The Bears seem to like their wide receivers right now, but that shouldn’t stop them from looking hard at the position in the draft later this month.
The top three of Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller and Taylor Gabriel appear to be set, but there are a bunch of question marks after that, for both 2019 and the future. Assuming Robinson is better another year removed from knee surgery and Miller takes a step as second-year receivers tend to do, the team’s top three receivers are really quite good. Unless, of course, someone were to get injured, which tends to happen in the NFL.
Both Robinson and Miller missed some time last year and the result was Josh Bellamy playing 321 snaps and Kevin White getting an additional 170. While White’s snaps and position are going to be easily replaced by free agent signee Cordarrelle Patterson, fans shouldn’t underestimate the loss of Bellamy.
Ideally, Bellamy would be replaced by Javon Wims, but Wims is anything but proven.
Wims is a big body who showed the ability to make contested catches both at Georgia and in the NFL last year. But, whether it was because of his grasp on the playbook or ability, there was a reason he was behind Bellamy and White, playing just 30 snaps.
Wims produced in his limited time on the field, both in the Week 17 game against Minnesota and the preseason where he notched 15 catches for 227 yards in four games. There are certainly reasons to be excited about what he can do but young players should always earn playing time and, as Matt Nagy said often last year, you can never have too many receivers in this offense.
Bellamy was valuable because he could play every position. While Wims can win on short routes, he just doesn’t seem to have the speed to threaten defenses down the field. At least, we’ve never seen it on the NFL level and his athletic profile suggests we won’t. Patterson can help make up some in that aspect, but he has always struggled whenever he’s been asked to play receiver regularly. He should be looked at as a gadget player, not a true wide receiver.
The team added speed in Marvin Hall, but he seems like more of a Gabriel backup than anything else. Should the Bears have to turn to him, both of their outside receivers would be shorter than 5’10”. Also worth noting that Hall has never had more than 10 catches in a season in the NFL or in college.
Should Robinson miss time again in 2019, the Bears will have a serious lack of big players who can get down the field. Luckily, that’s one thing the college ranks tends to produce.
A player like David Sills (6’3”) of West Virginia could be interesting in the fourth or fifth round. While he only ran a 4.57 40-yard dash, Sills had a 37.5-inch vertical and a 10-foot broad jump, showing burst. He averaged more than 15 yards per catch his final two years in college and totaled 33 touchdowns in that time.
Dillon Mitchell from Oregon could be another interesting addition or they could look even bigger and take a flier on 6’4”, 225-pound Jazz Ferguson from Northwestern State.
Those are just a few examples of physically gifted players who the Bears could add after the third round.
Even if the Bears are confident in Wims, there is a long-term issue at the position. As they have to extend young players like Tarik Cohen, Eddie Jackson, Cody Whitehair and, most significantly Mitch Trubisky, affording a $16 million a year receiver like Robinson might not be possible.
Whether this is the year they start trying to find eventual replacements for veterans who are likely to depart or they wait until next year remains to be seen, but the wide receiver position is crucial to the offense and, as Nagy says, they’ll never have too many.