Mike Mulligan, an Inside the Bears confidant, takes a comprehensive look at the Bears’ draft results in the Jerry Angelo era in today’s edition, paying particular attention to what he turned up on offense.
While the organization has been successful identifying defensive players—Lance Briggs, Tommie Harris and Nathan Vasher have all been to Pro Bowls—the results on offense have been less inspiring. The Bears opened last season with just three Angelo draft picks starting on offense—quarterback Rex Grossman, running back Cedric Benson and wide receiver Bernard Berrian. Grossman will be locked in a training camp battle with another draft pick in Kyle Orton this summer. Berrian will start for Minnesota and Benson’s future is iffy.
Mulligan turned to the analysis created by Inside the Bears last October that evaluated how the club’s draft picks have been allocated. The primary question was has the team been better with defensive draft picks because it drafts more defense?
In part, yes. But the results might be closer than you think. In six drafts, Angelo has had 19 picks in the top three rounds. Eight have been used on offense—Marc Colombo and Terrence Metcalf (2002), Grossman (2003), Berrian (2004), Benson and Mark Bradley (2005), Greg Olsen and Garrett Wolfe (2007).
Using the draft value chart designed to evaluate trades involving draft picks, points were assigned to each draft pick Angelo has had. The chart was devised by Jimmy Johnson when he rescued the Dallas Cowboys starting in the late 1980’s. I’m not sure how it worked when he dealt running back Herschel Walker to the Minnesota Vikings, but I think the Cowboys collected about 75,000 points in draft picks, or something like that.
In the chart, the No. 1 pick is worth 3,000 points, the second pick 2,600, all the way down to No. 224 which is worth one. Assigning one point to the picks that came below No. 224 as well—the draft is extended by supplemental choices each year—you can examine the point values in the Bears’ picks. It’s close. Over the last six years, 5,771.9 points in draft picks have been used on defense compared to 5,113.4 on offense. Of course, Benson as the fourth pick takes up the most space worth 1,800 points, but it gives you a general idea of how things have stacked up.
USA Today Sports Weekly notes that the Bears have produced only three starters in the last three drafts, tied with Detroit for the second-fewest in the league. There’s no guarantee those three will be starting in 2008. Mark Anderson could lose his job to Alex Brown at right end. Safety Danieal Manning looks like an odd man out in the secondary. Benson’s chances for starting will be somewhat determined by how high Angelo grabs a running back in this draft. Of course, Dusty Dvoracek is expected to slide in at defensive tackle and Bradley has a shot to start at wide receiver with Kyle Orton a possibility at quarterback.
Back to the Sports Weekly report ... only Carolina has been less productive than the Bears and Lions with just one starter from the last three drafts. No wonder John Fox’s job has been rumored to be in jeopardy for two years running.
Our friends over at Pro Football Weekly have an interesting study of the last five drafts. Publisher Hub Arkush notes that the Bears were one of four teams to produce three Pro Bowl players or more from 2003-05. Eleven teams drafted 11 or more starters for 2007 between 2003-07. Not surprisingly six were in the playoffs last season—San Diego, Green Bay, Jacksonville, New England and Seattle. Three more playoff teams—Dallas, the New York Giants and Tennessee—had 10 starters drafted in that span. It’s a terrific report by Arkush and his staff and well worth a read.
The study also credits the Bears with 10 starters drafted from 2003-07. There were seven Angelo picks on the field for the opener at San Diego last season from that time frame—Anderson, Benson, Berrian, Briggs, Dvoracek, Grossman and cornerback Charles Tillman. Vasher didn’t get credited with a start because the defense opened in a three-safety package, but he’s a starter for this research. Other picks who made five starts or more during the season—Danieal Manning (15) and Trumaine McBride (9). That’s how PFW arrives at 10. The league average for the span of five drafts? 10.1.
Angelo’s best draft with the Bears was 2004 when his first four picks turned into starters—Harris, Tank Johnson, Berrian and Vasher. The team was good the year before in locating Tillman and Briggs along with a couple of wide receivers that have gone on to start elsewhere in Justin Gage and Bobby Wade.
It would be interesting to get Angelo’s take on the most productive draft he’s ever been involved with. He was the director of player personnel in Tampa Bay for 14 seasons, meaning he had heavy input in the Buccaneers’ drafts. Tampa hit in 1997 when it got running back Warrick Dunn, tackle Jerry Wunsch, guard Frank Middleton, cornerback Ronde Barber, linebacker Al Singleton and cornerback Al Harris. Nabbing Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks two years earlier in the first round in 1995 was pretty good too. That laid the foundation for the Bucs’ Super Bowl champion.
Offense is the first order of business this weekend. They say you need to wait three seasons, at least, to evaluate a draft class. That’s true. The evaluating can wait but the Bears need results from some rookies this season.