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INDIANAPOLIS — Ryan Poles knows exactly what he wants in a wide receiver.
The Bears’ first-year general manager spoke to the media on Tuesday and expressed the traits in the position that will fit this new regime.
“Yeah, I think they come in different shapes and sizes and speeds. I think it comes down to playmakers,” Poles said. “I think we saw that in the Super Bowl, guys that can make plays when their number is called. And as we move forward, you can see that on college tape. … But I would say that boils down to being a playmaker.”
Purdue’s David Bell is just that.
According to Pro Football Focus, Bell has the most receiving yards in the Big Ten since 2019. His 2,977 receiving yards on 234 receptions were more than Ohio State’s Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson — all receivers who will be drafted in April.
Last season, Bell finished first in the Big Ten in receptions per game (8.5) and second in yards per game (116.9), trailing Ohio State sophomore Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
With Allen Robinson’s time likely done in Chicago, the Bears desperately need another receiver who is capable of generating big plays.
(Side note: Robinson was in Indianapolis, Ind. Wednesday night and spoke with Bears wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert. Maybe that’s something. Maybe it’s not.)
Darnell Mooney is the only receiver under contract that provided stable production at the position last season. Mooney finished his second year with 81 receptions, 1,055 yards and four touchdowns.
“(Mooney has) got a quiet confidence about him,” Poles said. “He’s hungry to be special. I’m always looking for guys that, they’re just raising their own bar in terms of where they want to go. He wants to be special. You can feel that in him.”
The same can be said about Bell. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm once compared Bell’s route running to a “young Jerry Rice.” Bell acknowledged the high praise but knows he has plenty of work to do before being in that prestigious class of receivers.
“He’s obviously, you know, the greatest receiver of all time,” Bell said at the NFL Combine. “So, when you get mentioned in that category, you definitely have to have to sit back, look to see, are you really that good? And I’m not there yet. So hopefully one day I’ll be able to get there.”
Bell has the desire to be great, which fits two things head coach Matt Eberflus is looking for in players: “Does he love football?” and “is he willing to work really hard?”
Eberflus also wants his receivers to each embody a variety of traits.
“One guy might be quick and he’s really a short route runner,” he said. “Another guy can do it all, that would be our No.1 receiver. Should be able to do that. Then the other guy should be able to take the top off the defense because that puts stress on the defense.”
Mooney has proven he can stretch a defense vertically, but the Bears still need a player that can “do it all.” In his three years at Purdue, Bell has been asked to line up outside and in the slot, shown consistency when making contested catches and the ability to run precise routes.
All those qualities are exactly what the Bears should be striving to add for a young quarterback like Justin Fields. Poles also mentioned “when things go crazy” throughout a game, Fields needs a wide receiver he can trust in those crucial situations.
“I think being reliable when your number is called, making all the big third-down catches,” Bell said. “Those big fourth-down catches. It’s definitely primetime games and being able to compete against the best and putting your best foot forward.”
Even though Bell said he hasn’t met with the Bears, that doesn’t mean the organization won’t use one of their five picks to acquire him in April.
Bell can increase his likelihood of being drafted in the second round if he can improve his testing numbers at his pro day.
And if Bell can do that, he already can envision himself playing with Fields.
“Justin Fields … that would be something I’d love to do,” Bell said. “Watching him at Ohio State and just seeing the way that he throws the ball and also his pocket presence.”
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