Road to the Draft…Part Five – Wide Receivers
I think over the last 2-3 years, we as Bears fans have seen what happens when you do not have wide receivers that with Division I, major college-level coaching. Of their top 4 wideouts, you have Johnny Knox, a speedster from a Division-2 school; Devin Hester, a college cornerback/kick returner who, up until three years ago, had never played Wide Receiver at ANY level—not even high school; and Rashied Davis, a converted cornerback.
What we have learned, as we should have known from watching all-time greats like Jerry Rice, Cris Carter, and Marvin Harrison—is that there is alot more to being an NFL-level Wide Receiver than how fast you can run down the field. In fact, of the WRs that finished in the Top 20 in Receiving Yards last season, only 2 (DeSean Jackson and Mike Wallace) are guys who rely on deep speed. To be a great WR, you have to be able to read coverages and use leverage and run crisp routes and have great hands. When you take those factors into consideration, its no wonder that by the end of last season, the WR that Jay Cutler trusted most was Earl Bennett—the ONLY Bears’ WR to play the position or Wide Receiver at a Division 1 College. So it is extremely important that the Bears come out of this draft with at least one receiver with polished receiver skills.
The conundrum in this draft is that you have 2 GREAT prospects—Julio Jones and AJ Green—who seem like can’t-miss guys. The only problem is that they should be LONG GONE by the time the Bears draft at the end of the 1st round. You have one other guy, Jonathan Baldwin of Pitt, who alot of people have going at the end of the first round; but what I saw of him this season did not really impress me enough to think he warrants consideration in the first round of the draft. All of the other WR prospects have 3rd-round or worse grades. In Mike Martz’s offense, you place a premium on quickness and route-running over speed. The Bears also desperately need a guy who can beat press coverage and be physical on those short slants when you need to convert a third or fourth-and-short. Here are the prospect rankings, courtesy of CBS DraftScout. Click on the player’s name to be taken to a link for their scouting report/video.
6th-7th Rounds: Vincent Brown (SD State); Ryan Whalen (Stanford); Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State); Dwayne Harris (East Carolina); Tori Gurley (South Carolina); Jeff Maehl (Oregon); Darvin Adams (Auburn).
Unless God smiles upon the Bears, and Aj Green or Julio Jones fall to us in the first round; I would avoid drafting a WR until the third or fourth rounds. Jernigan and Young are intriguing to me at that point. The guys I am most enamored with are:
-Greg Little, who should be available in the late third or early fourth round. You can’t teach 6-3, 231 pounds, that runs a 4.4-49 yard dash and benches 225 lbs 27 TIMES.
-Niles Paul, for the same reasons as Little, ran a little faster than Little at the combine, but is a little smaller at 6-1, 220.
Both these guys could fill the jam-beating, possession-type, physical run after the catch WR role the Bears have been lacking.
In the later rounds, guys like Ryan Whalen and Tori Gurley could fill that role for us.
Another guy not on list who I will watch is Armon Binns from Cincinnati. He could have come out last year and been a 2nd or 3rd rounder. But he stayed in school, and struggled after losing his coach Brian Kelly and QB Tony Pike. He is 6-3, 210, and ran a respectable sub-4.5 40 yard dash.