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Emery’s Best Year: 2013 Final Grades

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NFL: Chicago Bears at San Diego Chargers
Emery’s single best decision?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

This will be the last in this historical series for a little while. After this, I will be rotating back to Pace’s performance in other aspects of roster management. That’s simply because it is still a bit too early to put the final stamp on 2014, but I can’t bring myself to look at Angelo’s drafts just yet. However, for the sake of completeness I went ahead and looked at Emery’s 2013 draft, and I was surprised by the results.

This article follows the same methodology as the previous pieces (here and here), but here’s the recap—I am evaluating the GM for the judgment shown in selecting players; I am not evaluating the players themselves. Each pick is judged in three categories: the value of the position picked where it was made for the team in question, how well the GM did at finding what should have been a good player at that position, and how the player actually performed.

This is a weighted draft, with Round 1 worth 40% of the grade, Round 2 worth 25%, Round 3 worth 15%, and each of the next two rounds worth only 10% apiece. Meaningful value added after Round 5 is considered extra credit.

Kyle Long (40 points possible): Okay. Go back to the night of April 25th, 2013. Forget what we know about Long. This was a pick that had people thinking of Shea McClellin all over again. The Bears needed help on offensive line, as indicated by the fact that they gave up sacks on more than 8% of all passing plays; they even needed help specifically at guard given the “stuff” rate reported by Football Outsiders (25th in the NFL, with right guard being the biggest weakness in the run per their metrics). On the other hand, the value really was questionable. Most high-level guards do come from the end of the first or the second, but 20th could be considered early. Call this a B with need balanced out by being a bit of a reach.

Next, consider what was knowable about the player. Profile after profile raved about his athleticism, but he was considered raw (he was considered an eventual starter and a second- or third-rounder by more than one profile). However, Long also serves as anecdotal validation of Emery’s methods. Emery wanted guys who had family who knew the ropes in the NFL and he wanted guys with high athletic ceilings. This was a match, and so I have to give Emery credit for actually figuring out what Long could do, even if I have to ding him a bit for the risk: A-.

As for performance—if making the Pro Bowl three times at two positions and being named a second-team All-Pro aren’t enough to earn full credit, then I’m grading too harshly: A.

The total grade for drafting Kyle Long is an A- at 36.67/40 points.

Jonathan Bostic (25 points possible): The 2013 Bears needed linebackers. In truth, the Bears had needed to draft and develop linebackers for at least a year or two, and it took 2013 Emery until 2013 to do something about it. The second round was a good time to address linebacker needs, and so this part of the grade is honestly a B (there is a caveat to add down in round four, though). Sadly, Emery reached for the player if not the position. Bostic was given a grade as a draftable player (4th to 6th round, really) and was noted by multiple experts as being stiff and having trouble changing direction. All of that sounds familiar. This is a D-. Finally, it’s easy to forget, but Bostic showed some promise in 2013. He had an interception and a number of tackles, as well as a pair of sacks. After that, though, he started to fade. He never developed the fluidity he needed, and his instincts didn’t hold up to the next level. He was off the Bears after two years, but it’s worth noting that another team thought highly enough of him to trade a pick for the chance to salvage him. He was (generously) a midrange performer for at best half of a year. I’m torn on what version of a D this is, so I’m calling this a high D- or low D.

The total grade for drafting Jonathan Bostic tries very hard to be passing but falls to a really high D at 17.29/25 points.

The Marshall Trade (15 points possible): Emery did not have a third-round pick to use or abuse in 2013, and that was because he sent it to the Dolphins (along with its brother) in exchange for Brandon Marshall. Forget the locker-room explosions. Forget the drama. Think about the fact that Emery identified that the team needed receiver help and he went out and got the receiver with the best chemistry available for his troubled quarterback. Moreover, when Brandon Marshall was good, he was really good.

The only downside here is that Marshall had a history of problems, and he even had a legal issue going on in the background during the deal. The risk involved makes this an A- instead of A because of all the ways it could have gone sideways, but this might have been Emery’s best move. It involved no scouting or drafting. If I’m honest, if a second-round pick (the value sunk into Marshall) gave the Bears three years of play with 279 receptions, 3500+ yards, and 31 touchdowns, I’d be delighted.

The total grade for trading the third-round pick of 2013 for half of Brandon Marshall is a 13.5/15 points (A-).

Khaseem Greene (10 points possible): Go back up and look at what I said for Bostic. That is all still true, but now there’s a problem. By drafting a linebacker with both his #2 and #4 pick (functionally his #2 and #3 pick), Emery was setting up the team to rely too heavily on a pair of rookies or to struggle in developing them both at the same time. This lessens the wisdom of the pick slightly, but not a lot. Emery might have shown poor roster management, but he was trying to draft what his team needed. Call this a C+.

Next, Greene was well-liked by scouts and draft experts. Some thought he was a second-round pick who might slide to the third round; others thought he would struggle to become a starter because of his lack of instincts. Most thought he was a good fit for a Tampa 2 scheme. This is a high C-, because there was both the potential value and warning signs about his limitations.

When it came to actually playing, Greene showed some really nice promise early on, and he had an interception, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble all in his first season. Then…he sort of went away. He showed flashes, but the guy washed out of the league inside of two years: This is a low F without being a 0.

The total grade for drafting Khaseem Greene is an F that tries really hard to be a D- at 5.83/10 points.

Jordan Mills (10 points possible): The Bears were going through a stretch of time that made some of us fear for Lester’s health as he tried to keep up with the demands of Sackwatch, and Emery went after a versatile O-line prospect to play tackle. This is a solid move: B. Next, Mills was thought of as a “draftable player” and possibly a Top 100 prospect. There were notes about his limitations, and he was projected to attract holding penalties; he was also considered likely to be beaten quickly. All of that sounds really familiar. There wasn’t a lot of competition if this was the way the Bears wanted to go (Ricky Wagner did go five spots later), but I cannot give this anything better than a C.

As for his actual play, the good news is that Mills managed to secure a starting role for four seasons in a row (even if only two of those seasons were with the Bears); the downside is that he was the leading lineman responsible for sacks according to Lester for two consecutive seasons and he drew flags with distressing frequency. I want this to be a lower grade, but the guy is still in the NFL, even if (as noted), he was off the Bears only two years in: D.

The total grade for drafting Mills is a C at 7.5/10 points.

Extra Credit: Cornelius Washington and Marquess Wilson were both drafted late, and Corn Wash has added meaningful depth while Wilson has actually played in 31 games and racked up nearly 800 total yards. Washington had mixed reviews, but some felt he had the potential to become a starter under the right circumstances. Meanwhile, Wilson was in the same boat—considered a solid late-round prospect with a few character concerns.

That means that almost every player Emery found in 2013 had at least some upside, even if it was limited. It’s hard not to give him some extra credit here: +4 for the two of them together.

All told, Emery’s second draft gets an 84.79. That’s a B, largely driven by the value he gained from drafting Long and trading for Marshall combined with the fact that he got some use out of almost every pick.

I was surprised to find myself scoring the draft this high, so I did some cross-checking. Some might be familiar with Pro Football Reference’s Career Approximate Value metric, and so I gave it a look. In terms of CAV earned by teams’ prospects from the 2013 draft, the Bears came in 9th, and that doesn’t include Marshall. Since they drafted 20th, that’s actual value. This metric does value starts and such, and it’s legitimate to claim that playing for the Bears of 2013-2016 has not been a major accomplishment.

However, it’s worth pointing out that in two of those cases (Bostic and Mills), other NFL teams actually found the players worthy of roster spots. The Patriots actually traded for Bostic. Even Marshall was re-traded, not cut. Additionally, a different administration (Pace), thought Long, Washington, and Wilson were all worth keeping around. That’s six players who have been considered worth playing by at least one front office independent of Phil Emery. Greene was the only true whiff.

Ultimately, the grade for the entire draft not including Long and the Marshall trade, even with extra credit, is a high D+…and that feels more right. Ultimately, it looks like Emery did his best work when he wasn’t scouting young talent himself.