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The analytics say the Chicago Bears had the best draft class in 2021

We’ll know the true value of this draft in a few years, but for now, the Chicago Bears’ 2021 class is the best according to the numbers.

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CFP Semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl - Clemson v Ohio State Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The classic letter grade is a favorite way that analysts like to examine an NFL Draft class immediately after a team’s class is finalized. It’s topical, it’s easy to understand, and it always creates a debate.

The analytical way that The Athletic’s Arif Hasan looks at the players picked paints a far better overall picture of the value each team receives from their class. Hasan uses his Consensus Big Board that he compiles every offseason which aggregates the boards from over 70 analysts in the media.

But considering the media boards often vary from what teams actually do, it was interesting to see how closely this year’s consensus came to hitting on the drafted prospects.

From his article titled, The Consensus Big Board ranks the 2021 NFL Draft classes and finds the biggest steals and reaches:

An amazing 91.8 percent of the players drafted this year were in the top 300, a record number. No other year broke 90 percent, and most hover around 87 percent.

Sure the order of players ranked has some variance, but it’s still a damn good snapshot to show value, and no team got better value on their draft than the Chicago Bears.

From a purely Draft Capital standpoint, the Bears came into the draft with their picks ranked 24th overall. The Jacksonville Jaguars, who held the number one overall pick, sat atop that category. The Jags also took the top spot post draft when calculating their overall value, which makes sense considering where they were picking in each round, but when factoring in a return on investment, Jacksonville was way down the list at 30th out of 32.

But the Chicago Bears, who traded up twice in the first two rounds, used their 3rd, 5th, and 6th in those moves, then traded back get a 7th-rounder, came in at number one in net value and in return on investment (ROI).

The Bears had a top ranked 199.1% ROI, which is 28.7 points higher than number two, the Denver Broncos. For some perspective the point differential between the 2nd place Broncos and the 19th place Green Bay Packers is 30.1.

“Fields is the biggest reason the Bears ended up with the highest return on investment, Hassan wrote, “but not the only reason. Had the draft stopped after the third round, the Bears would have ranked fifth behind the Texans, Browns, Titans and Vikings.”

Hasan also ranked the top 15 biggest steals in the draft and the top 15 biggest reaches per the consensus board. Number one on on his “steals” list was the Bears brand new quarterback, Justin Fields, who went 11th but was 5th on their board. Their fifth biggest steal was Chicago’s second round pick Teven Jenkins, who was drafted 39th overall but came in as their 21st ranked prospect.

The Bears didn’t have anyone on their top “reaches” list.

From a value stand point, the Bears, general manager Ryan Pace, his scouting staff, and all the coaches, crushed the competition this draft.

But now the real work begins and these players —

  • First round - Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
  • Second round - Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
  • Fifth round - Larry Borom, OL, Missouri
  • Sixth round - Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech
  • Sixth round - Dazz Newsome, WR, North Carolina
  • Sixth round - Thomas Graham, CB, Oregon
  • Seventh round - Khyiris Tonga, DL, BYU

— will need to prove that they can make an impact in Chicago.