Comparing Chicago Bears DL Bilal Nichols to 2018 draft class

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 30: Bilal Nichols #98 of the Chicago Bears rushes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field on September 30, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Buccaneers 48-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 30: Bilal Nichols #98 of the Chicago Bears rushes against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field on September 30, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Buccaneers 48-10. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

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.

Query Results Table
Ht & WtGamesTackles
1Vita Vea201820191-12TAMNFL6-434742.22995.5402363816
2Da’Ron Payne201820191-13WASNFL6-33204031257.06745112912
3Taven Bryan201820191-29JAXNFL6-429135.43293.0312253811
4P.J. Hall201820192-57RAINFL6-030541.430181.534144887
5B.J. Hill201820193-69NYGNFL6-331138.932176.5473784810
6Nathan Shepherd201820193-72NYJNFL6-431538.32552.0111526611
7Derrick Nnadi201820193-75KANNFL6-131241.232271.035488331
8Justin Jones201820193-84SDGNFL6-330938.627120.525224724
9Deadrin Senat201820193-90ATLNFL6-130540.21720.015153024
10Harrison Phillips201820193-96BUFNFL6-330738.41900.521173843
11Da’Shawn Hand201820194-114DETNFL6-329737.116103.02673352
12Maurice Hurst Jr.201820195-140RAINFL6-229137.429147.5371249711
13Bilal Nichols201820195-145CHINFL6-331339.127183.035205569
14Andrew Brown201920195-158CINNFL6-329036.21410.01041402
15Tim Settle201820195-163WASNFL6-330838.53112.01572235
16Folorunso Fatukasi201820196-180NYJNFL6-431838.71501.014132773
17Sebastian Joseph201920196-195RAMNFL6-431037.716152.025194455
18Zach Sieler201820197-238TOTNFL6-629033.5911.0661212

Provided by View Original Table

Generated 6/18/2020

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.

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

Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/18/2020.

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.

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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.