Through two seasons, Chicago Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols looks like a steal of his draft class
When the Chicago Bears drafted a Delaware defensive tackle, it took its criticism. However, whether you like Ryan Pace or not, Bilal Nichols was a classic Pace pick that worked out well. Pace was betting on athleticism, personality, and keen eye of seeing the value of players. This has hurt him on offense but has helped him build a great defense with multiple draft hits.
Nichols is not a star, but he had an excellent rookie season. The fifth-round pick followed it up with some injuries in year two, but an optimistic year nonetheless.
When looking at his fifth-round value, it is interesting to note how the defensive tackles drafted ahead of him have fared, and where Nichols would rank if they were re-drafted now?
Below, you can see a list of every DT drafted in 2018, sorted by their draft slot. There were 13 defensive tackles drafted ahead of Nichols.
|Ht & Wt||Games||Tackles|
|12||Maurice Hurst Jr.||2018||2019||5-140||RAI||NFL||6-2||291||37.4||29||14||7.5||37||12||49||7||11|
After a three-sack explosion in 2018, Nichols was limited in 2019. Still, as the 13th defensive tackle taken, he ranks seventh in sacks through two seasons. Maurice Hurst, who went just five picks before Nichols leads the way. Deadrin Senat drafted 55 picks ahead of Nichols has not recorded a sack yet.
Nichols ranks fifth in total tackles, with Da’Ron Payne, the first-rounder leading the way. Payne has been excellent so far and likely worth Washingtons’ draft slot. Nichols has six tackles for loss, which puts him in eighth of this group, tied with Nathan Shephard. Payne once again leads the way.
Lastly, Nichols ranks seventh in QB hits, with Vita Vea posting the most followed by Payne, showing both have been solid first-round picks. Still, every stat shows you that Nichols has been better than his draft slot.
However, as you can see below, in Pro Football References “Approximate Value”, Nichols has been the second most valuable in the class.
Misc Rk Player AV 1 DaRon Payne 12 2 Bilal Nichols 11 3 Derrick Nnadi 11 4 B.J. Hill 9 5 P.J. Hall 8 6 Maurice Hurst Jr. 8 7 Taven Bryan 6 8 DaShawn Hand 6 9 Justin Jones 6 10 Sebastian Joseph 6 11 Nathan Shepherd 6 12 Vita Vea 6 13 Tim Settle 3 14 Andrew Brown 2 15 Folorunso Fatukasi 2 16 Harrison Phillips 2 17 Deadrin Senat 2 18 Zach Sieler 1
So are, there advanced stats to back up his value? In terms of pressures, he ranks 11th in this class, which does exceed his draft slot. Still, he is 60 behind Vea, which makes it surprising that Nichols would be much higher than him in AV.
Nichols ranks fourth against the run of this group, according to PFF. Still, he is also behind Payne and Vea, the two first-round picks.
So, when looking at raw stats, advanced stats, PFF grades, and AV ratings, we have a lot of data to see how valuable and productive Nichols has been against his peers. Adding all of his rankings in each area up, we can his average ranking compared to the rest of the class below. The number in parenthesis is the order in which they were drafted. As you can see, the top four players from that class, were from the top four picks.
1. Da’Ron Payne (2)
2. B.J. Hill (5)
3. Vita Vea (1)
4. P.J. Hall (4)
5. Mo Hurst (12)
6. Bilal Nichols (13)
7. Taven Bryan (3)
8. Derrick Nnadi (7)
9. Sebastian Joseph (17)
10. DaShawn Hand (11)
11. Justin Jones (8)
12. Nathan Shepherd (6)
13. Tim Settle (15)
14. Foley Fatukusi (16)
15. Harrison Phillips (10)
16. Deadrin Senat (9)
17. Andrew Brown (14)
18. Zach Seiler (18)
However, number five and six are the values of the draft. Mo Hurst has been a pass rush stud for the Raiders and was picked just five picks before Nichols. Still, with the other top-five player ranking seventh in this group, behind those two, it is clear they are the two who have outshot their draft slot the most.
Bryan, Nnadi, Hand, Jones, Shepherd, Phillips, and Senat all were drafted ahead of Nichols, and all of them have been less valuable and productive. Sebastian Joseph-Day was drafted in the late sixth round, 195th overall, and has been the ninth most productive defensive lineman from his class. For that, he has been a great value. Still, when looking at draft slot and value presented, Nichols and Mo Hurst have been the slam dunk picks of the 2018 NFL draft.