In my opinion there isn't much debate over who the Bears best wide receiver is. The wide out with the best hands, the best route running, and the best blocker in the run game is Earl Bennett. But can he be the Bears #1 receiver? Can he be the go to guy when the game is tight and a play needs to be made? Can he be an explosive play maker?
Pro Football Focus had Bennett graded out as the 17th best WR in the NFL last year, something I touched on in my roster turnover series. Now Pro Football Focus looked even deeper into the stats at the receiver position as they focused on Drop Percentage. Earl Bennett didn't drop a single ball in 2010. He was second behind Jordan Shipley of the Bengals only because he caught 2 more balls than Bennett. Bennett caught all 50 balls thrown his way, PFF had this to say:
It's not shocking to see that up near the top, we have a couple of guys who do most of their damage in catching shorter, underneath routes. Still, you have to give credit to Jordan Shipley and Earl Bennett for holding onto everything thrown their way. That's the kind of dependency that should make life a lot easier for a potential rookie starter at quarterback in Cincinnati, and you would think it might make Jay Cutler seem a little less erratic.
The Bottom line is, as a receiver you have to catch the ball. Both Shipley and Bennett were utilized out of the slot, so maybe if given more opportunity to succeed they'll each flourish.
I also found interesting some of the worst receivers from 2008-2010 in drop percentage. Braylon Edwards was the worst (45th) with a 14.72 drop percentage, Terrell Owens was at 43 with a 12.5%.
I think Bennett is big and physical enough to be the Bears top wide out in 2011, and I think he has the trust of the coaches and his teammates.