Note: Greg Braggs Jr. is in Indianapolis this week with the CHGO Bears team and will be filing dispatches each day about his experiences at his first-ever NFL Combine.
INDIANAPOLIS — Well, we’re surviving! Barely. Two straights of staying out til 4 am has left me dazed and confused. I don’t even know if I went this hard when I was 21.
Well, probably, but this has become the biggest challenge of the week. Finding as many minutes to sleep as you can. It feels like a lifetime ago that my biggest concern was how I was going to ask questions at the presser. That’s laughable now, looking back. Hearing myself talk has never been an issue for me. But if I write today’s article too much about myself, I think my teammate Mark Carman may never speak to me again. Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing! Kidding, Mark. I love ya.
But I want to make the focus of today’s article about the wide receivers her at the combine because I had the opportunity to talk to many.
Everyone was rushing to the convention center today because the first wave of players at the podium included guys like Alabama QB Bryce Young, Ohio St. WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba and SMU WR Rashee Rice to name a few. It was imperative for our team to be there early to get a good spot for each of these players as we delegated responsibilities.
So much for those precious extra minutes of sleep.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba has been a favorite of mine as a candidate for the Bears to target at wide receiver. And it’s pretty simple really, he’s a Justin Fields guy. I think for the simpleton fan like me you see what the familiarity does for Ja’Marr Chase and Joe Burrow and draw the conclusion that it could have the same effect for JSN and Fields. I don’t have illusions that JSN will be everything Ja’Marr Chase is in this league but you can’t convince had he never got hurt his final season that this guy wouldn’t be a Top 10 pick in the draft. You can see the route running ability and ability to make some pretty spectacular catches. But some say the speed is the reason for concern. It’s fascinating seeing such different opinions on where JSN will fall in the draft. People have him anywhere between No. 9 and all the way into the early second round. Pretty wide range of opinions on him. All I know is Justin Fields has publicly campaigned for the Bears to bring him on and that’s good enough for me.
Oh and when asked what JSN would say to those that want to label Justin Fields a running back playing quarterback, he said “I wouldn’t think those critics are very smart.” And his teammate CJ Stroud doubled down on that sentiment today as well by emphatically stating “He ain’t no damn running back, he’s a quarterback.” I think those that know what Justin Fields is capable of are starting to take exception to the sensationalist narratives being thrown around. Rightfully so, in my opinion. Fields didn’t become a running QB until he had to or he would’ve been sacked 96 times last year instead of 56.
Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman
When talking with both Jalin Hyatt and Cedric Tillman, wide receivers out of Tennessee, they both talked about their close friendship with Velus Jones and smiled at the idea of being teammates with him again. I think both guys are interesting options for the Bears in the second round potentially if the Bears were to add more picks but not sure either can be a true No. 1 WR which is what the Bears need the most. But I definitely enjoyed Hyatt’s energy and candor when saying he would want to be a guy that Justin Fields could trust.
Another WR you’re seeing a lot of Bears fans and even our guy Corey Wootton fawning over is Zay Flowers. You can see why on tape but at the press conference you could see the confidence on full display. He carries himself as a typical swagger WR who believes fully in his abilities. He talked about studying guys like Steve Smith and Antonio Brown to become the kind of player he wants to be. Sounds good to me! He also mentioned he and Justin Fields would compliment each other well if drafted by the Bears. And not only did he confirm he met with fellow Boston College Grad, Ryan Poles but they even played putt putt golf during their meeting. Something that has reportedly become a tactic for this front office to loosen things up during these player meetings.
The one WR that gave some cause for concern was Quentin Johnston. You watch his highlight reel and look at his stats on paper and you’d think he’s the next Randy Moss or Terrell Owens. Guy is a beast who is fast as lightning! All the measurables a WR would want. But the often-heard criticism of Johnston is that he catches the ball with his body and not his hands far too often. And when I pressed him on that he didn’t dispute it. To his credit, he admitted it’s something he’s working on, saying he’s catching a couple hundred balls a day from the Juggs machine. But my concern is, if your gonna go all in with a WR that early in draft, which is where Johnston is projected to go, I’d like for that guy to be closer to a finished product. Or he’s just so fast and big he will dominate in spite of that flaw. Guess we’ll find out soon enough. Glad I’m not making these decisions.
The standout WR of the day for me, no question, was Jordan Addison out of USC. He’s another guy that many have slated to go in the top half of the first round and you can absolutely see why if you’ve ever watched him play. Like Smith-Njigba, he’s a great route runner, a technician with his footwork and seems to make savvy moves to get separation. But what stood out to me today was his demeanor, the way he answered questions. He struck me as a guy that was extremely calculated with intense attention to detail. He talked about setting guys up at the line of scrimmage, using the DBs leverage against them, setting them up thinking he’s going one way and changing up his speeds in which he runs a route to throw off the guys across from him. He seems like a guy that’s smart enough to always figure out how he’s going to get open against you. I didn’t really feel any vibes with any particular player this entire week asking questions but for whatever reason I came away really impressed by Jordan Addison and would love him on my team. Take that for what it’s worth.
That was the major takeaways from Day 4 with the Wide Receivers for me when all the eyes were on quarterbacks Bryce Young, CJ Stroud and Will Levis. We got our quarterback so I kept my priorities straight.
Today was our last day of shows at the Combine unfortunately. We had a lot of great content and really good guests. Worth your time. But the fun isn’t quite done for me. You get a bonus Day 5 of coverage as I will be back in Indy to wrap up with the offensive lineman and running backs of this draft on Saturday morning. It’s already starting to feel like a ghost town and I’m just seeing more opportunities to meet people I wouldn’t otherwise. Especially since the circus left town, cough cough Mark Carman cough cough. Kidding Mark, I love ya!
Hopefully he’s proud of me that I stayed on task and talked about the players instead of myself for a change! Tomorrow I’ll be back with the sappiness. Off to dinner with super producer, Lawrence. See ya on Saturday!