Anthony Miller was electric in the second half of last season and has plenty of upside, but he has yet to prove himself capable of staying healthy and being consistent for a majority of a season. Riley Ridley was highly-touted in the 2019 draft class but didn’t prove much in his rookie campaign, Darnell Mooney is a Day 3 rookie, Ted Ginn Jr. is 35, Javon Wims’ ceiling isn’t necessarily sky high, and Cordarrelle Patterson is a gadget player whose contract expires after 2020. Even Robinson is slated to hit the open market at the end of the year too, and though it appears likely the Bears will extend his contract, it hasn’t happened yet.
Given the lack of security at the position, there’s a possibility the Bears could look to draft a wide receiver early in next year’s draft. If they so wish to target a wide out—or if they’re out of range to reasonably draft a quarterback in the first round—then they could be in luck: the 2021 class appear to be an equally deep group of receivers.
Though still very early in the draft process, there have been several wide receivers to stand out as potential first-round talents. These five collegiate stars are among those whom the Bears would be smart to keep an eye on heading into the new year.
Ja’Marr Chase, LSU
Ja’Marr Chase could be an option if the Bears pick in the top 10 of next year’s draft. Last year’s Biletnikoff Award winner as a true sophomore, the LSU wideout torched SEC defenses to the tune of 84 receptions, 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns in 2019. He has stellar body control, which allows him to adjust to the ball easily in mid-air, stop on a dime as a route runner and track down deep balls efficiently. His ball skills, long arms and leaping ability give him an impressive catch radius, and he is an intelligent and efficient route runner who also shows off good elusiveness and contact balance after the catch. Chase is essentially the well-rounded talent one would want as a legitimate No. 1 receiver at the next level, and if Chicago has a disappointing season, he could be an intriguing option for them early on.
Jaylen Waddle, Alabama
Alabama boasted two first-round wide receivers on their roster last year in Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy, but there’s a strong chance two of their other receivers could also end up in Round 1 in 2021. Jaylen Waddle hasn’t had stellar production due to his battling for playing time with several standouts, but his impact on the Crimson Tide’s offense is apparent. He is an incredible athlete who arguably rivals Ruggs in terms of deep speed, acceleration off the snap and elusiveness after the catch. He is a sharp route runner who changes direction seamlessly and can sink his hips to stop on a dime, and he is also a dynamic returner who has had three combined returns for touchdowns as a kick and punt returner through his two years at Alabama.
DeVonta Smith, Alabama
DeVonta Smith could have been a top-10 receiver in the 2020 class, but staying in school could help his stock even more. An effective route runner, Smith makes sharp cuts, sells route concepts incredibly well and uses his hands well to break free from press coverage. He has good body control and accelerates well off the snap, and he actually led Alabama in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Smith can fight through contact and maintain focus on the ball in tight windows, and his high-pointing abilities on the jump ball are encouraging. He’s lanky at 175 pounds, but he has a lengthy 6-foot-1 frame that still has room to add some more muscle to it. The two teammates are legitimate first-round talents who could go just as high as Ruggs and Jeudy did this year.
Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
If the Bears want more of an ‘X’ receiver, then Rashod Bateman could be a great choice. The rising true junior had 60 receptions, 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns for Minnesota last season, even when battling for reps with fifth-round pick Tyler Johnson. He has great size at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, and he is a long-limbed wide out who runs with long strides and has a large catch radius. He plays with very good footwork as a route runner and attacks leverage points well. Bateman has ideal body control across the middle of the field and is also able to adjust himself to make difficult grabs. He projects well as a Day 1 starter once he enters the league.
Rondale Moore, Purdue
Though he missed all but four games in 2019, Purdue junior Rondale Moore enters the 2020 season as one of the most electric playmakers in the nation. A consensus All-American as a true freshman in 2018, Moore finished his first collegiate season with 114 receptions, 1,258 yards and 12 touchdowns. He is one of the fastest players in all of college football, as he has phenomenal deep speed and has the quickness to beat defensive backs with speed releases and outrun them after the catch. He is a quick-twitch athlete who can change direction easily, showing off impressive burst as he explodes out of his breaks and sinks his hips to either create separation on a cut or pick up yards after the catch.
Moore is more than just an athlete though, as he has a high route-running IQ and knows how to alter his route to attack a cornerback’s blind spot and sell concepts through his stem. He’s a smaller receiver at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds, but he was able to squat roughly three times his body weight coming out of high school, and that strength shows up in his underrated contact balance. If the Bears are still looking for a speedy ‘Z’ receiver after the 2020 season, then Moore could be a guy to watch.