With the season winding down, one thing is clear — the Chicago Bears absolutely need to add a wide receiver who can make an immediate impact in 2023.
This is a pressing need for the Bears as it will be imperative to add talent around Justin Fields, who has cemented himself as the franchise quarterback. Adding a playmaker at receiver would be a major boost for Fields and the offense.
As of now, the Bears are in possession of the second overall pick. Even though the team probably shouldn’t draft a receiver with that pick, there is a strong chance the Bears will trade down. With several talented receivers expected to be available early in the draft, and the importance of providing Fields with a bonafide WR1 next season, it will be imperative for the Bears to make the right pick.
General manager Ryan Poles must understand the Bears cannot afford to go another year without a top-tier receiving weapon for Fields.
Here are five wide receivers that must be on the Bears’ radar heading into the offseason and before the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.
5. Rashee Rice (SMU)
One of the first things that stand out about Rashee Rice is his physical profile. At 6-foot-3, he has the height and length one would typically expect out of an offense’s top wideout.
Not only does Rice look the part, but he also offers game-changing playmaking ability. He’s a receiver that can make the first defender miss. Then, his combination of ball skills and speed, allow him to do serious damage in the open field.
Rice can also leverage his physicality to win at the catch point and come down with contested catches. His ability to position himself with in-air adjustments stands out.
He finished his senior season at SMU with 96 catches, 1,355 yards, an average of 14.1 yards per catch and 10 touchdowns.
Those 96 catches rank fourth nationally and his 1,355 receiving yards were the second-most of any receiver.
Oh, and for those that like receivers that are willing blockers. Rice fits that mold, too.
Rice’s stock can rise between now and the draft, but he does appear to have the tools in place to become a top weapon for Fields.
4. Josh Downs (North Carolina)
Don’t let his lack of size fool you, Josh Downs (5-foot-10, 175 pounds) can hang in there with the best of them. What he lacks in size, Downs makes up with his explosiveness and polished route running that enables him to create separation.
Not only is Downs crafty with his ability to create space, but he also has the top-end speed to take the tops off opposing defenses. His speed and ability to track the football will allow him to be a deep threat in the NFL. He’s also able to hit his top gear rather quickly, making Downs a catch-and-run threat, too.
Downs has been ultra-productive over the last two seasons. He’s caught 195 passes for 2,634 yards and 19 touchdowns. With 94 of those catches coming this year, Downs ranks sixth in the country in receptions.
The big question for Downs is if he can become an elite player at the next level without the desired size. He’s proven he can overcome it in college and has even found himself becoming a red-zone threat.
At 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, he will have a disadvantage with most of his matchups. That doesn’t mean he can’t excel, though. Tyreek Hill and Tyler Lockett have very similar builds, and their reputations speak for themselves.
The Bears have brought in multiple “bigger” receivers since Ryan Poles arrived. Will that emphasis on size continue into 2023 as they look to add around Fields? And if so, will that push Downs … down the Bears’ big board?
Regardless, at this stage, he should at least be on their radar.
3. Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State)
Make no mistake, Jaxon Smith-Njigba is another impactful receiver that the Bears need to be keeping their eyes on. He set the Big Ten receiving record in 2021 with 1,606 yards. And he had a Rose Bowl performance to remember … 15 catches, 347 yards and three touchdowns.
Injuries completely derailed Smith-Njigba’s 2022 campaign. He injured his hamstring in the season opener, which has lingered all season. He only was able to play a part in two other games.
Still, what Smith-Njigba was able to accomplish in 2021 should be more than enough to keep him well within the ranks of the top wideouts in this year’s class.
Now, he’s not a freakish athlete or anything of that nature, but Smith-Njigba holds his own. Plus, what he lakes in explosiveness and top-end speed, he makes up for with his ball skills. He’s a true technician at the position.
2. Jordan Addison (USC)
If the Bears want to add a receiver that can be a threat at all three levels of the field, then look no further than USC’s Jordan Addison.
Ability to create separation downfield? Check. A reliable threat over the middle? Check. The Bears could use Addison’s services next season as he could easily become Fields’ favorite target.
Even though Addison had a down year at a new school, transferring to USC from Pittsburgh after a monster 2021 season that earned him the 2021 Biletnikoff Award for the best receiver in college football, there’s still plenty of reason to be optimistic about his chances of being an elite playmaker in the NFL.
One concern the Bears may have in Addison and his ability to be a WR1 would be his slender frame as he has a slim build (6-foot, 175-pounds).
He has a wide catch radius with soft hands that can pluck the football anywhere within his range. Addison also has a strong tendency to consistently make plays after the catch.
Plus, Addison’s route-running skills paired with his nasty double moves should allow him to create separation against defensive backs at the next level, too.
Would the Bears take a chance on a player that was the best at his position just a year ago and believe that pairing him with Fields would provide Chicago with a dynamic duo to take the offense to new heights in 2023?
1. Quentin Johnston (TCU)
If Addison is too small for your liking, perhaps the 6-foot-4 Quentin Johnston better fits the bill. Johnston has “X receiver” written all over him!
If you’re looking for that big-bodied “go up and get it” guy, Johnston is your man. And he’s more than just all size, as Johnston is a superior athlete, too.
Fields loves to throw the ball deep, and the Bears would benefit from Johnston’s downfield ability. His body control allows him to make tough grabs.
He’s more than just a “jump ball” guy as he can do damage in catch-and-run situations where he tends to run through defenders to gain extra yards.
Now, Johnston has not been one of the more productive receivers in college football. His 53 catches this season ranks 96th nationally, and he was only able to score five touchdowns on the year.
So what the Bears need to do between now is determine if they believe pairing Johnston with Fields would allow the receiver to find more production at the next level, because his size and athletic profile are everything the Bears desperately need to take that next step on offense.
There’s a ton of time between now and the draft. It will be interesting to watch these receivers as they jockey for positioning. Surely, the rankings will change, as they always do.
And it would be no surprise if other receivers that didn’t make the top five start to climb the ranks. Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman from Tennessee are two players that could most definitely increase their stock. Boston College’s Zay Flowers and Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims, too.
Expect some breakdowns of those players before the scouting combine. Also, don’t be surprised to see deep dives on the above list.
But for now, let me know what receivers from today’s group you would like the Bears to target in the draft!
Drop your favorite prospect in the comments below!