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The Opportunity Cost of the 2017 Class

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What did the aggressive move for Trubisky cost the Bears?

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Washington
The trade up for Trubisky cost the Bears the option of taking a guy like Budda Baker
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Opportunity cost is the basic premise behind “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Even if the meal doesn’t cost you any money, it does cost you the opportunity to eat the next best option. I previously mentioned in the draft preview the opportunity cost of taking a QB in this year’s draft would be passing on a blue chip defensive player and taking the Bears out of the 2018 QB market. What I didn’t foresee was the additional draft capital it cost and the picks missed out on in this draft and next year.

None of this is to say that I or anyone else knows just how this class will turn out. What we do know are the final results of the draft and trade details that shaped this year’s draft. I thought it would be interesting to see just what the 2017 Bears class would look like had a couple things turned out differently.

Before we get into it, some caveats. This is just for illustrative purposes and is totally make-believe. I will be as realistic as possible but there will be a few assumptions made. No, I don’t have a crystal ball as to who will have the best NFL careers. No, I don’t think I should be a GM. Yes, I’m acting with hindsight. Yes, I understand chaos theory (a butterfly flaps its wings and all that) so changing one move could ripple throughout the draft. Let’s just take it for what it is – an exercise in 3 alternative scenarios and what that looks like. In all 3, I take a QB that will sit behind Glennon in 2017 with the potential to start eventually. You could redo this exercise and build for taking a QB in 2018 and use the QB pick for a player that can contribute in short order. For the rest of the picks, I’m sticking with what Pace did or upgrading the selections down the line where possible, or taking a player at a perceived area of need. The individual players I’m picking may or may not have been on Pace’s board and are for illustrative purposes (it’s more of a random walk down the draft board).

First, let’s quickly recap the Bears draft. The Bears started the draft with 7 selections (1-3; 2-36; 3-67; 4-111; 4-117; 5-147; 7-221). Moving up to #2 with the 49ers cost the Bears 1-3, 3-67, and 4-111, in addition to next year’s 3rd. The Bears used that pick on their QB of the future, Mitchell Trubisky. The Bears used 2-36 and 7-221 to gain a few picks back, specifically 2-45, 4-119, 6-197, and the Cardinals 4th rounder next year. The Bears used 2-45 on Adam Shaheen, TE from Ashland, and turned 4-117 and 6-197 into Eddie Jackson, Safety from Alabama. The Bears finished out their draft by taking Tarik Cohen, the Human Joystick, RB at 4-119 and used their own original draft choice in Jordan Morgan, an interior offensive line project from Kutztown at 5-147.

It looks like this in a chart:

2017 Chicago Bears Draft Results

Alternative Scenario #1 – The Browns move up to #2 to take Trubisky

I think there’s enough juice to the rumors that Cleveland really did want Trubisky and either they didn’t want to pay the full price to move from 12 to 2 or John Lynch wanted to have his cake and eat it too. I’m not going to say “let’s just assume the 49ers stick at 2 and the Bears get their guy” because I think that’s too easy. Instead, let’s take the Bears out of trading up and assume Cleveland moves up to take their guy. Let’s also assume Ryan Pace’s iPhone ran out of battery and he couldn’t find a charger until after the draft was over (translation – no trades). If we play it straight up, the draft could look something like this (taking only players that would be available):

Alternative Scenario #1 - Staying put

This scenario nabs an athletic freak in Thomas, adds talent to the secondary, and yields a developmental QB, a well-rounded TE, and a WR prospect. We’re keeping Cohen and Morgan as I’ll assume Pace sticks to his board there. It’s also hard to duplicate Cohen elsewhere as he’s a very specific player.

Alternative Scenario #2 – The Bears add a pick for next year; take QB in middle of the round.

Okay, here are the assumptions on this one: The 49ers take Thomas at #2 and the Bears want to add value. The Browns couldn’t consummate a trade to #2 for Trubisky, but are willing to pay to get up to #3 for Trubisky. Pace likes his chances at 12 to grab Mahomes or Watson and makes the deal. It looks something like this:

Browns receive: 1-3, take Mitchell Trubisky

Bears receive: 1-12, Browns 1st rounder in 2018

-OR-

Bears receive: 1-12, 2-52, 3-65, 2018 2nd Rounder

The difference between the #3 and #12 picks in value is a pick in the middle of the first round. The Browns are almost certain to improve from last year and there is always variation in year to year performance. Factoring in a 1-year discount on next year’s 1st rounder and I don’t think this is a crazy trade (and it was repeated for moves later in the draft). Alternatively, the Browns could use the 2017 2nd and 3rd and next year’s 2nd. With so much draft capital, I could have seen the Browns doing either. In this scenario, the Bears gamble on the Browns #1 for next season. As a result, we’ll alter the board a little bit from our scenario #1:

Alternative Option #2 - trade down for Watson

Here, the Bears get Watson, the guy Lester A. Wiltfong Jr. was convinced the Bears would take as high as #3 overall. We’ll also project a solid 5T prospect in Wormley to the mix for keeping pick 67. The Bears are also sitting on 2 first round picks in 2018 in this scenario.

Alternative Scenario #3 – Double trade down

In this one, let’s do the other trade we outlined above with the Browns and make an additional trade with Houston. This one is a little more straightforward as we’re just going to do the exact trade that Cleveland did with Houston in order for them to get Watson – the Bears get the Texans 2018 1st round pick.

Alternative Option #3 - Double trade down

Finally, in the 3rd iteration, the Bears upgrade the Shaheen pick for David Njoku to give a highly touted TE to pair with Glennon. Kizer comes into the QB room to sit behind Glennon without any pressure for playing in 2017 and the Bears still get to add Obi Melafanu and Ahkello Witherspoon to the secondary and Chris Wormley to the DL. I can’t bring myself to change the Cohen pick because “the human joystick” has no other comparables, but taking a Tackle prospect in David Sharpe and a WR in Gibson on offense makes some sense. Tu’ikolovatu is a flier on a big run stuffer in the middle. Plus, the Bears are armed with an extra 1 (Texans) and 2 (Browns) for 2018.

Takeaways

So, what’s the point of this exercise? The Bears appear to have completed a draft where they added a number of developmental projects for the future and gave up picks in the process. There are so many factors that go into whether or not a player can be a successful NFL player. Good NFL teams either seem to get lucky with the choices they have or do a good job of hoarding extra choices to increase their odds of hitting on picks to create a competitive roster that can compete year to year. I would suggest that the negative reaction of many Bears fans after this draft is due to the opportunity cost of what the Bears gave up to have this draft. In time, the actual draft haul may in fact be superior to any of the alternative options I have laid out above. However, when we consider the opportunity cost, it feels like Pace is swinging from his heels instead of taking the pitches he’s given and driving the ball for singles and doubles. With a roster that needs competition at every level, this isn’t the result that many fans were hoping for.

What say you? Would you be happier with any of the above scenarios? Does the current draft jive with your thinking of how the Bears should be built?