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Why the Bears Keep Looking at Wide Receivers

By Gene Chamberlain,


The Bears haven't quit looking at wide receivers since acquiring DJ Moore and scheduled Jaxon Smith-Njigba to visit, but why?

It's one of the more curious things about the Bears run up to the 2023 NFL Draft.

Before free agency began, they traded down out of the top spot for the ninth pick and in return was wide receiver DJ Moore.

They now have a receiver room with DJ Moore, Chase Claypool, Darnell Mooney, Equanimeous St. Brown, Velus Jones Jr. and roster hopefuls Joe Reed, Nsimba Webster and Daurice Fountain.

It would seem filling out the roster for camp and the competition for the last two or three receiver spots on the roster is in order.

However, the Bears are not content with this group. At least, according to reports about their interest through top-30 visits and other types of visits, this is the case.

Sure, pro day visits don't mean a lot because every team goes to those. The top-30 visits can mean more because they're actually bringing the player to their facility and getting to know them better.

Former Bears GM Ryan Pace always said it was good bringing in these players because they could refer back to those visits and information in the future in free agency, even if they didn't draft that player. They became part of the data base for free agency.

It seems a lot of wasted resources on players who will not, for the most part, be drafted by a particular team and won't be available for four years or more.

The reality is it's good to do this because a team needs to be prepared for all eventualities. If one player is gone or there is a run on certain positions, a team is well informed about alternative players.

With the Bears and receivers, they could have other intentions. Such as, finding a punt returner, someone, anyone who can perform this task. It's been either a disaster waiting to happen or hoping for a guy who could make a fair catch ever since Tarik Cohen's unfortunate ACL tear.

Here are wide receivers the Bears have been reported to have their eye on even with all these other receivers already on their roster.

1. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Justin Fields' friend and the player he tabbed as a guy he'd like to see drafted by Chicago was slated for a top-30 visit at Halas Hall according to Ohio State beat writer Dan Hope.

It would seem the only way the Bears would draft him is if linemen on both sides of the ball are gone first for some reason, or if they traded down and found he was the best pick possible when it was time to make a selection.

Smith-Njigba isn't a burner. Varying times at his pro day put him in the 4.5-second range. Yet, he gets open with his route running and is excellent after making the catch. He earned high praise from former teammates as being capable of playing at a level both Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson played at as 2022 rookies.

Guys who set odds in Las Vegas knew the Bears had DJ Moore on their roster but they set the betting line at 5-1 for the Bears drafting Smith-Njigba. That made them the second-best likelihood for Smith-Njigba's future home. These are not people who are about losing money and this line reflects an awful lot of people who are betting it will be Smith-Njigba.

He is an ideal fit as he plays all over the formation, epsecially slot. The Bears have Darnell Mooney for the slot but his contract runs out after this year and if they didn't see him in their future it would make sense drafting Smith-Njigba.

The whole problem with this idea is you have to get past that offense line and defensive line issue the Bears have before they could justify drafting a receiver first. Those are very big stumbling blocks.

2. Jayden Reed, Michigan State

Maybe it was because of his big Senior Bowl week or what he accomplished at Michigan State, but Reed is one of those making a top-30 visit to Halas Hall according to Pro Football Network. At 5-foot-11, 190, the Naperville native made 203 receptions for 2,866 yards and 26 TDs at both Western Michigan and Michigan State. He had an excellent week at the Senior Bowl, being named top receiver for the National team. Remember, GM Ryan Poles said at the owners meetings he sees value in drafting local players.

The real value in the Bears looking at Reed beyond his receiving numbers—which would have no doubt been better if not for a leg injury he fought through last year—was his punt return skill. He averaged 14.1 yards per return for Michigan State and 17.9 for his one year at Western Michigan. Among the 38 returns he made were three touchdowns.

NFL Draft Bible has assessed a fourth-round grade for Reed, so he seems to be a player the Bears could target Day 2 with No. 64 or on Day 3 with one of two fourth-round picks they have.

3. Jonathan Mingo, Ole' Miss

The 6-2, 215-pound X-type receiver made 112 catches for 1,758 yards and 12 TDs. Doing against SEC competition doesn't hurt, and coming from a school that keeps on churning out receivers helps his cause, as well. His stats could have been better except for injury issues early in his career.

NFL Draft Bible says to "Liken his skillset to an outside receiver with some versatility in the slot or tighter alignments." They give him a third-round grade but he has not been a return man like Reed has. At mid-season last year, Mingo was graded the No. 1 receiver in college football by Pro Football Focus. Mingo, who has been reported to have made a top-30 visit with the Bears, has posted a 4.46-second 40 time and had a spectacular combine with a 39 1/2-inch vertical leap and 10-foot-9 broad jump. He also did 22 reps in the bench press.

4. Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia

A 6-1, 210-pound receiver who, like Mingo, is good as a vertical threat. He made 90 catches for 1,694 12 TDs. His route running has impressed NFLDB scouts and he can go up in the air and grab the 50-50 ball but is not a speed threat with a 4.6 40. As such, he's labeled a fourth-round pick by NFLDB. The Bears also have reportedly set him for a top-30 visit.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven

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