There’s not a big gap between the two teams in that span, except for all the Super Bowl victories.
In 2018 the New England Patriots drafted nine players (picks 23, 31, 56, 143, 178, 210, 219, 243, and 250) and the Chicago Bears drafted seven players (picks 8, 39, 51, 115, 145, 181, and 224). The Patriots’ nine averaged out to the 139th pick in the draft, while the Bears’ seven averaged out to 109th pick in the draft. Three of the New England picks. Sony Michel, Ja’Whaun Bentley, and Keion Crossen, won Super Bowl rings as rookies, but the other six have yet to play in a single NFL game. Conversely, all seven of the Bears’ picks played as rookies, and at least three of them appear to be solid-to-great NFL starters, Roquan Smith, James Daniels, and Anthony Miller. Bilal Nichols flashed as something more than a depth guy, but time will tell on that.
Since 2000 the Patriots drafted one hundred sixty-five players, with the average pick ranking 136th. The Bears drafted one hundred forty-seven players in that time, with the average pick ranking 121st, or fifteen slots higher than the typical New England pick. Patriots’ picks averaged 4.2 NFL seasons, while the Bears picks averaged 5.4 NFL seasons. Both teams saw their picks play about 49 NFL games, with the New England guys averaging 35 games in a Patriots’ uniform while the Bears’ picks averaged 36 games in a Bears’ uniform. The killer stat is Super Bowl rings. The New England 165 won 145 rings by my count, but it is remarkably hard to keep the numbers straight. Even if I’m off by a ring or two, New England’s draft picks average about .88 rings per man, or almost a ring per pick. In contrast, the Chicago 147 won a grand total of six rings by five players. Corey Graham won one with Baltimore in 2012 and Philadelphia in 2017. It averages out to .04 rings per man, or just about zero.
As a little more salt in the Bears’ draft wounds, one of the six Bears’ rings was won by Shea McClellin, a terrible first-round draft pick who later won his ring with the Patriots. As the saying goes, Bill Belichick can take his and beat yours, and he can take yours and beat his. I think it’s a reasonable bet that if Belichick had some time to prepare, he could have won the 2006 Super Bowl with either Rex Grossman or Kyle Orton at quarterback even though the Colts started Peyton Manning. Lovie Smith almost beat the Colts and he wasn’t nearly the coach that Belichick is.
According to the numbers, over the past couple of decades the Bears drafted about as well as the Patriots, and if Tom Brady was removed from the equation, that assessment holds true even at quarterback. The recent Bear drafts impressed me just as they impressed most Bears fans. The larger truth is that teams tend to go through spasms of good-to-great drafts over a two-or-three year period, but eventually return to the NFL norm. The question is whether Matt Nagy has a little Bill Belichick in him, the innate ability to get the most out of the players the general manager provides him. So far the answer leans toward yes. Nagy is both an imaginative coach and a solid tactician. The only question is whether he has the ability to rise to the big moment. The Bears appear to be on the cusp of greatness, but more coaches find a way to not break through than to overcome the obstacles between them and a championship.
Answer to today’s trivia question: Can you name the five players drafted by the Bears since 2000 who now have Super Bowl rings?
- Bryan Fletcher
- Corey Graham (2)
- Kellen Davis
- Shea McClellin
- Alshon Jeffery