Wide receiver is seen by many as a glaring need for the Bears heading into the 2023 offseason.
Granted, it was a need heading into the 2022 offseason, too. Now that Chicago has more draft capital and the freedom to spend an abundance of salary cap to improve their roster, though, general manager Ryan Poles will have much higher expectations for the talent acquisitions he makes once the year is over.
Luckily for him — and for Justin Fields — the 2023 NFL Draft figures to have plenty of talented wide receivers to choose from.
Whether the Bears take a receiver in Round 1 remains to be seen, but as it stands, they do not have a bonafide WR1 on the roster. Darnell Mooney is far and away their best wide-out, but they still lack a true alpha option who can make plays that few others in the league are capable of making.
I have decided to share my current top 15 wide receivers on my 2023 draft board to give you all a bit of an understanding as to which prospects the Bears could be tied to once draft discussion really picks up. Keep in mind that these rankings are obviously a work in progress, and that things will change from now until April.
That said, let’s dive right in and look at the best wide receivers in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Tier 1: WR1-caliber
1. Jordan Addison, USC
6-foot, 175 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
New quarterback and new offense? No problem. Addison has picked up at USC right where he left off at Pittsburgh, and his strong season has him in my WR1 slot currently. He is a great athlete with very good burst off the line of scrimmage, agility after the catch, precision as a route runner and good body control. He’s skinny, but he’s a playmaker who stakes a legitimate claim to be a top-10 pick.
2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State
6-foot-1, 200 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
Smith-Njigba has lost his WR1 spot due to injury and an otherwise quiet 2022 campaign. That said, his 2021 season is still one of the best I have seen from a collegiate wide receiver in recent years. He’s a great route runner with smooth footwork, loose hips, great ball skills and a high football IQ. It would be genuinely surprising if he fell out of the top 15.
3. Quentin Johnston, TCU
6-foot-4, 215 pounds; ‘X’ receiver
Johnston showcased insane traits in the 2021 season, and he’s finally living up to his potential in 2022. He has insane size, very good physicality, great ball skills, strong hands and impressive straight-line quickness down the field. He’s the most raw route runner of the top-3 receivers, but he also has the best physical tools.
Tier 1.5: Kayshon Boutte
4. Kayshon Boutte, LSU
6-foot, 205 pounds; ‘X’ receiver
I see Boutte’s ceiling as higher than anybody in Tier 2, but his glaring question marks prevent him from making it into the top tier. He’s a dominant YAC receiver with good speed, loose hips, great ball skills and a low center of gravity. At the same time, he has a season-ending injury from 2021 to his name and has been MIA sometimes this year. He’s a very risky pick in Round 1, but the potential is there.
Tier 2: Potential WR2s
5. Josh Downs, North Carolina
5-foot-10, 175 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
Downs has averaged roughly 97.8 yards per game over his last two seasons, which speaks volumes to how reliable he has been for North Carolina’s offense. He is a dynamic athlete with good footwork and explosiveness coming out of his breaks, as well as some nice agility out in the open field. Size is an issue, but he should be a quality No. 2 weapon in the pros.
6. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee
6-foot, 180 pounds; ‘Z’ receiver
The biggest breakout star to come at the wide receiver position in the last few weeks, Hyatt reminds me a lot of Will Fuller coming out of Notre Dame. His deep speed is tremendous, which makes him one of, if not the best deep threat in college football. He’s a threat to break free for a big gain whenever he gets the ball out in space, and while his game is a bit one-dimensional, he should be able to carve out a niche for himself in the NFL.
7. Marvin Mims, Oklahoma
5-foot-11, 184 pounds; ‘Z’ receiver
Mims figures to be one of the top athletic testers in the 2023 wide receiver draft class should he declare this season. He’s a bonafide playmaker with great agility and very good deep speed, and his pure athleticism allows him to get open consistently and compensates for a lack of size and physicality.
8. Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
6-foot-3, 215 pounds; ‘X’ receiver
He may have faded into the background while Hyatt broke out in his absence, but don’t sleep on Tillman as a Day 2 target. A big-bodied target with reliable hands, a physical style of play and good body control, he projects as a high-floor target for any team that needs a security blanket at the ‘X’ position.
9. A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
6-foot-5, 205 pounds; ‘X’ receiver
Physical tools are the name of the game with Perry, whose size is the first thing you notice when you watch him on tape. He’s physical and competes hard at the catch point, and he isn’t afraid to use hand techniques to shed press coverage along the boundary. Ball skills are a calling card of his game, as is solid overall straight-line speed. He isn’t the most agile receiver or the best route technician out there, but his upside is palpable.
10. Rakim Jarrett, Maryland
6-foot, 190 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
Jarrett doesn’t have a defining “alpha” trait in his game, but he also doesn’t have many glaring weaknesses. He’s a fast wide-out with good vertical value, quick feet in his releases off the line of scrimmage and a sharp understanding of how to attack leverage points through his stems. He could end up being a reliable 700-800-yard weapon at the next level.
11. Parker Washington, Penn State
5-foot-10, 215 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
I fear too many people are sleeping on Washington, who has been on the draft radar since the offseason but hasn’t generated much conversation recently. He has a thick, unique frame with very good ball skills, soft hands and solid athleticism. Even if he doesn’t have the game of a true WR1, he’s a guy you want to give touches to.
Tier 3: High-end complementary pieces
12. Rashee Rice, SMU
6-foot-2, 203 pounds; ‘Z’ receiver
Rice had been solid in his previous two seasons, but the 2022 campaign has been a major breakout performance for him. He has very good size along the perimeter and brings an intriguing combination of length, contact balance, ball skills and agility. He’s a bit raw as a route runner and doesn’t have elite speed, but he seems to carry solid starting potential at the next level.
13. Nathaniel “Tank” Dell, Houston
5-foot-10, 165 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
Dell’s slight frame might scare off some NFL teams, but if there’s one thing that teams like enough to overlook size concerns, it’s speed. Tank has that in spades, as he’s an electric dynamo in the open field and has elite deep-threat potential when Houston allows their offense to stretch the field vertically.
14. Zay Flowers, Boston College
5-foot-10, 172 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
After having a bit of a down year in 2021, Flowers has bounced back admirably in the 2022 season thus far. He’s an above-average athlete with good hands and very good agility out in the open field. A lack of physicality hurts him here, and I think he’s just a hair slower than the aforementioned Dell, but Flowers has the tools to be a reliable slot weapon in the pros.
15. Jacob Cowing, Arizona
5-foot-11, 175 pounds; ‘Y’ receiver
After dominating at UTEP in 2021, Cowing has carried on that same high level of play in the 2022 season. He’s a bit of a one-trick pony in that his game relies heavily on athleticism to make up for some deficiencies as a technician, but his deep speed and agility out in the open field are tremendous.
- Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
- Zakhari Franklin, UTSA
- Keilahn Harris, Oklahoma Baptist
- Charlie Jones, Purdue
- Donavon Greene, Wake Forest