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2022 NFL Draft: Wide receivers Bears should take early look at

The Bears would be wise to consider any of these wide receivers to upgrade their offense in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Indiana v Ohio State Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

Even after drafting at least one wide receiver in each of the last four drafts, the Bears face uncertainty at the position beyond 2021.

Allen Robinson has yet to be signed to a contract extension, leaving his future with the team in doubt. Anthony Miller is also a free agent after the upcoming season, and aside from Darnell Mooney, no other receiver has proven to be a solid enough contributor in Chicago’s offense yet.

It’s possible that Dazz Newsome steps into a big role as a rookie, or that Robinson could end up sticking with the Bears in the long haul. In that case, a wide receiver may not be nearly as big of a concern as it appears to be going forward.

For now, though, one can only look at the Bears’ group of wide receivers and wonder if the 2022 NFL Draft will serve as a chance for them to add more firepower to their offense. Here’s an early look at some of the notable wide receivers they should keep an early eye on for next year’s draft.

For reference: An ‘X’ receiver plays on the boundary, a ‘Z’ receiver plays on the field side, and a ‘Y’ receiver plays out of the slot.

Out of Bears’ reach

1. John Metchie III, Alabama

Though playing second fiddle through his collegiate career to this point, John Metchie III has the potential to be the first receiver off the board in 2022.

Similar to the likes of Jerry Jeudy and DeVonta Smith before him, Metchie is a crafty and explosive route runner who excels at creating separation on a consistent basis. He is explosive coming in and out of his breaks, offers a stellar ability to attack leverage points through his stems and has the athleticism needed to stretch the field vertically. His hands are reliable, his agility after the catch is admirable, and his ball skills are impressive. He’s a bit skinny, but with a 2021 season as Alabama’s WR1, he could very well be the WR1 in next year’s draft class.

Positional fit: ‘Z’ receiver

2. Chris Olave, Ohio State

Many saw Chris Olave as one of the better receivers in the 2021 class, so when he decided to stay in school for another year, he immediately became a top talent in the 2022 draft.

Olave was a three-sport athlete in high school, and that diverse background is apparent in how quick and coordinated he is. He accelerates well off the snap and is quick to hit top speed when stretching the field vertically. His body control in tracking the ball down is among the best in the class, and he does a good job of changing direction and maintaining momentum as a ball-carrier. Over the last two years, his development as a route-running technician has been apparent. Though his physicality and football IQ are still a work in progress, Olave has first-round potential and should be one of the most productive weapons in college footb

Positional fit: ‘Z’ receiver

3. David Bell, Purdue

Rondale Moore drew more national attention at Purdue, but while the 2021 second-round pick missed time to injury, it was David Bell who held the fort down as the Boilermakers’ WR1.

The 2019 Big Ten Freshman of the Year has averaged roughly 92 yards per game in his two collegiate seasons. He offers very good size at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, and his expanded catch radius and play strength makes it easier for him to snag passes in tight windows and break free from press with polished hand usage. Like Rashod Bateman this year, Bell is a precise and polished route runner on the boundary who has shredded Big Ten defensive backs. His athletic tools seem to just be okay by NFL wide receiver standards, but his physicality and ability to get open will aid him tremendously in the pros.

Positional fit: ‘X’ receiver

4. Garrett Wilson, Ohio State

After breaking out in 2020, Garrett Wilson looks to solidify himself as one of the top weapons in the nation with a strong junior year.

Wilson exploded with 723 yards in 8 games while fighting for touches with talented weapons like the aforementioned Olave, which serves as a testament to his ability. He is a slippery runner after the catch whose lower-body flexion helps him evade defenders with ease and burst coming out of his breaks. His precise footwork can see him exploit the blind spots of opposing defenders, and his speed off the snap makes him a dangerous deep threat. He won’t wow teams with his size or physicality, but if you get Wilson out in space, he’ll make the other team pay.

Positional fit: ‘Y’ receiver

Round 2 targets

5. Treylon Burks, Arkansas

If you like physical specimens at wide receiver, then Treylon Burks will pique your interest.

At 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, Burks has an incredibly powerful frame with great length for a wide receiver. He has strong hands, and his size and physicality at the catch point makes him very valuable in contested situations. He offers solid speed as a vertical threat, but his athleticism stands out the most after the catch; his combination of lateral quickness and contact balance makes him an extremely tough ball-carrier to bring down. He may be a bit raw as a route runner, but his physical gifts and upside could see him picked in the first two rounds.

Positional fit: ‘X’ receiver

6. George Pickens, Georgia

A torn ACL could see George Pickens miss the 2021 season, but his tape to this point has been incredibly impressive.

Pickens has had 14 touchdowns in his two seasons at Georgia, and his production is indicative of his value in the red-zone. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder has strong hands, impressive length and the body control needed to square up to the ball and attack it at its highest point. He’s also a fluid athlete who has loose hips as a route runner and has showcased the ability to attack blind spots in man coverage and set up defensive backs for a move across their body. It’s unknown exactly how he’ll fare after his injury, as his crispness as a route runner was already pretty inconsistent to begin with. Pickens stands out as a possession receiver with the ability to dominate in the red zone.

Positional fit: ‘X’ receiver

7. Justyn Ross, Clemson

If Justyn Ross can bounce back after missing 2020 with a spinal fusion injury and put together clean medicals, there’s little reason to think he couldn’t rise back up into Round 1 conversation.

In his two seasons at Clemson, Ross has caught 112 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has proven to be a reliable, big-bodied weapon for Trevor Lawrence with his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, and he should be able to serve the same role with D.J. Uiagalelei under center. He excels in jump-ball situations and has the play strength and body control to contort his body and come down with the ball in tight windows. Ross uses his hands well to create separation against press coverage, and he has shown flashes of burst across the middle of the field. His speed and agility might not jump off the screen, but his skill-set should see him generate early looks in 2022.

Positional fit: ‘X’ receiver

Round 3 and beyond

8. Jahan Dotson, Penn State

He may not be the biggest, strongest or fastest receiver, but some of the catches Jahan Dotson makes are as pretty as any weapon in college football.

Dotson’s hip fluidity and subtle change of direction makes him an effective route runner who can separate consistently. He accelerates well off the snap and is able to hit top speed quickly as a vertical threat. He has shown plenty of promise in regards to his ability to stop on a dime and explode coming out of his breaks, and his ball-carrier vision allows him to make defenders miss out in space. Dotson also has impressive ball skills and strong hands that allow him to make highlight-worthy grabs. Though his catch radius is limited and his physicality isn’t quite NFL-ready yet, he looks the part of a future No. 2 or No. 3 weapon for an offense at the next level.

Positional fit: ‘Z’ receiver

9. Ty Fryfogle, Indiana

Ty Fryfogle fits that prototypical mold of a big, physical boundary receiver who can jump go up and grab the ball.

Fryfogle finished with 721 yards in 8 games in 2020, and his dominance in spurts made him a household name among Big Ten audiences. He does a great job of maintaining focus on the ball in the air, using his 6-foot-2, 214-pound frame to box out defenders at the catch points and coming down with passes with his reliable hands. For his size, he offers solid deep speed and can stretch the field pretty well as a vertical threat. His ability to separate consistently can come into question at times, but as a Day 2 possession receiver, he’s a target worth taking a look at.

Positional fit: ‘X’ receiver

10. Zay Flowers, Boston College

Boston College hasn’t had a wide receiver selected in the NFL Draft since 1987. That should change once Zay Flowers finishes his collegiate career.

An athletic weapon with impressive deep speed and lateral agility, Flowers does a great job of beating defensive backs with raw burst off the line of scrimmage. His lateral quickness allows him to break press coverage with single-move speed releases, and his explosiveness coming out of his breaks makes it tough for the opposition to keep up with him after reaching the top of his route. He struggles against physical coverage and doesn’t offer much play strength through his stems or at the catch point, but as an agile slot weapon who can get open consistently, Flowers offers plenty of promise at the next level.

Positional fit: ‘Y’ receiver

11. Khalil Shakir, Boise State

A crafty route runner with strong hands, Khalil Shakir is a pro-ready talent who should be able to step into a sizable role quickly upon entering the NFL.

Shakir has been productive for Boise State over the last two seasons, catching 115 passes for 1,591 yards and 12 touchdowns in 21 games. He has proven to be versatile in terms of his alignment, playing out of the slot, on the field side, along the boundary and even out of the backfield. He has very good footwork as a route runner, utilizing his quickness off the line of scrimmage to win with speed releases and altering his stems to attack blind spots against man coverage. Although Shakir’s route tree is limited at this stage and his physicality isn’t all that great, he could be a quality mid-round target for a team in need of a do-it-all offensive weapon.

Positional fit: ‘Y’ receiver

12. Drake London, USC

USC has produced some talented wide receivers in recent years, and it seems like Drake London is their next man up.

Few receivers in the 2022 class have as big of a catch radius as London, whose 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame has fantastic length in his limbs. He is a natural hands catcher who consistently snags passes away from his frame, and his ball skills allow him to track the ball down well and adjust to it in the air. For someone as tall as he is, he brings nice fluidity across the middle of the field and solid acceleration off the snap. His releases aren’t incredibly diverse, nor is his route tree at the collegiate level. He could also stand to add some more muscle to his frame, but his raw size and coordination make him an NFL-caliber weapon.

Positional fit: ‘X’ receiver

13. Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama

Despite being from a Group of 5 school, Jalen Tolbert’s physical upside makes him a standout this early in the 2022 draft process.

Tolbert has great value as a deep threat due to his length and his speed off the line of scrimmage. At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he has a lanky frame with long arms and the height needed to physically overwhelm opposing defensive backs. He has averaged 17.4 yards per game through his first three seasons at South Alabama, and his burst off the snap and ability to hit top speed quickly makes him a tough receiver to beat vertically. Tolbert has shown promise as a route runner, and he has strong hands and impressive ball skills. His sharpness coming into his breaks and his agility after the catch seem to be a bit limited, and his frame could afford to pack on some more muscle. However, a player with his length, speed and ball skills should make him a player many teams have their eye on next year.

Positional fit: ‘Z’ receiver

14. Samori Toure, Nebraska

After dominating competition as the top wide receiver for Montana, Samori Toure prepares for a make-or-break year as he transfers to Nebraska.

Montana didn’t have a 2020 season, but Toure exploded in 2019 with 87 catches, 1,495 yards and 13 touchdowns. He has a lengthy frame at 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, and his height makes it easier for him to compete at the catch point. He has great ball skills, adjusting himself well to the ball in the air with precise movements and very good coordination. Toure’s strong hands and large catch radius allowed him to come down with just about any pass thrown his way at the FCS level. He’s raw as a route-running technician, and his agility after the catch isn’t much to call home about. If he proves himself capable of making the jump to the Power 5 level, though, he could be a riser up draft boards in due time.

Positional fit: ‘X’ receiver