INDIANAPOLIS — Building around Justin Fields must be the Chicago Bears’ top priority this offseason. General manager Ryan Poles needs to bring in players that are more skilled than last year’s roster, but he also needs to provide Fields with players that want to work with him and believe in his skillset.
Two players in the NFL Draft that would embrace an opportunity in Chicago to play with Fields are wide receivers Rashee Rice from SMU and Kayshon Boutte out of LSU.
The good news for the Bears is that both receivers should be available on Day 2 of the draft. So, if the Bears trade down in the first round and address other areas of need, they will have some options in the second and third rounds.
Poles must understand this potential path as both receivers told reporters on Friday that they have met with the Bears. Both receivers have intriguing talents, but they also suffered from consistency issues.
Rashee Rice, Southern Methodist
When Rice was at the podium, he mentioned that he is coming in with the mindset of becoming a team’s WR1. He believes what makes him special is his quick feet, which allow him to create separation.
When asked about receivers in the NFL that he looks up to, he said DeAndre Hopkins and Justin Jefferson.
Both receivers are dominant in contested-catch situations, which is something Rice believes he can also bring to the table. Being a little bit heavier than most wideouts benefits Rice as he’s able to absorb contact in these situations. He also has the mindset to make these sorts of plays and said he will haul in the football, no matter its location.
“Regardless of where the ball is, I’m going to catch it,” Rice said.
He went on to say he doesn’t believe in 50-50 balls, because for Rice it’s a “100-0” ball. He pointed to a specific play against Maryland that showcases this ability.
Providing Fields with a receiver who can go up and get these sorts of throws would provide the quarterback with another receiver he can trust in these go-up-and-get-it plays.
Rice said he’d “love” being able to play with Fields on Sundays.
Kayshon Boutte, LSU
Boutte was once considered to be the top receiver in his class. He had 735 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a freshman and added nine more touchdowns in six games as a sophomore before missing the remainder of the year with an ankle injury.
He returned in 2022 but was unable to provide the same impact this past season with only two scores in 11 games. When asked why he wasn’t able to produce at the same level, Boutte admitted that the ankle was still bothering him.
Still, when Boutte is at the top of his game – he is an elite weapon. At the next level, he sees himself as an outside threat and a receiver who has a well-rounded skillset that will enable him to thrive along the perimeter.
He went on to add that his speed and ability to get in and out of his breaks will lead to separation just like Stefon Diggs, which is a receiver that he sees similarities with in terms of playing style.
Boutte believes that he can make an immediate impact on whatever team ends up drafting him. Even though he has fallen in the ranks at wideout, he remains steadfast in his abilities.
“If you ask me, I’m still wide receiver one.”
He may not need it, but Boutte said he has extra motivation now after the birth of his firstborn five months ago.
The Bears’ receivers had a difficult time creating separation last season, which was part of the reason behind Fields’ struggles as a passer. By drafting Boutte, the Bears would have a receiver in the building that believes in his abilities to create that separation the Bears were lacking.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that respects Fields, too.
“Great quarterback. Talented all the way around.”
The Bears are doing their due diligence and making sure to take time and meet multiple receivers in this draft like Rice and Boutte.
It will be interesting to see if either player gets their name called when the Bears submit their pick in the second or third rounds. Both receivers have some question marks and concerns, but no prospect is perfect.
If both can play up to their potential, the Bears would be better by drafting one of these players. Would they prefer the contested-catch specialist Rice? Or the separation machine Boutte? Only time will tell, but the Bears are surely weighing their options.