While I was mowing the lawn today, I started thinking about drafts in recent years and how I would grade them out. So, this method of grading is more or less the result of an hour or so of mowing.
As an additional note, 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 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 take the supplemental draft selection into account, but I did not include any of the players for whom we traded using draft picks.
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.
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
2010 Bears Draft
In the 2010 draft, the Bears entered without picks in the first and second rounds, and with 1 pick in each subsequent round. Consequently, the baseline for the first year is 0 starters, and 3 contributors (rounding up)
- Round 3- Major Wright (FS, Florida)
- Round 4- Corey Wootton (DE, Northwestern)
- Round 5- Joshua Moore (CB, Kansas State)
- Round 6- Dan LeFevour (QB, Central Michigan)
- Round 7- J'Marcus Webb (OT, West Texas A&M)
- UDFA- Barry Turner (DE, Nebraska)
Of these six players, Webb started 12 games as a rookie; four other players (Wright, Wootton, Moore, and Turner) gave some contributions. LeFevour was waived after the 2010 preseason and claimed by the Bengals. Turner was waived on December 7 after appearing in 2 games. Based on this, they exceeded both baseline numbers by 1.
Of the four remaining players, Webb again started (this time starting all 16 games), joined by Wright (11 starts), who would start for the remainder of his rookie deal. The only other player to make any contributions was Wootton. Moore did not make the team in 2011. Based on this, they again exceeded the starter and met the contributor baseline numbers (2 starters, 3 contributors).
Only three players remained with the team into their third year in the league, Webb, Wright, and Wootton. Again, Webb started all 16 games, Wright started all 16 games, and Wootton played in all 16 (7 starts). Based on this, they met the baseline number of starters (2 starters), but failed to show improvement in the number of contributors (3 contributors).
We all know that only two of the above-mentioned players completed their rookie deals (Wright and Wootton). Both Wright and Wootton started 15 games last season. However, Webb was cut before the season started and landed with the Vikings. Based on this, they did not meet any of the baseline numbers (2 starters, 2 contributors, 2 completing their deals).
Overall Grade for the 2010 Draft Class: D
2011 Bears Draft
In the 2011 draft, the Bears entered the draft with one pick in each round except the seventh, having used their seventh-round pick on Harvey Unga (RB, BYU). Consequently, the baseline for the first year is 1 starter and 4 contributors.
- Round 1- Gabe Carimi (OT, Wisconsin)
- Round 2- Stephen Paea (DT, Oregon State) (traded up using Fourth-Round-pick)
- Round 3- Chris Conte (FS, California)
- Round 5- Nathan Enderle (QB, Idaho)
- Round 6- J.T. Thomas (LB, West Virginia)
- Round 7- Harvey Unga (RB, BYU) (2010 Supplemental Draft)
- UDFA- Dane Sanzenbacher (WR, Ohio State)
- UDFA- Winston Venable (LB, Boise State)
- UDFA- Anthony Walters (FS, Delaware)
Of these nine rookies, only two came in and started during their rookie season, Carimi (2 starts before injuring himself and missing the rest of the season) and Conte (14 games, 9 starts). Four others, Paea, Sanzenbacher, Venable, and Walters, provided contributions during their rookie season. Enderle and Unga spent the entire year as reserves. Thomas was on the Injured Reserve for the entire year. Based on these numbers, they exceeded the baseline starter and contributor numbers (2 starters, 6 contributors), though the "starter" label is somewhat questionable for Carimi since he only started 2 games before missing the rest of the season.
Of the nine players, three became starters in their second year: Carimi (14 starts), Paea (14 starts), and Conte (15 starts). Three more provided contributions in 2012: Thomas, Sanzenbacher, and Walters. The Bears waived Enderle before the preseason when Tice became the offensive coordinator. They also waived Venable after the 2012 Draft when they selected Brandon Hardin. Unga continued to somehow hang on with the Bears, though he was waived twice during 2012, both times finding his way back to the Bears. 2012 was the only year he found his way onto the active roster. Based on these numbers, they exceeded the baseline numbers for both categories (3 starters, 6 contributors).
Of the seven players still with the team, only 2 continued to start: Paea (13 games, 10 starts) and Conte (16 starts). The only other contributor from the 2011 rookie class was Walters, who appeared in 13 games. Carimi was traded to the Buccaneers in June for a sixth-round pick. Thomas was cut at the end of the preseason. Sanzenbacher was waived at the end of 2012. Unga again inexplicably appeared on the Bears practice squad, though we has released in October. Based on this, they met the baseline number of starters (2), but did not meet the number of contributors (3).
Overall Grade for the 2011 Draft Class: C
2012 Bears Draft
2012 was Phil Emery's first year after taking over from Jerry Angelo as GM, and Lovie Smith's final season in Chicago. In the 2012 draft, the Bears entered the draft with 1 pick in each round. Consequently, the baseline for the first year is 1 starter and 4 contributors.
- Round 1- Shea McClellin (DE, Boise State)
- Round 2- Alshon Jeffery (WR, South Carolina) (traded up using fifth-round-pick)
- Round 3- Brandon Hardin (S, Oregon State)
- Round 4- Evan Rodriguez (FB/TE, Temple)
- Round 6- Isaiah Frey (CB, Nevada)
- Round 7- Greg McCoy (CB/KR, TCU)
- UDFA- James Brown (OT, Troy)
Of the seven rookies, two started during their rookie season: Jeffery (10 games, 6 starts) and Rodriguez (12 games, 5 starts). In addition, two more made contributions during their rookie season: McClellin (14 games) and Brown (5 games, 3 starts). Hardin was injured during the preseason and spent the entire year on Injured Reserve. Frey spent the entire year on the practice squad. McCoy was waived after the preseason and signed by the Cardinals in 2012 and then the Vikings in 2013. Based on this, they exceeded the baseline number of starters (2) and met the number of contributors (4).
Of the six remaining players, three started last season: McClellin (14 games, 10 starts), Jeffery (16 games, 14 starts), and Frey (16 games, 6 starts). Brown remained with the team as a backup OG, but did not play at all. Hardin was injured again during the preseason and released during the final cuts. Rodriguez was released last June after he was arrested. Based on this, they exceeded the baseline number of starters (3) and met the number of contributors (4)
Overall Grade for the 2012 Draft Class: B
2013 Bears Draft
Last year was Phil Emery's second year as general manager and Marc Trestman's first year as head coach. The Bears entered the draft with picks in every round except the third (Brandon Marshall trade) and seventh (Brian Price trade). Consequently, the baseline for the first year is 1 starter and 3 contributors.
- Round 1- Kyle Long (OT, Oregon)
- Round 2- Jon Bostic (LB, Florida)
- Round 4- Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
- Round 5- Jordan Mills (OT, Louisiana Tech) (traded down to acquire a seventh-round pick)
- Round 6- Cornelius Washington (DE, Georgia)
- Round 7- Marquess Wilson (WR, Washington State)
- UDFA- Michael Ford (RB, Louisiana State)
- UDFA- Zach Minter (DT, Montana State)
- UDFA- C.J. Wilson (CB, N.C. State)
The Bears received contributions from all of their rookies last year. The two rookie Offensive Linemen (Long and Mills) started all 16 games. Bostic appeared in all 16 games, with 9 starts after D.J. Williams was injured. The remaining six rookies provided varying degrees of contributions: Greene (15 games, 4 starts), Washington (2 games), M. Wilson (10 games, 1 start), Ford (12 games, no stats), Minter and C. Wilson (2 games each). Based on this, they more-than-exceeded the baseline numbers for starters (3) and contributors (9).
- The first thing I noticed from this study was that both of the Angelo drafts started off well: in 2010 five rookies gave contributions, one as a starter; in 2011 six rookies contributed in some way, two as starters. However, by the third year both draft classes received D grades, with the 2010 class receiving an F in its final year. I don't know how much of this can be attributed to the new coaching staff and new general manager cleaning house, and how much of it can be attributed to a lack of development on the part of the players themselves. I suspect that both factors contributed to varying degrees.
- Of the two players from the 2010 draft class who played their entire rookie contract with the Bears, neither was re-signed. Wright was really exposed last year, and Wootton played himself out of the Bears' salary cap range, but it's still too bad that there's no one left on the team from the 2010 draft class. At least we can say that both of them played well enough to receive contracts for next year...
- Projecting forward, I expect the 2011 draft class to receive another D in its final year, with Paea and Conte both starting again and Walters contributing on special teams. However, this is assuming that they aren't all beaten out by rookies from the 2014 draft class. Even if they are, Paea will likely stick as a rotational DT, and either Conte or Walters will also stick for depth/special teams. Regardless, it is disappointing that almost an entire draft class failed to stick long-term.
- The 2012 draft class has a chance to start making up for the previous two draft classes, especially if Frey and Brown stick as depth. That's something that the Angelo drafts couldn't really say. It's disappointing that the third- and fourth-round picks aren't with the team anymore, but if the sixth-round pick and UDFA step up and take their place, I will be happy with how it turned out, and I think it will go along way toward restoring people's confidence in Emery. He already got a Pro-Bowler out of that class; if he can get a couple more solid long-term contributors/starters out of it, that will be more than Angelo could say for several years.
- Playing the projection game again, optimistically all four players from the 2012 draft class will remain on the team next year, with at least one continuing to start (Jeffery). I see Frey staying for depth at CB, and starting at NB if/when Charles Tillman gets hurt and Kyle Fuller moves outside. Brown may or may not stick as a backup guard depending on who they bring in to compete for those backup OL positions. I think McClellin has the inside track to win the SLB competition and start out on the strong-side, with Bostic getting the year of sitting on the sidelines that he didn't get last year.
- With the 2013 draft class, I was surprised to see that all of our draft picks contributed, along with 3 of our UDFAs. I wonder how many other draft classes can say that...
- Projecting the 2013 class forward to next year, I would be surprised if there aren't at least three starters again. I see Long and Mills manning the right side of the OL again, and I think M. Wilson has the inside track on the third WR position (which is a starting position like NB). Like I said above, I don't think Bostic will win the SLB competition, but I do think he will be the first man up in the event of an injury to either D.J. Williams or Shea McClellin. And, optimistically, he will be able to at least compete for the starting MLB position next year. I also see Greene sitting this year to learn behind Briggs and potentially take over from him in a year or two (and sub in for him this year if/when Briggs needs rest). I think Washington will take that next step and see more time on the field in sub packages. Ford will probably be the backup RB going into the season barring drafting a RB today), and Minter and C. Wilson may make the team for special teams. I doubt they will all still be on the roster at the beginning of the 2015 season (especially Ford, Minter, and C. Wilson), but if they do all continue to take that next step, they may turn out to be one of our best draft classes in a number of years.
- Looking at both of Phil Emery's drafts, I'm amazed by the difference between them and the Angelo drafts. Part of the reason they look so good is because we only have 1 year and 2 years of data on them so far, but to me they still appear better than the Angelo drafts. We'll know more after this year when we see whether the 2012 class will drop off to the same degree as the 2010 and 2011 classes did in their third years.
- I'd love to go back and evaluate the previous years' draft classes at some point to see how these criteria work on other draft classes which have gone through their entire rookie contracts (4 years).
So, what do you think? How do these four draft classes compare to each other? Do you like this evaluation method, or do you think there's something else that I should take into account? Are my expectations too high or too low?