This is a modest update to my confidence board, adding OurLads’ April position rankings and Windy City Gridiron’s own Jacob Infante’s Top 100 board. Most of the other boards available seem to have moved behind a paywall or do not have the desired depth for the scale of the board. To be honest, “mock drafts” are dominating coverage more and more, and as someone who prefers to look at prospects on their own, instead of trying to pretend to read the minds of 32 GMs, I find that trend a little disappointing.
A note about how to read the board, which is linked here. The score indicates how close the character gets to a perfect score across all boards (a player who is the #1 prospect on all big boards and the #1 player at his position would have a 100%, and this year that player is Nick Bosa). In the past, a score around 70% has suggested pretty heavily that the player will be drafted in the first two days and/or that the player will make it at least a couple of seasons in the NFL, with at least one of those seasons being played as a starter. Around 50% seems to suggest that the player will be drafted and will probably make it onto a roster at some point. Anything under 30% is basically a roll of the dice.
The board can be viewed here [LINK].
Drafting for Need?
Overall, the consensus seems to be that the Bears will target a running back, and that’s an interesting assumption because it both assumes that the Bears feel that they have a hole at running back and that Pace will build the roster based on holes, instead of what he sees as the best available player. Still, Pace typically drafts a running back somewhere in each draft, so it is likely that he will get to the position eventually. So who will be available?
Forty-five running backs have been drafted in the top two rounds over the last ten years, and besides 2016 (when only two were drafted in the first two rounds), at least four running backs go off the boards before Round 3 even starts. That would suggest that if the Bears get a running back, it will be only after the top three or four prospects have gone. This new confidence board suggests that Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris, and David Montgomery will have gotten phone calls before Pace makes a pick. Miles Sanders, Darrell Henderson, and Devin Singletary are the only other backs above 20% on the board. I guess I’d be fine with any of them, but I think one of the later rounds is probably a better place to find the next utility piece than at #87.
Drafting for Value?
I count myself in the group that thinks the Bears need a safety more than they need a running back, and while the two safeties per year are drafted in the first two rounds (on average), that doesn’t count the total number of “defensive backs” taken per Pro Football Reference. Still, the fact remains that corners are more valued than safeties, and so it’s possible that the #3 or #4 safety in the draft will still be around when Pace can make a move. That means Adderly (71%) and Rapp (69%) are almost certainly gone, but Thornhill, Gardner-Johnson, and Thompson might be around. That feels overly optimistic, because even though these players are out of the top three in their position, they are still in the top fifty or so on the overall board.
The depth of the safety position in this draft, however, means that Abram, Savage, or Hooker might all still be options, even after Round 3. Those players might represent the best value, as they are well-liked by scouts even if other positions like tackle, quarterback, and receiver are attracting more attention. This year, there seem to be a lot of quality tight ends and the Bears are probably set at that position. This means that they might be able to get a higher-quality player at another deep position by taking advantage of a run on other groups.
Needing to Reach?
The best five EDGE rushers are almost certainly going to be gone by the time the Bears draft. They carry scores above 80%, and they play at a premium position. If Bosa, Burns, Allen, Ferrell, or Sweat fall in reach, I hope Pace can snag one of them. However, there is a dramatic fall-off after that point. Winovich, Ximines, and Ferguson all seem like interesting prospects here. The “pivot” if you will is Jachai Polite, who checks the boxes physically but who has some questions surrounding his mental readiness. He has almost 45% of a perfect score, which in years past would suggest that he will probably be drafted, and that he will probably make it at least a season or two in the NFL on talent alone, so long as he doesn’t wash out mentally.
Ryan Pace is going to draft his way. If on Friday he gives up 2020 picks to move up into the second round to draft a tackle, I will not be surprised. However, third-rounders end up as starters a little less than half of the time. They end up as multi-year starters even less. From a purely mechanical basis, this will not probably not hold up for the Bears. Because football teams always need new talent and because the Bears will not have higher picks to take open spots, then players will be forced into starting roles even if they normally would not qualify.
However, the available talent in this draft suggests that Pace will have to be creative. That’s okay, because whomever is drafted will be playing on the same team as Khalil Mack, and that’s a heck of an advantage for a new player to enter the league with.