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Zeglinski 2018 Bears’ Draft board

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Every NFL general manager has size and athletic thresholds. Here are the Bears’ draft fits for need positions based on Ryan Pace’s acquisition history.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace has had seven acquisition periods: three drafts, and four free agencies. With that much of a sample size, Pace and his scouting staff have generally showcased enough of the athletic profile they prefer at every position. By analyzing the Bears’ acquisitions under Pace through free agency, and particularly the draft, we can pinpoint the exact players Chicago will likely target in the first four rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft.

I say four rounds, because according to history, largely nothing after the fourth round should be paid any mind. Fifth round picks are better used as currency than as actual selections. While Pace has had success with a few hits after the fourth (Adrian Amos, Jordan Howard), they can be classified as anomalies in comparison to the rest of the NFL.

There is one caveat to Pace’s drafting methods this year and that is the addition Matt Nagy. Some have done excellent analysis on athletic receiver profiles for the Bears based on the Andy Reid tree because of Nagy’s presence. In the case of this study, Nagy’s previous regimes line up with what Pace prefers as free agency offered an example. The types of playmakers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio likes (length and change of direction) also plays a part as a reminder. Pace has never strayed away from the types of athletes he targets and that won’t drastically change now.

I have set specific primary athletic filters for running backs, receivers, offensive linemen, edge defenders, linebackers, and defensive backs that have defined every Pace draft pick or free agent signing at these respective positions. These positions, are of course, the areas of need and targets the Bears likely attack over draft weekend 2018.

I don’t anticipate the Bears taking a quarterback before the fifth round because they have their entrenched starter in Mitchell Trubisky, in case you were asking. Nor do I think they’ll go after a tight end because of the huge contract of Trey Burton and second round investment in Adam Shaheen. Defensive line could be a thought, but not until the late rounds.

The reasons for the included positions are as follows:

Before we get to the draft board of prospects that fit the Bears’ archetype at the bottom, here’s a historical perspective on every Bear that has walked through Halas Hall at these positions in the past three years. As a note, if a player is within a sliver of a time or measurement, I more often than not gave him a passing grade. There is such a thing as gray area in statistical number crunching. This is otherwise maintained if the gap is much wider from the pre-set standards, or if a player doesn’t fit multiple thresholds.

Running back

Green: Passed every standard Yellow: Partial completion Red: Failed multiple ideals *Gray: Not enough testing information

Thresholds: 4.51 40-yard dash, 7.22 three-cone drill

Robert Zeglinski

Running back is one of Pace’s most predictable positions. He has drafted a runner in each of his first three years, and never before the fourth round. What he values is speed, but even more change of direction. The only back he has acquired past his three-cone bar is Jacquizz Rodgers. Benny Cunningham is included but has no records of testing to factor into the count. Yes, the powerful Jordan Howard proved capable of the agile mold Pace’s Bears want. (Yes, he fits in the Nagy offense.)

Wide receiver

Green: Passed every standard Yellow: Partial completion Red: Failed ideals Gray: Not enough testing information

Thresholds: 5-foot-11 height, 196 pounds, 4.46 40-yard dash, 6.86 three-cone drill

Robert Zeglinski

These Bears like big, physical freak receivers with speed and agility. Outside of Taylor Gabriel and Daniel Braverman (training camp hero!), every other offensive playmaker had generally good size with decent quickness. Pace’s two largest investments at receiver in his tenure have been Allen Robinson and Kevin White: the best indicator of what he’s comfortable with at wideout.

Offensive line

Green: Passed every standard Yellow: Partial completion Red: Failed ideals Gray: Not enough testing information

Thresholds: 1.80 10-yard dash, 7.77 three-cone drill, 4.66 20-yard shuttle

Robert Zeglinski

Offensive line experienced the most fluctuation (and lack of quality) of any position the Pace Bears have dealt with. Many of these players are undrafted free agents acquired after the fact such as Taylor Boggs and Bradley Sowell which is reflected in their athletic profiles. As evidenced above, the top linemen Pace has acquired or re-signed - Charles Leno Jr., Cody Whitehair, and Josh Sitton - are terrific athletes that easily passed the Bears’ testing parameters. Some like Kyle Long just fell out, but let’s think this through calmly: he should still be considered a good athlete. I’d fully expect the Bears to use a high 2018 draft pick on the offensive line going off this hectic history.

Edge defender

Green: Passed every standard Yellow: Partial completion Red: Failed ideals Gray: Not enough testing information

Thresholds: 4.73 40-yard dash, 7.21 three-cone, 33-inch arm length

Robert Zeglinski

The main things the Pace and Fangio Bears look for in their outside linebackers are a solid change of direction and length. Length even more so. They want their edge guys to have the ability to use their arms to create leverage, and to work the line of scrimmage with their speed. Chicago’s primary investment here in the last three years has been Leonard Floyd and he is the most well-rounded dynamic athlete they’ve had. Surprisingly, Sam Acho also proved to test well. Outliers like the re-signed and retained Willie Young succeeded past their measures. If Pernell McPhee had been healthy, the Bears knew what they liked for a reason.

Linebacker

Green: Passed every standard Yellow: Partial completion Red: Failed ideals *Gray: Not enough testing information

Thresholds: 240 pounds, 4.78 40-yard dash, 7.15 three-cone drill

Robert Zeglinski

Linebacker was the most difficult to gauge of the Pace Bears because it had the smallest sample size of acquisitions, and there was occasional missing information. For this special case I didn’t include incomplete “gray” for that reason because there was enough to go off of nevertheless. Some safe assumptions of a good test, like with Danny Trevathan, were made in the calculations. In the case of Jerrell Freeman, as a Division III athlete, his testing numbers were never formally recorded. The only aspect we can go off with him is his weight, which fits with the other linebackers.

What we can take away here is that the Bears don’t care about their linebackers having freakish size. They prefer their starters and draft picks to have speed and instincts. If it means sacrificing some girth so be it. Names like Christian Jones weren’t included because he was not acquired under the Pace umbrella, but he also fits that standard.

Defensive back

Green: Passed every standard Yellow: Partial completion Red: Failed ideals *Gray: Not enough testing information

Thresholds: 5-foot-11 height, 4.50 40-yard dash, 6.93 three-cone drill

Robert Zeglinski

The secondary, when combined, has been the area the Bears have focused on most. There’s been a lot of turnover and continuity issues, which mostly subsided in 2017. Much like with edge defenders, Chicago prefers it’s defensive backs long and quick. This is a press man bullying defensive focus. The only true outliers are smaller nickel corners such as Cre’Von LeBlanc and Bryce Callahan in terms of size. Almost every other cornerback or safety fits the Bears’ length preferences. Notably, Eddie Jackson couldn’t be included outside of his height due to a 2016 broken leg taking him out of pre-draft testing. He was assumed to be in line with Chicago’s preferred averages.

Bears’ 2018 Draft Board

Without further ado, here’s how every top 2018 Draft prospect fits in accordance with the Bears’ athletic profile. These rankings are based on a mix of mine with colleague Jacob Infante’s. Have at it and Merry Draft-mas. (Click to expand if needed.)

Robert Zeglinski

Robert Zeglinski is the Bears’ beat writer for The Rock River Times, an editor for Windy City Gridiron and Inside The Pylon, and is a contributor to Pro Football Weekly and The Athletic Chicago. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.

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