I finally did my first mock draft of the season... and no I won’t share it with you; because who I picked is not what matters. What really matters is who was available, and more importantly, when.
Mock drafts are a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. Sure they can be entertaining, but for those of us that are trying to understand the draft (more specifically the 2019 draft as it’s own specific living, breathing, interconnected entity) mock drafts are a very valuable tool indeed.
Doing one mock draft is fun, or as a friend of mine calls it: “A beer and pretzels game”. Doing multiple mock drafts, on multiple platforms with multiple boards, is an exercise to better understand the forces that will shape how the draft actually plays out. Simply put, those forces are supply and demand. Supply is how many players there are of a certain position, quality, and schematic fit that are available to be picked. Demand is how many teams need players with those skills and how they will prioritize drafting them.
It comes down to a basic economy: if many teams need a certain position (let’s say EDGE players in 2019) and there are not that many available... they will go quickly and be “overdrafted” relative to their skill/overall worth. If there is a greater supply of a certain position (let’s use RB’s in the 2019 draft for this example) then teams can wait, pick the positions which have a scarce supply first, and still find a quality RB to fit their system in the later rounds. This simple concept defines how the draft will play out in any given season.
I did more than 10 mock drafts, on 2 platforms, using 3 different draft boards for this exercise. During this cycle, some patterns that will absolutely affect the Bears 2019 draft became crystal clear. Here’s what mock draft simulators taught me about the 2019 NFL Draft.
If Chicago wants an EDGE player (without trading up), they’ll have to take that shot first
Bad news Christian Miller fans: In 10 drafts the former Alabama EDGE never made it to the Bears first choice. In fact he never made it out of the 60’s.Players at his position are in high demand and will be overdrafted. While Miller was never available to the Bears at #87, players like Oshane Ximines were... sometimes. Jeff Berkes and I covered Ximines’ talents in our Bears Over Beers podcast focusing on EDGE players. I’d consider him a marginal value here but that’s beside the point. The point is if you don’t grab and EDGE player here, you are taking a heavy gamble that a lesser player will develop into a significant contributor down the line. The odds on that bet, historically speaking, are really, really low.
Another player who was there (but is a definite reach) in the third round is Justin Hollins from Oregon. I think Hollins has the tools to become a player very much like Leonard Floyd. Apparently Vic Fangio agrees with me as the Broncos just had him in for a visit, but even so he is still very much a projection/gamble. Regardless of that assessment supply rules the roost in the draft. He was routinely gone when the next pick rolled around... so if you don’t pay for the premium ticket you’re not even going to get a seat on the ride.
Safety is very similar to EDGE: if the Bears want a player that will contribute in 2019, that player will likely be picked with pick #87
The Bears never even sniffed a player like Darnell Savage from Maryland with their pick at #87. While I can shed tears about that it doesn’t change the facts: If the Bears are bent on drafting a safety to play meaningful snaps this year, their fist choice is the best choice to fill that need.
A couple of players I’ve tabbed as good fits for Chicago were available with some regularity here. Marquise Blair from Utah was the most common fixture at this spot but after him the choices got really thin. Armani Hooker from Iowa occasionally landed within Chicago’s reach (3 out of 10 times) and he’d be a solid choice... but his availability was far from a sure thing.
Picking an RB with an early choice is, in draft capital terms, “inefficient”
This is the position that has probably gotten the most media play as the Bears likely first choice. I’ve focused on two main targets as fits for Nagy’s offense: Darrell Henderson from Memphis and Trayveon Williams from Texas A&M. I’ll cover their prospects one at a time.
Darrell Henderson was available on a fairly regular basis (in about half of the drafts), which was a welcome result. But a funny thing happened on the way to the forum: choosing Henderson at pick #87 basically submarined the rest of the draft. In terms of team needs, you end up chasing and picking lesser players from then on. Occasionally you’d have to abandon drafting the spot altogether because the pool of players who have even a hope of contributing is completely drained.
Williams on the other hand, was regularly available (7 out of 10 times) at Chicago’s fourth round choice. That means that Pace could spend their third rounder on a position that has a higher demand/lower supply and still get a top-quality back to add to his haul.
If you push this line of thinking out even further, and look at the generous supply of backs that might contribute who were available well into the later rounds (Bryce Love, Bruce Anderson, Ryquell Anderson, Jalin Moore, Darwin Thompson, etc.), then choosing an RB early is even more of anchor on Chicago’s overall draft strategy than previously thought.
The bottom line is choosing a back early makes little sense from a strictly supply and demand perspective in the 2019 draft. Will Pace and Nagy do it anyway? They well might if they truly believe the RB in their sights is a difference-maker.
CB is a need and solid options were usually available at the Bears second choice (#126 overall)
Cornerback is a understated need for Chicago. All you need to do to bring this concept into sharper focus is to imagine a serious injury to either Kyle Fuller or Prince Amukamara. While solid options were almost always available at #87 (David Long [Michigan], Joejuan Williams [Vanderbilt]) a secondary trend emerged: If the Bears waited until their second pick they usually had a viable option waiting for them.
I think Michael Jackson from Miami has a solid skill set and would likely develop into a contributor. He was available in most of the drafts I did at Chicago’s second selection. This again left pick #87 open to select either an EDGE or a safety.
If Ryan Pace wants a quality TE, he’ll have to sell out to do it (and that has a ripple effect)
Tight end is a position where the Bears could use a little help or at least some solid insurance. It’s not a first-tier need but there are some quality TE’s in this year’s draft. I thought I might some value in the position but that never materialized. It turned out that if you wanted an impact TE this year, you had better select him at #87... and that had a chilling effect on the positions that you could choose from later on.
Grabbing a player like Dawson Knox, Kahale Warring, or Josh Oliver (the 3 TE’s available with the most frequency at pick 87) makes a lot of sense, but it effectively kills Chicago’s shot at a quality EDGE or safety and limits their choices at CB too. That’s a heavy price to pay for a position that’s not truly a need. Occasionally the Bears caught a break and Stanford's Kaden Smith was available at their fourth round choice... but even that only happened intermittently.
The last 10 picks before the Bears choose at #87 are going to be painful to sit through
Be prepared Bears Fans: the last 10 picks before the Bears choose at #87 will be a long, slow, sad march. In almost every draft I ran at least 6 out of the 10 players chosen in those 10 previous picks were players the Bears could legitimately target. Watching them slip away, when Chicago was so close to finally making its first selection, was painful... every time.
Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
There is quality depth at WR, even if there isn’t a need... and it could offer a hidden value
The Bears selection of pass catchers was as good as it’s been in a long time in 2018, and it might get even better in 2019. With Anthony Miller having a full year in the offense and Javon Wims looking to make the most of his sophomore campaign as well, Chicago’s receiving corps looks topped off with talent. But the draft doesn’t care, and it is absolutely stuffed to the gills with pass catching talent this time around.
Ryan pace has a created a roster that is so complete that he could easily make choices with an eye almost solely not on the upcoming season, but rather the season after that (2020). If he goes that route (see what I did there?) he could easily load up on a young pass catcher who slides a bit in this draft.
Receiving prospects who are loaded with potential like Stanley Morgan Jr. (Nebraska), DeMarkus Lodge (Ole Miss), Jakobi Meyers (NC State), and Terry Godwin (Georgia) were often available at Chicago’s 5th round choice (#162). While the position isn’t an immediate need it could offer significant value and set the Bears up for sustained future success.
Did anything surprise you? Does this change your mind about what Chicago's positional draft order should be? Lay it all out in the comments section below.