Success in the NFL isn’t just defined by the most talented people. It is also decided by those who are the most willing to innovate. This is true both on and off the field. One of the biggest growing trends in the league today is the advent of analytics. The idea is that crunching numbers during evaluations will lead a team to make the best decision on various players. Certain organizations have embraced this new approach. New GM Ryan Poles is one of them.
The Chicago Bears, as is often the case, were well-behind other organizations in the analytics push. Under GM Ryan Pace, they only had one official member of the front office who did that sort of work, whereas others like the Cleveland Browns have an entire department devoted to it. Poles aims to change that. He’s already rearranging the front office to blend old school and new school better. The timing is important, too, because analytics will play a pivotal role in the upcoming draft. It starts with the scouting combine down in Indianapolis.
He explained why to Larry Mayer of Chicagobears.com.
“The other thing is I work with our analytics group; I always have, in Kansas City and I’ll do that now. We create scores of a combination of all the drills and all the timed and measured events, and we’re looking for guys to fall into a certain range by position. The only time where things will change or we need to do more work is when they fall out of that. If it’s poor, that would make us concerned. Or if it’s elite and it’s an outlier, then we have to make sure, ‘Are we missing something, should we move the guy up the board just a little bit because he’s got special traits?'”
This makes sense. Crunching the numbers and getting them all down to a single score better helps the GM determine which players meet the team’s threshold of athletes they want. The higher the score, the better the odds that player finds success in the NFL. At least from a physical standpoint. They still also have to pass certain eye tests when it comes to their game tape. If the tape and athletic score both line up, the player likely ends up high on the draft board.
It doesn’t stop there.
What can make analytics so useful is their incredible versatility. It doesn’t have to be just about evaluating players. Math applies to almost anything. Poles gave another example during the same interview. During his first press conference in January, he said that he would like to build through the draft. This could prove difficult with the Bears only having five picks. So would he be open to maybe trading down more often this year in an attempt to acquire more?
“In terms of moving back, then it becomes a numbers game, and I work with some of our analytics folks to come up with rules for that on draft day. If you have the ability to maneuver around and you still can get a guy in the proper value for where you’re picking, then that might be the best move because then you add draft capital as well.”
They said Ryan Poles was organized and detailed
It certainly sounds like they weren’t lying. The man does not come across as somebody set in a particular way of doing things. He is open-minded, wanting as much information as possible. His belief is there is no such thing as too much data. The more a team can gather on a player, the better their odds of picking the right ones for this team. That is why the new GM will listen to all scouts’ opinions as well as what the math says.
Ryan Poles doesn’t want to leave anything up to chance. He knows mistakes will still be made. Drafting players is never going to be an exact science. Still, it is all about minimizing the risk as much as possible. By incorporating analytics into the process, he feels this will help him make the best decisions for the good of the Chicago Bears.