A favorite pastime in the wake of draft weekend is to “grade” teams’ collections of selections. The grades reflect supposed evaluations of the players’ college performances, where they were drafted vs. their ratings, projections and how the picks matched up to perceived needs of the teams.
Good luck with that.
“You know what’s funny about that, is after the draft the scouts or coaches will sit back and we’ll look at the board and we’ll say over the years – and I’m sure it’s going on everywhere – we’ll say, ‘look at these guys draft or look at these…,’ GM Ryan Pace said. “You don’t know, two or three years from now, somebody you could be saying that about and it ends up being a great draft. So it’s hard to say that. You respect everybody’s process, and honestly you don’t know about a draft class until two years, two or three years, down the road.”
(Perhaps; but it did not take two or three years to know that Alshon Jeffery was a superb selection or that Shea McClellin wasn’t)
But grading the work of Pace and staff this weekend based on the actual draft picks and undrafted free agents to miss the far bigger point. To analyze the Bears’ 2015 draft requires looking far beyond just the six names the Bears turned in during the course of the rounds.
The Bears added two rush linebackers, a speed No. 1 receiver, a starting safety, a starting nose tackle and possibly two other starting defensive linemen.
They just didn’t get them all in the draft.
The Bears’ “draft” started, not Thursday evening, but on Mar. 11. That was the day they addressed their needs for a pass-rushing linebacker (Pernell McPhee), playmaking safety (Antrel Rolle) and No. 3 receiver (Eddie Royal). Put another way, if Pace and the Bears had used their No. 1 pick for a 3-4 edge fit who had 7.5 sacks on the NFL level (McPhee did), the draft would rate a near “A” on that pick alone.
The second “round” came Mar. 24 when they added two defensive linemen (Jarvis Jenkins, Ray McDonald).
They went on the clock for the third “round” on Apr. 1 for another rush linebacker (Sam Acho), who projects to return to the outside as the other bookend opposite McPhee.
[MORE DRAFT: A Bears tradition that Ryan Pace must end]
All of which meant that when the Bears’ turn on the actual draft clock Thursday, they did not have rush-linebacker on the “need” list to the point of being pressured to go for Clemson linebacker Vic Beasley, whom the Bears had graded below Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes (to Minnesota) and well below West Virginia wide receiver Kevin White.
Pace has not divulged his entire thought process for the offseason. But it was an integrated process, and best guess is that some of the motivation in landing Acho and McPhee lay in an assessment of the first seven picks of the draft that said only Florida’s Dante Fowler and USC’s Leonard Williams were worth the No. 7 pick and that neither of those would be there for the Bears (they weren’t).
“I personally think it’s the way the board fell,” Pace said. “If there had been certain guys there that fit kind of our Bears box as far as all the ramifications of that, they would have gone just like we did the whole draft, the next best player.”