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2021 NFL Draft: Day 3 WR options for Bears

If the Bears don’t take a wide receiver early, they could look to one of these prospects as potential targets.

Washington v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Regardless of when they do it, it’s likely the Bears will take a wide receiver in the 2021 NFL Draft.

With Anthony Miller potentially serving as trade bait and neither Javon Wims nor Riley Ridley having shown much as rotational weapons, the Bears could stand to upgrade their current group of wide receivers. Allen Robinson has established himself as a quality No. 1 target, and Darnell Mooney put together a very good rookie campaign. The former is currently on the franchise tag, though, leaving his long-term status with the team up in the air.

However, for as much as the Bears could use a new wide receiver or two, they also have other needs on their roster. They have a hole at offensive tackle and lack much upside at the position going forward, they don’t have a long-term starting option at cornerback alongside Jaylon Johnson, and, of course, they have no answer at quarterback.

Depending on how the board falls, the Bears may end up waiting until Day 3 to draft a wide receiver. Given how talented the 2021 draft is at the position, they could still find a potential contributor outside of the first three rounds.

With Mooney being the only starting receiver with long-term security on the Bears’ roster, it’s likely the team will target either a boundary ‘X’ receiver or a slot ‘Y’ receiver. That said, this year’s draft has plenty of intriguing sleepers at both positions.

Here are a few under-the-radar wide receivers the Bears could target on Day 3.

Simi Fehoko, Stanford

If you’re looking for a developmental weapon on Day 3, you might as well take a shot on a 6-foot-4, 222-pounder who runs a 4.44 40-yard dash like Simi Fehoko.

Fehoko’s size gives him a tremendous advantage in contested situations, as his expansive catch radius, strong hands and overall bulk allows him to box out defenders and come down with grabs that most receivers are unable to make. He’s also a valuable deep threat, as he accelerates well off the snap and is quick to hit top speed vertically. His physicality translates as a ball-carrier, where he runs with a mean edge and uses his raw power to churn through would-be tacklers. In a shortened 2020, he tallied 37 catches and 584 yards in six games, taking advantage of a late return to Pac-12 football and putting together one of the best offensive performances in the conference.

Prior to 2020, Fehoko had just 25 receptions to his name at the collegiate level. He is older for a draft prospect, as he spent two seasons on an LDS church mission after his high school graduation before playing three years at Stanford. He doesn’t have stellar explosiveness coming out of his breaks, and his route tree is fairly one-dimensional at this stage. While raw and unproven, Fehoko’s raw physical talent makes him an intriguing project who could likely be taken in Rounds 4 or 5.

Scheme fit: ‘X’ receiver

Josh Imatorbhebhe, Illinois

With a record-breaking 46.5-inch vertical jump at his Pro Day, Josh Imatorbhebhe shows off insane explosiveness in his lower half in workouts and on tape.

He possesses a thick and well-built 6-foot-1, 218-pound frame and appears to have very little fat on him. That muscular frame translates to his playing style, as he offers very good contact balance and power as a runner after the catch, as well as good physicality at the catch points. He accelerates well off the snap and has good enough deep speed to stretch the field vertically. Imatorbhebhe is also pretty polished in terms of attacking leverage points in coverage, altering his stems to expose a defensive back’s blind spot and set him up for a cut to the opposite direction. He’s also a willing run blocker whose physicality and effort allow him to seal off defensive backs in the run game.

Imatorbhebhe is still pretty raw, though. He has never had a true breakout season from a production perspective and finished with just 297 yards in 7 games in 2020, albeit with issues at the quarterback position. He doesn’t sink his hips super well into his breaks, nor does he have an incredibly diverse release arsenal right off the snap. Imatorbhebhe is primarily a traits projection, but he offers plenty of upside at the next level. He could be a solid target around the fifth or sixth round.

Scheme fit: ‘X’ receiver

Jaelon Darden, North Texas

If you’ve read up on my wide receiver evaluations during this pre-draft process, you likely know how big of a fan I am of Jaelon Darden.

He’s a slippery and elusive receiver who showcases impressive burst coming in and out of his breaks, as well as top-notch lateral quickness after the catch. Darden does a fantastic job of sinking his hips and changing direction, using his flexible lower half to spring around defenders. This agility, combined with his vision in the open field, makes him a dangerous YAC threat. He bursts well off the snap and has very good straight-line speed, too. He’s not a one-dimensional speed threat, either: he does a very good job of adjusting his stems and attacking blind spots against defensive backs. His 2020 production was nothing short of impressive, as he had 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns on 74 receptions in just 9 games.

Darden’s biggest issue is his size: at 5-foot-7 12 and 174 pounds, he has a skinny frame and doesn’t have an extensive catch radius. Such a slender frame could lead to durability concerns in the long run, and his shorter height makes it tough for him to beat out defensive backs at the catch point. His size will hinder his upside at the next level, but his athletic ability and precision as a route runner should help him have a solid NFL career. He projects as a great value pick any time after the fourth round.

Scheme fit: ‘Y’/slot receiver

Austin Watkins, UAB

A crafty weapon with length, strong hands and a high football IQ, Austin Watkins has the potential to outdo his eventual draft status.

At 6-foot-1 and 209 pounds, Watkins has a well-built frame with good length for the wide receiver position. His size, catch radius and strong hands give him an advantage in contested-catch situations, and his powerful frame gives him the strength needed to hand fight at the line of scrimmage and separate from physical man coverage using his hands. He’s a pretty polished route runner, using subtle techniques like head fakes to blur his route concepts and altering his stems to attack leverage points that he has. Watkins had 1,560 yards and 9 touchdowns over his final two seasons at UAB — with just a 7-game season in 2020 — showcasing his reliability for the Blazers’ offense.

He isn’t the most athletic weapon in this class, as his lateral quickness after the catch is just okay, and his ability to sink his hips and spring out of cuts in the open field could use some improvement. His deep speed could see him struggle to separate vertically in the NFL like he has done in the Conference USA. However, Watkins’ skill set does project well for longevity at the next level, and he would be a solid target in the range of Rounds 5 or 6.

Scheme fit: ‘X’ receiver

Cade Johnson, South Dakota State

Ryan Pace has shown a tendency to take shots on small-school prospects on Day 3, and Cade Johnson could be a great target to meet both that criterion and their need for a wide receiver.

When looking over Johnson’s tape, one thing that stands out about him is his playmaking ability. He is a very good athlete after the catch, blending his lower-body flexibility to change direction with his ball-carrier vision to make smart cuts in the open field. He accelerates well off the snap and offers good fluidity across the middle of the field, which is encouraging for a slot weapon. Though Johnson didn’t get to play in 2020, he had an incredibly productive collegiate career with 139 receptions, 2,554 yards and 25 touchdowns from 2018 to 2019. He was also an effective kick returner for the Jackrabbits, having averaged 26.7 yards per return and scoring two touchdowns at the collegiate level.

Johnson isn’t the biggest weapon out there at 5-foot-10 12 and 184 pounds, and given his tape, running a 4.51 40-yard dash at his Pro Day was a bit underwhelming for him. Because of his size, he doesn’t have tremendous play strength and struggles in contested-catch situations. He can also stand to improve how he redirects his stems based off of the coverage he faces. Though he has some concerns in his profile, Johnson is still an electric playmaker with special teams value who could be great value around Rounds 6 or 7.

Scheme fit: ‘Y’/slot receiver

Whop Philyor, Indiana

His Pro Day testing wasn’t necessarily ideal, but don’t let the numbers fool you: Whop Philyor’s tape is incredibly good.

Philyor played a strong role for the Hoosiers in 2019 and 2020, tallying 1,497 yards and 8 touchdowns on 124 catches in the 20 games he played during that span. He accelerates well as a deep threat and offers good breakaway speed once he gets the ball in his hands. His agility and ball-carrier vision makes him an explosive and decisive mover in the open field. Philyor has shown the ability to sink his hips to change direction with ease as a route runner, and that lateral mobility makes him a particularly valuable threat on zig routes. He also has experience returning punts for Indiana, and given his skill set, he could be a quality returner in the third phase if called upon to do so.

Pro Day testing is far from the most reliable indicator of a player’s value at the next level, but Philyor’s performance was still underwhelming. According to Kent Lee Platte’s RAS system, Philyor scored with just a 1.67, putting forth poor performances in size, speed, explosion and agility numbers. He’s smaller at 5-foot-9 12 and 184 pounds, doesn’t pack significant play strength, and he can be more consistent in his sharpness coming out of his breaks. Poor testing could see him fall to Round 7 or even undrafted free agency, but he would be a great fit for a team needing some slot value.

Scheme fit: ‘Y’/slot receiver

D.J. Turner, Pittsburgh

A slippery and thickly-built slot weapon with special teams upside, D.J. Turner has the potential to end up sticking around in a rotational role in the NFL for quite a while.

Turner finished with good agility numbers at his Pro Day, and that is certainly reflective of how he plays on tape. He is explosive in his movements, maintaining top speed in and out of his breaks and sinking his hips well to create separation. His agility helps him make would-be tacklers miss in the open field, and his low center of gravity makes it easier for him to get low and change direction. Turner has oily hips when flipping them at the top of his route, and he offers solid burst in his initial step off the snap. Though short at 5-foot-9, he has a thick build at 206 pounds.

Production is a glaring issue for Turner, as he only had 24 career catches prior to 2020 and wasn’t the top target for Pittsburgh’s passing attack this past year. He put up numbers in just 19 games in his four seasons at Maryland prior to his transfer, with such factors like an ankle injury that required surgery in 2015 and a DUI in 2019 having seen him miss time. He also has had some issues with drops at the collegiate level, and he doesn’t offer much physicality or hand usage against man coverage. Turner could likely be available in undrafted free agency, but he displayed on film the raw tools needed to stick around the league as a backup for quite a while.

Scheme fit: ‘Y’/slot receiver