Ryan Pace’s success in the fourth and fifth round of the NFL Draft is so good it might just be historic.
Even the most staunch Ryan Pace critic isn’t going to knock what the man has accomplished in the fourth and fifth rounds of the NFL Draft. In rounds where prospects are usually a coin flip at best of having even a modicum of success, Pace has not only found successful NFL players, but excellent ones.
In just four years on the job, Pace has found Adrian Amos, Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson and Bilal Nichols in rounds four and five alone.
That doesn’t even mention players like Nick Kwiatkoski who may not be the best linebacker in the business, but as fourth rounders go, most teams would be pretty happy with that level of performance.
But statistically, how do you quantify Pace’s success and just how good is it?
23 NFL teams wish they could find the talent in the top 60 picks that Pace finds between 110 and 150.
It’s tough to universally find ways to judge draft picks, but let’s do the best we can. For example, how do you compare an offensive tackle taken in round four to a wide receiver taken in round five? While it’s not perfect, let’s use these metrics: first team All-Pros, Pro Bowls, years as primary starter and Career AV (Approximate Value). Approximate Value is a metric created by Pro Football Reference that assigns a number to a player based on the success they had in a particular season.
After combing through the data, one thing becomes certain: Pace’s dominance in rounds 4 and 5 is incredible.
Looking at first team All-Pro, the Bears have Jackson and Cohen that have earned those honors. There is only one other team that has had 2 All Pro nods drafted in rounds 4 and 5 since Pace took over at GM and that’s the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs have Tyreek Hill who has been first team All-Pro twice. Hill was far greater than a fifth round talent, but he fell due to off-the-field and character issues.
In terms of Pro Bowls, the Bears have 3 (Cohen, Jackson and Howard), the only team that can top that is, again, the Chiefs, thanks to 3 Pro Bowls from Hill alone. If you eliminate Hill, the Bears are tops in that category as well.
Looking at years as primary starter, the Bears have 9 years of players drafted as a primary starter from rounds 4 and 5. Only one team, the Green Bay Packers, has more with 12. One thing to note here, Cohen has never been a primary starter because of how he’s utilized but is obviously a critical piece to the offense. If you count Cohen towards the Bears data, the Packers still edge out the Bears, but those numbers become quite tight at 12 to 11.
Exam that number even closer, one of those 12 seasons for the Packers is Brett Hundley. Hundley only got primary starter status due to an Aaron Rodgers injury, he never earned it. Eliminate that season, and the Bears tie the Packers for first.
Finally, we look at AV. Of all players drafted in rounds 4 and 5, Pace’s picks have amassed a 107 combined career AV. The next highest teams in this metric are the Colts at 94 and the Packers at 82. That means Pace’s draft picks have out produced the second place team in the NFL by more than 14% and the third place team by 30%! For fun, the last place team’s AV for 4th and 5th round picks is the Pittsburgh Steelers at 15. What does that mean? Pace has out-paced (pun fully intended) Kevin Colbert, who is considered one of the league’s top GMs, in those rounds by 713%!
Pace’s 4th and 5th round picks have out performed the rest of the league at a clip of 2 to 1. His success at this level is unmatched.
Let’s take this a step further. Let’s compare Pace’s 4th and 5th round success to the rest of the NFL’s draft picks in rounds 1 and 2 since Pace has come into the league (oh yeah, we’re going there).
Here’s what we found.
Looking at All-Pros, no NFL team has had three All-Pro players that they drafted in rounds 1 and 2. Only the Indianapolis Colts, LA Rams, and Kansas City Chiefs have had 2 All Pros drafted in rounds 1 and 2. So Ryan Pace is tied for most All Pros found when comparing his fourth and fifth rounders to the rest of the league’s first and second rounders. Impressive.
The three Pro Bowl nods the Bears 4th/5th rounders have earned? That’s would be good for sixth overall when looking at how many Pro Bowl nods teams have earned with the first and second rounders (the Rams lead the way with 5).
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Years as primary starter is where the Pace’s mid round picks look the worst, their 9 years ranks them 21st compared to other team’s first and second round picks, but let’s take a minute to really examine that. We are comparing coin flip picks to the rest of the league’s top picks of the draft. Pace’s 4th and 5th round selections have still outperformed 11 NFL teams first and second rounders. Quite a remarkable feat.
If you want to call Cohen a primary starter and bump the Bears total to 11. That jumps them to 13th overall to put his success in a bit better context.
Finally, we look at the metric where we are focused the most and that’s AV. The Bears blew away the 4th and 5th rounders, and when compared to the NFL’s first and second rounders? Ryan Pace’s selections are ranked ninth. Ninth!
Those rankings go as follows: New Orleans Saints (165), Tampa Bay Bucs (135), Cleveland Browns (133), Tennessee Titans (130), New York Giants (126), Carolina Panthers (116), Dallas Cowboys (111), LA Rams (109), and then the Bears 4th and 5th rounders come in at 107. For the record, Ryan Pace’s 1st and 2nd round picks came in at 105, tied for 10th.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Ryan Pace’s 4th and 5th round picks (again that’s Amos, Howard, Cohen, Jackson and Nichols leading the way) score 9th in the entire NFL when compared to the level of success the rest of the league had when drafting in rounds 1 and 2.
Pace’s first and second picks in that time frame still finish in the top 10 in terms of productivity despite the selections of Kevin White and Adam Shaheen (Sorry Shaheen supporters, but the numbers aren’t there yet, yes, I know they still could come).
Ryan Pace’s mid-round selections are better than 23 NFL teams’ first and second round selections. Those numbers are mind-boggling. 23 NFL teams wish they could find the talent in the top 60 picks that Pace finds between 110 and 150.
With Pace needing to do damage this year in the midrounds without a first or second round pick, these statistics should help let Bears’ fans rest easy leading into the draft.