Pro Football Focus’ grades have pegged the Chicago Bears’ starters as the best in the NFC North.
How’s that for headlines you didn’t expect to read in May 2017?
Warren Ledford of SB Nation’s Daily Norseman broke down the PFF grades for each of the NFC North’s four teams, and came out with a surprise ending as Bears starters emerged with the best average score. I encourage you to read Ledford’s piece, in which he goes through the grading process, and reveals where the Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings rank in the division.
Even after the explanation, though, the Bears have only one player (linebacker Jerrell Freeman) who earned an “elite” grade from PFF. So how did the Bears get this distinction?
Despite not having a lot of elite talent, the Bears’ offseason additions have raised the talent floor – on paper, at least. The Bears have the fewest number of starters who earned a “poor” grade last season by PFF’s standards. Furthermore, the Bears feature eight players who graded out as average – the most of any team in the division. So at this point, it’s fair to say that the combination of more average players and fewer poor players has resulted in the Bears having a superior average grade across the board.
Of course, the NFL doesn’t work this way. Unlike in this exercise, all positions aren’t weighted equally and the Bears are still at a likely talent disadvantage at the game’s most important position. You know the one.
Even still, it appears as if the Bears have improved the team’s talent level from one year to the next. At minimum, the Bears have a ton of new blood. Using PFF’s lineups as a guide, the Bears could have as many as nine new starters compared to who was put out there for Week 1 in 2016.
Free agency has helped the Bears, who added safety Quintin Demps, whose 85.2 grade in 2016 put him in the “high quality” category, which is a level below “elite.” The team also added “average” players in slot receiver Kendall Wright and cornerback Prince Amukamara to positions that needed to be upgraded.
Perhaps this is what head coach John Fox had in mind when he said he believed the Bears were withing striking distance of … um … something.