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Number Plunge Dontrelle Inman: A closer look at the Bears’ shiny new toy

Pace made a rare in-season trade to get the Bears much needed help at Wide Receiver, but is this guy any good?

San Diego Chargers v Carolina Panthers
Unlike any Bears receivers last Sunday, Inman can catch a ball against the Panthers!

When news circled around in late August that the Chargers were shopping Dontrelle Inman around to trade before cut downs, I was excited about the possibility of the Bears going for him. I expected it would take more than a conditional 7th round pick and would have been happy if the Bears had offered more at the time. Good thing I’m not the Bears’ GM (actually, this is probably the only good reason I’m not the Bears’ GM) because waiting til the deadline led to a deep discount on a productive wide receiver.

Inman was a Meredith-esque contributor for the Chargers last year after Keenan Allen’s injury. His production was actually remarkably comparable to Cameron Meredith’s, catching 58 passes for 810 yards and 4 touchdowns (for those casual Bears’ fans who don’t have Mere Bear’s stats memorized, Cameron caught 66 passes for 894 yards and 4 touchdowns.)

By most metrics, Inman was a quality #2 receiver in 2016. He was ranked 32nd among receivers by PFF (overall grade 79.3) and 38th by Football Outsiders (+5.5% DVOA). These ranks don’t sound overly impressive, but if receivers were divided evenly between all teams, you would expect #2 receivers to range between 33 and 64, so Dontrelle would rank among the best.

Inman made efficient use of his targets in 2016. He had a reasonable 60% reception percentage, and an impressive 14 yards per catch—pushing his yards per target into the excellent 8-9 range (8.351 if you want to be picky; while you’re being picky, you can notice this is higher than both Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham Jr put up last year; just don’t look at Julio Jones who had a league-topping 10.9.)

The Chargers lined up Inman both outside and in the slot. He spent more time on the outside in 2015, but according to Pro Football Focus, he spent 62% of his breakout 2016 season in the slot. Also according to PFF, he only had 22 receptions (38%) during his time in the slot, so perhaps (hopefully) this wasn’t actually the best spot for him.

Since the Bears insist on limiting Kendall Wright to the slot, I will throw a tearful childish princess fit if Inman eats into Kendall’s already limited slot snaps (did you catch all eight on Sunday? Probably not since he wasn’t targeted on any of them).

Dontrelle has shown he can perform well as a deep threat on the outside, and his deep ball numbers are probably the prettiest part of his package. On 13 deep targets in 2016, Inman had 6 receptions for 215 yards and a touchdown. His 46% deep pass catch rate was ranked 17th according to PFF, and 36 yards per catch and 16.5 yards per target is a tremendous payoff for sending Inman deep.

Numbers continue to favor Inman when you look at his measurables. at 6’3” 200 lbs, he ran a 4.47 40 yard dash and 6.53 3-cone drill at his Pro Day. Despite this impressive workout, he spent time in CFL before the Chargers picked him up in 2014.

So why did the Chargers get rid of a talented, productive receiver? Keenan Allen, 7th overall-pick Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, and Travis Benjamin have all carved bigger roles from themselves in the enviously-deep Chargers receiver chart. It likely didn’t help that Inman had an off-season injury that required surgery and kept him away from important OTAs.

No matter the reason, I’m not complaining. The numbers show promise for the Bears’ newest receiver, and a conditional 7th round pick sits just above a sandwich on the Jimmy Johnson trade value chart.