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Stumbling Through Some Numbers; A Look at Recent Chicago Bears Drafts.

This all started by some stories in the media regarding Green Bay’s ability to make great late round selections.  The some more articles regarding the Bears lack of success in the draft.  So I started looking and writing down some numbers.  When I was done I had a bunch of numbers that told a story. Sort of.  But I had devoted hours and hours looking at the numbers and I thought that kind of time deserves some sort of post.   

So let me give you the quick overview of what I did.  I looked at the first 5 draft picks taken by each team in the 2006-2008 NFL drafts.  I looked at one factor only.  Were the players still on an NFL roster?  I wanted to see how the Bears compared to other NFL teams when it came to drafting players that were retained by NFL teams over the duration. Want the results?  Make the jump.

So let me give you some qualifiers.  I used for all of my numbers.  I am not a statistician.  I even had trouble spelling that. These numbers are just that, numbers.  I am quite confident that many of you out there could do a better job with numbers than I.  As I stated, this started out for fun and became more or less a mission.  But I did decide on a few parameters.  

First I only looked at the 2006, 2007, and 2008 drafts.  I chose those drafts because I figured it took players at least two full seasons to begin to establish themselves and for those drafted in 2008, some would not make it out of training camp 2010 regardless of draft status.  Second I went back to 2006 because most rookie contracts are of the 4 year nature and most players worth their salt get offered a contract before their 4th year begins.  So if you are in your 5th year on a team, chances are you got extended by your team.  Why not go back farther?  I just didn’t have the time.  To be honest, my wife may have killed me.


Next parameter, I only looked at the first five players drafted by each team.  This is because, in my mind, most players taken in the first 4 rounds are taken with the expectation that they may develop into starters or become quality depth.  The 5th round gets shaky and rounds 6 and 7?  This also brings me to my outliers.  Any team with more than 3 picks in the first two rounds, or with 3 in the first round were eliminated from the statistics for that season.  Likewise, any team with no first or second round picks in a season were also considered outliers and were eliminated for that season.  Overall teams needed 4 picks in the 1st-5th rounds minimum. I wanted, as best I could, to only look at teams with an "average" draft during each of the above seasons.  


Lastly, I only counted players who were on an NFL roster.  Players who had been released from their team and then picked up off waivers did not count towards a team in terms of a successful draft pick.  They did nothing to contribute to the team that drafted them.  If they were traded for another player or draft pick and were still on that new teams roster then they counted as contributing toward the team that drafted them.  Take Kyle Orton and our own Jay Cutler.  Both would be draft successes for their original teams even though they are on other teams.  I wanted to gauge a teams "success" at drafting by looking at how the players they drafted contributed to that team.  If a team traded a player and got another "roster body" in that exchange then that player was a "success" for his team.  I know there are flaws in this but I was trying to keep it simple for my simple mind.  This also took a great deal of time tracking down every player selected, yet not on his drafted team’s current roster.  I may have missed a few.  I did my best.  


So what did I find?  Here are the raw numbers;


Overall players drafted during that time period that retained spots on NFL rosters;  61.6% with a mode of 10 out of 15 or 66.6%


Bears retention during that same time period;  66.6% (10 of 15)


Players drafted in 2008 league retention;  76% with a solid mode of 5 of 5 for 100%


Bears retention from the 2008 draft;  100% (5 of 5)  C. Williams, M Forte, E Bennett, M Harrison, C Steltz


Players drafted in 2007 league retention;  56.4% with a  mode of 3 of 5 for 60%


Bears retention from the 2007 draft;  40% (2 of 5) G Olsen, G Wolfe


Players drafted in 2006 league retention;  55% with a weak mode of 3 of 5 (2 of 5 was next)  for 60%


Bears retention from the 2006 draft;  60% (3 of 5)  D Manning, D Hester, J Willliams (traded to Carolina for C Harris)


Teams with the lowest retention during the 3 years (without any outlier seasons);  Detroit and St Louis  46.6% (7 of 15)


Teams with the highest retention for the same duration (Again without any outlier seasons);  Arizona, Carolina, Cincinati, New York (Giants)  73.3%  (11 of 15)


So what does it mean?   It means that it is called average for a reason.  It means that on each team, I was looking at a small pool of numbers with a large  margin for mobility.  I mean 1 player kept or cut makes a large jump in the percentages which is why I listed the modes.  Most teams experience very similar retention of drafted players.  So it could indicate that the Bears are very near or slightly above the average for retaining the player they drafted during this three year period.  I realize there is waaay more to read in to a draft than this.  I realize that retention does not equate success.  Nor do players retained always contribute on the field.  That would take a much deeper ananysis of many more factors.  


However, as I looked into the NFL draft the one thing I took away was this;  The draft is as predictable as a game of yahtzee.  Sure there’s some skill but also a lot of luck.  I was amazed at how many first round picks never pan out.  I was also stunned by the number of "successful" teams who only get a few (sometimes only one) starter out of each draft class.  Conversely teams that retain a high number of draft picks don’t consistently have a record that reflects success.  It seemed to indicate that the draft can definitely help a team build, but it is by no means a be all/ end all to the teams involved.  I know that there are many who could do a much better job analyzing the numbers I looked at.   But I thought maybe this would generate a little discussion.  Maybe someone will take this to the "next level" of analysis and come up with something much better.  Your thoughts?