has to come in and start right away, but if he doesn't then someone else you take should start right away), and an additional year-1 contributor for every 2 picks in rounds 2-7. Un-Drafted Free Agents count as a bonus: If they bring in someone who makes the team and contributes, then that counts toward the starter and contributor numbers, but they do not affect the baseline numbers, which are strictly based on the number of draft picks the team has at the beginning of the draft process.
Starters= number of first-round picks (entering the draft)
Contributors= 50% of subsequent picks (entering the draft) + number of first-round picks
In year two, I expect improvement across the board from the players. I was not sure how that improvement would be quantified, so I decided to just make the baseline the same as for year 1, with a minimum of 1 additional starter or 1 additional contributor (over the year 1 baseline, not over the year 1 numbers)
Starters= number of first-round picks (+ 1 (either/or))
Contributors= 50% of subsequent picks + number of first-round picks (+ 1 (either/or))
As with year two, there should be some improvement across the board from the players. By now there should be both more contributors and more starters who came out of that draft class.
Starters= number of first-round picks + 1
Contributors= 50% of subsequent picks + number of first-round picks + 1
This is (typically) the final year of the players' rookie contracts. At least half of the players should finish out that rookie contract (or still be with the team if a fifth-year option is exercised). In addition, there should be more players developing into starters.
Starters= number of first-round picks +2
Contributors= 50% of subsequent picks + number of first-round picks + 1
Supplement= 50% or more of total draft picks complete their rookie contract with the team
A-the actual result exceeds both baseline numbers (by 1 or 2) or significantly exceeds one baseline number (by 3 or more)
B-the actual result equals one baseline number and exceeds the other (by 1 or 2)
C- the actual result equals both the starter and contributor baseline numbers
D-the actual result equals one baseline number and is less than the other (by 1 or 2)
F- the actual result is less than both baseline numbers (by 1 or 2) or is significantly less than one baseline number (by 3 or more)
Note: I consider someone to be a starter if they start the first game of the season, or start at least half the games, or appear in most of the games (10-16) with a decent number of starts mixed in (4-7)
That's the criteria I used to grade the drafts; let's get to the actual draft classes.
2006 Bears Draft
In the 2006 Draft, the Bears entered with 6 total picks, one in each in the first, second, fourth, and fifth rounds, and 2 in the sixth. Consequently, the baseline for the first year is 1 starters, and 4 contributors (rounding up). However, the Bears traded out of the first round with Buffalo in exchange for second- and third-round picks.
- Round 2- Danieal Manning (S, Abilene Christian)
- Round 2- Devin Hester (CB, Miami)
- Round 3- Dusty Dvoracek (DT, Oklahoma)
- Round 4- Jamar Williams (LB, Arizona State)
- Round 5- Mark Anderson (DE, Alabama)
- Round 6- J.D. Runnels (FB, Oklahoma)
- Round 6- Tyler Reed (G, Penn State)
Danieal Manning appeared in all 16 games during his rookie season, with 14 starts. Hester began his illustrious career as the Bears' primary return man, and recorded 5 TDs as a rookie (2 kick, 3 punt). Williams and Anderson also contributed during their rookie year; Anderson in particular is notable for his Bears rookie record 12 sacks. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Dvoracek was injured during the preseason, Runnels spent most of the year on the bench and did not record any statistics, and Reed spent the year on the practice squad. As such, they exceeded the baseline number of starters (2, counting Hester as the "starting return man") and equaling the baseline number of contributors (4).
In 2007, Manning again appeared in all 16 games, with 15 starts, and Hester served at the primary return man and recorded 6 return TDs (2 kick, 4 punt). Dvoracek started and appeared in the first game of the season, but tore his ACL and missed the rest of the season. Williams appeared in all 16 games with 1 start. Anderson started 14 games, but only recorded 5 sacks in his second season. Runnel spent the entire season on Injured Reserve, and Reed spent the season on the Practice Squad. In this season, they provided 4 starters (including Hester as the "starting return man" and Dvoracek, since he started the first game of the season and got injured) and 5 contributors.
In his third year in the league, Manning was the Bears' starting nickelback and also the Bears' kick returner (starting midway through the season). Hester continued as a kick and punt returner, and also appeared in 15 games (8 starts) as a wide receiver. Dvoracek returned from his ACL tear, only to injure his elbow in December and end the season on Injured Reserve. Williams and Anderson both appeared in all 16 games. Runnels was waived during the summer. Reed spent the year on the practice squad again. In their third season, the 2006 draft class provided 3 starters and 5 contributors.
Manning appeared in 15 games (10 starts) in 2009. Hester appeared in 13 games (12 starts) as a receiver, and also served as the primary punt returner. Dvoracek yet again injured himself during the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. Williams appeared in 16 games (2 starts) in his last year as a Bear (he was traded to Carolina after the season). Anderson also appeared in 16 games (2 starts). Reed remained on Injured Reserve. As such, they provided 2 starters and 4 contributors.
I decided to add a fifth season for this draft class since most of these players had 5-year rookie contracts. The baseline numbers are the same as for the fourth season, but it doesn't really matter since only 3 players returned to the team from this draft class. Reed was waived in March. Dvoracek was never taken off the Injured Reserve, and actually played for the Omaha Nighthawks of the United Football League in 2010. As previously mentioned, Williams had been traded to the Panthers for the 2010 season, and was released by them after the season. For the players who did finish out their first contracts with the Bears, Manning and Hester started 16 and 13 games respectively, and Anderson appeared in 4 games (1 start) before being released and picked up by the Texans. Following the season, Manning left to join the Texans, and Hester was re-signed by the Bears. As such, there were 2 starters and 3 contributors, and only 2 (Hester and Manning) finished out their rookie contracts with the Bears).
Overall Grade for the 2006 Draft Class: C
2007 Bears Draft
The Bears entered the draft with the 31st overall pick, along with 1 pick each in the second, third, fourth, and fifth rounds, as well as 2 in the seventh round. As such, the baseline numbers for the first year for this class are 1 starter and 4 total contributors. Via a draft-day trade with the Chargers, the Bears acquired 2 additional picks in the 2007 draft (3rd and 5th rounds), along with their 2008 3rd-round pick.
- Round 1- Greg Olsen (TE, Miami)
- Round 2- Dan Bazuin (DE, Central Michigan)
- Round 3- Garrett Wolfe (RB, Northern Illinois)
- Round 3- Michael Okwo (LB, Stanford)
- Round 4- Josh Beekman (G, Boston)
- Round 5- Kevin Payne (SS, Louisiana-Monroe)
- Round 5- Corey Graham (CB, New Hampshire)
- Round 7- Trumaine McBride (CB, Ole Miss)
- Round 7- Aaron Brant (OT, Iowa State)
Olsen missed the first 2 games of the season recovering from a preseason knee injury, but still appeared in 14 games (4 starts). Bazuin was placed on Injured Reserve after the last preseason game with a knee injury, and was waived the following year when he needed a second operation on the same knee. Wolfe appeared in 13 games as a rookie. Okwo never appeared in a single game. Beekman appeared in 1 game as a rookie. Payne appeared in 3 games (1 start). Graham appeared in 13 games. McBride appeared in 16 games, with 9 starts in an injury-depleted secondary. Brant was waived during the preseason due to knee problems. As rookies, they provided 2 starters and 6 total contributors, exceeding both baseline numbers.
In his second year, Olsen appeared in all 16 games with 7 starts. Wolfe appeared in 13 games. Beekman started all 16 games as part of one of only 6 OLs with the same 5 starters for every game that year. Payne also started all 16 games at strong safety. Graham appeared in 16 games, with 9 starts at cornerback. McBride also appeared in 16 games (1 start). Consequently, they exceeded both baseline numbers (4 starters, 6 contributors).
As a third-year player, Olsen appeared in all 16 games again, starting 15. Wolfe appeared in 8 games, but ended the season on injured reserve. Beekman appeared in 11 games with 4 starts. Payne was missed 3 games due to injury, but still appeared in the other 13 (5 starts). Graham appeared in all 16 games with 1 start. McBride was injured in the season opener and spent the remainder of the season on injured reserve, and signed with the Cardinals after the season. Even though they recorded less of each, they still exceeded both baseline numbers (3 starters, 5 contributors).
Olsen again appeared in all 16 games (13 starts) in his last season as a Bear (as we all remember, he was traded to the Panthers after the season). Wolfe appeared in all 16 games as well. Beekman was released in September and subsequently signed with the Florida Tuskers of the UFL. Payne was traded to the Rams for a conditional 7th-round pick (which the Bears never got because he was injured in the preseason and never made their roster). Graham played in all 16 games. As such there was only 1 starter and 3 contributors. 3 players played through the first 4 years of their rookie contract with the Bears.
Overall Grade for the 2007 Draft Class: B
2008 Bears Draft
The Bears entered the draft with the 14th overall pick, along with 1 pick each in the second and fourth rounds, 2 picks each in the third and fifth rounds, and 5 picks in the seventh round (3 compensatory). The extra third round pick came from the 2007 trade with the Chargers and the extra fifth round pick was awarded to them by the league from the 49ers because they interfered with Lance Briggs. As such, the baseline numbers for the first year are 1 starter and 7 contributors.
- Round 1- Chris WIlliams (OT, Vanderbilt)
- Round 2- Matt Forte (RB, Tulane)
- Round 3- Earl Bennett (WR, Vanderbilt)
- Round 3- Marcus Harrison (DT, Arkansas)
- Round 4- Craig Steltz (S, LSU)
- Round 5- Zack Bowman (CB, Nebraska)
- Round 5- Kellen Davis (TE, Michigan State)
- Round 7- Ervin Baldwin (DE, Michigan State)
- Round 7- Chester Adams (G, Georgia)
- Round 7- Joey LaRocque (LB, Oregon State)
- Round 7- Kirk Barton (OT, Ohio State)
- Round 7- Marcus Monk (WR, Arkansas)
- UDFA- Caleb Hanie (QB, Colorado State)
Williams started the season injured, but still appeared in 9 games. Forte had been drafted to compete with Cedric Benson, but after Benson was released, Forte solidified the starting RB position, starting all 16 games in his rookie season. Bennett appeared in 10 games, but spent most of the season on the sidelines. Harrison appeared in all 16 games as a rotational DT. Steltz appeared in 11 games on special teams. Bowman started the season on the roster before getting moved to the practice squad and then re-signed to the roster for a game against the Vikings when all 3 top cornerbacks were ruled out for the game. He injured himself during the game and finished the season on injured reserve. Davis did not record a single statistic during his rookie year. Baldwin did not appear in any games. Adams spent the year on injured reserve and was cut. LaRocque began the year on the practice squad but was signed to the active roster after 2 games, and appeared in the following 14 games. Barton appeared in 1 game before being cut and signed by 3 other teams (49ers, Dolphins, Bengals) that year). Monk was waived after the preseason and claimed by the Giants. Hanie made the active roster in his rookie season, but did not see any playing time. Consequently, they met the baseline numbers for both starters (1) and contributors (7).
In 2009 Williams and Forte started all 16 games. Bennett, Harrison, Bowman, and Davis appeared in all 16 games (15 starts, 9 starts, 12 starts, and 2 starts, respectively). Steltz appeared in 12 games with 2 starts. Baldwin was cut and signed to the Colts practice squad in November. LaRocque was waived during training camp, did not play in the NFL that year, and subsequently played for the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL in 2010. Hanie appeared in 2 games in his second season and threw for 11 yards on 3 completions (7 attempts). Consequently they exceeded the baseline numbers of starters (5) and contributors (8).
Williams started the first 2 games as the starting left tackle, but missed three games nursing a hamstring injury before returning and starting the final 11 games at left guard. Forte again started all 16 games. Bennett appeared in 14 games (3 starts). Harrison appeared in 5 games. Steltz appeared in 9 games on special teams. Bowman was slotted to start the season as the starting left cornerback, but only appeared in 13 games (3 starts). Davis appeared in all 16 games (3 starts). Hanie again appeared in 2 games, this time throwing for 55 yards on 5 completions (7 attempts). Consequently, they met both baseline numbers (2 starters, 8 contributors).
Williams started the first 9 games of the season before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. Forte started 12 games before he also suffered a season ending injury, in his case to the MCL. Bennett appeared in 11 games (4 starts). Harrison was released and claimed off waivers by the Panthers, who placed him back on waivers, where he was claimed by the Patriots in October. They released him the next day. Steltz appeared in 16 games, and started 5 at safety following injuries to Major Wright and Chris Conte. Bowman appeared in 16 games (1 start). Davis appeared in all 16 games (15 starts) after the Greg Olsen trade. Hanie appeared in 6 games (4 starts) after Cutler's thumb injury.
Williams returned for his fifth year, but was released in October. Forte was placed under the franchise tag and signed a 4-year deal. Bennett received a 4-year extension at the end of the 2011 season. Steltz signed a 2-year contract with the Bears in 2012. After the 2011 season, Bowman signed with the Vikings. Davis also signed with the Bears, but was released after the 2012 season. Hanie signed with the Broncos.
This class exceeded the baseline number of starters (5), but failed to meet the baseline number of contributors (7). Additionally, 7 players completed their rookie deals (or in the case of Williams played into the 5th year of their rookie deal).
Overall Grade for the 2008 Draft Class: C
2009 Bears Draft
The Bears entered the draft without a first-round pick (that, along with their 2009 third-round pick, 2010 first-round pick, and Kyle Orton, essentially turned into 1/4 of Jay Cutler and the Broncos 2009 fifth-round pick). They were left with 8 draft picks: 1 each in the second, third, fourth, and sixth rounds, and 2 each in the fifth and seventh rounds. As such, the baseline numbers for year 1 are 0 starters and 4 contributors.
- Round 3- Jarron Gilbert (DT, San Jose State) (trade out of the 2nd round with Seattle)
- Round 3- Juaquin Iglesias (WR, Oklahoma)
- Round 4- Henry Melton (DE, Texas)
- Round 4- D.J. Moore (CB, Vanderbilt)
- Round 5- Johnny Knox (WR, Abilene Christian)
- Round 5- Marcus Freeman (LB, Ohio State)
- Round 6- Al Afalava (S, Oregon State)
- Round 7- Lance Louis (TE/OL, San Diego State)
- Round 7- Derek Kinder (WR, Pittsburgh)
Gilbert (aka "The Pool Jumper") appeared in 4 games in his only season as a Bear. Iglesias was active for 1 game and recorded 1 tackle. Melton and Louis did not appear in any games as rookies. Moore appeared in 3 games as a rookie. Knox appeared in 15 games and recorded 45 receptions for 527 yards. Freeman was waived by the Bears in September, signed to the Bills practice squad later in September, released by the Bills in October, and signed by the Texans in November. He retired from football in May, 2010, due to an enlarged heart. Afalava started 13 games as a rookie in his only season as a Bear. Kinder was released in August and never appeared in a regular season NFL game. However, this class exceeded both baseline numbers by 1 (1 starter, 5 contributors).
The "Pool Jumper Experience" ended with Gilbert waived during the preseason, and claimed by the Jets off waivers. Iglesias was placed on the practice squad, and signed from there by the Vikings before Week 17. Melton appeared in all 16 games his second year. Moore was the team's starting nickelback in 2010. Knox started all 16 games, recording 51 receptions and 960 yards (both career highs). Afalava was waived after the preseason and signed by the Colts in November. Louis appeared in all 16 games with 4 starts. Consequently, they exceeded the baseline number of starters (3) and met the baseline number of contributors (4).
This is the year when Melton finally came into his own and started 15 games. Moore appeared in 13 games (1 start) at nickelback. Knox appeared in 14 games (11 starts) before suffering his career-ending spinal injury against Seattle. Louis appeared in 14 games (13 starts). Consequently, they more than exceeded the baseline number of starters (4), but did not meet the baseline number of contributors (4).
Melton had a career year in the final year of his rookie contract, starting 14 games and recording career highs in tackles and forced fumbles, to go with 6 sacks. He was placed under the franchise tag after the season. Moore appeared in 13 games again (2 starts) as nickelback. After the season he signed with Panthers, but was released in October. Knox spent the year on the Physically Unable-to Perform list, was released on February 12, 2013, and announced his retirement the following day. Louis appeared in 11 games before tearing his ACL in Week 12 and being placed on Injured Reserve. Consequently, they exceeded the baseline number of starters (3) but did not meet the baseline number of contributors (3) or number of players completing their rookie contracts (3).
Overall Grade for the 2009 Draft Class: C
- The 2007 and 2008 Draft Classes seemed to fare the best under my grading criteria for different reasons. The 2007 Draft Class had Greg Olsen and a lot of no-names, but those no-names made a lot of contributions. The 2008 Draft Class had Matt Forte and Earl Bennett (both of whom are actually solid starters), Chris Williams and Kellen Davis (both of whom were pressed into starting/contributing), and Craig Steltz and Zack Bowman (both of whom are solid contributors).
- There were some really bad misses during these years: Dan Bazuin (did he ever actually do anything in the NFL?) and Jarron Gilbert stand out the best (worst?).
- They only actually got contributions from 3 of the 9 7th-round picks they made during these years: McBride, LaRocque (1 season), and Louis. Late-round picks are even more of a crap-shoot than the rest of the draft, but 7 total seasons of contributions from those 9 picks is a really bad track record, especially when Jerry Angelo supposedly made some great late-round picks. No draft epitomizes this more than the 2008 draft: the Bears had 5--5--seventh-round picks, and only 1 actually made any contribution (LaRocque), and none of them remained with the team at the beginning of the following season.
- As I mentioned at the beginning, this evaluation method does not take into account the quality of the contributions made by these players. In other words, Devin Hester's contribution is graded about the same as J'Marcus Webb's (up to their respective 4th years). At some point it would be interesting to go back and grade the players themselves and whether the contribution they made was based on their own talent or on lack of depth. But that's a project for another day.