Chicago Bears Draft: Does Ryan Pace need to draft a fast wide receiver early?

Should the Chicago Bears pass on talent for speed?

The Chicago Bears have been the team that everybody seems to know what they need to draft this year. The first few mock drafts that started had the Bears drafting tight end Cole Kmet early and often along with Brycen Hopkins. Later before the combine, it shifted to the offensive line.

Commonly, tackles like Saahadiq Charles, Prince Tega Wanogho, and Yasir Durant. It now seems to be split between wide receiver and guard. A few common guard names seem to be Llyod Cushenberry, Cesar Ruiz, and Matt Hennessy, who played the center position in college. The most significant push appears to be a speed wide receiver—specifically, Jalen Reagor, KJ Hamler, and a little bit less, Denzel Mims.

The Chicago Bears receiving core does lack some of that explosive speed that some other teams have. The Bears released speedy receiver Taylor Gabriel this offseason. But the question remains, do the Bears need to replace Taylor Gabriel’s speed.

Taylor Gabriel ranked on Matt Bowen‘s list in 2017 as the ninth fastest receiver in the NFL with a 4.27 40 yard dash. The other players on that list consist of  Brandin Cooks, John Ross, Jakeem Grant, DeSean Jackson, Ted Ginn Jr, JJ Nelson, Marquise Goodwin, and at number one is Tyreek Hill. This list wasn’t just about 40 yard dash time but overall speed. Jakeem Grant posted the slowest time with a 4.38 40 yard dash.

Is speed important in the NFL? Of course, but how does that directly reflect on the field? The fastest receiver, Tyreek Hill ranked 8th overall as a receiver on the PFF grade scale. Hill missed four games but had 58 catches for 860 yards (14.8  y/r) with seven touchdowns and a Super Bowl win.

Hill has 414 catches for 4115 yards (14.6 y/r) and 32 touchdowns in four years. Marquise Goodwin wasn’t ranked on PFF. He has 12 catches for 186 yards (15.5 y/r) and one touchdown. His best season, he had 56 catches for 962 yards (17.2) and two touchdowns.

JJ Nelson played in two games last year. His best season of 34 catches for 568 yards and six touchdowns. Ted Ginn Jr has been a solid return man in the league but had his best season of 44 catches with 739 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Jakeem Grant’s best season netted him 21 catches for 268 yards and two touchdowns. John Ross has yet to finish a season without injury. The other outlier like Hill is DeSean Jackson. Jackson was drafted in the second round in 2008 as the 49th overall pick. He has not finished a complete season yet but has surpassed 900 yards in seven seasons to include his rookie year.

So if the Bears can be confident that they are getting Tyreek Hill or DeSean Jackson, they will have found a gem that could have massive dominance for a long time in the NFL. The goal for every team every draft is to find the best player possible at the specific position they are scouting. However, the question remains, is that what the Chicago Bears need?

The sub-4.40 guys tend to have smaller frames that lead to injury. Being short is fine, but ideally, a receiver who is short and thick would be better. When I think small talented receiver, I think Steve Smith Sr. Listed at 5’9 195 pounds that’s about the same equivalency of a 6’4 215-pound receiver. It doesn’t replace one, though.

Looking at the top 15 graded receivers last year, only Julio Jones, Terry McLaurin, Tyreek Hill, and Tyler Lockett had 4.40 speed or less. Oddly enough, Allen Robinson was number 15 on the ranking. Speed on the field can kill, talent trumps speed.

Unless these guys are off the board already, they should be viewed as a high priority in this order. Tee Higgins, Brandon Aiyuk, Michael Pittman Jr, Justin Jefferson, Tyler Johnson. Then think Jalen Reagor, Denzel Mims, and KJ Hamler.

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Grabbing another potential big body talented receiver shouldn’t be negative. The Chicago Bears offense thrived with Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Alshon Jeffrey. With Anthony Miller in the slot and having Javon Wims and Riley Ridley being depth pieces, this offense would have the strength it needs to overcome its lack of deep speed.

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