This Fanpost was written by a Windy City Gridiron member, and does not necessarily reflect the ideas or opinions of its staff or community.
The NFL is a copycat league. Teams look to other organizations to see which process works or how the "blueprint" should look.
The Bengals were a team with glaring holes in the roster. It was clear they needed to revamp the offensive line after Joe Burrow’s ACL tear. Critics also said their defense would not be able to stop high-powered AFC offenses like the Kansas City Chiefs or Buffalo Bills.
The Bengals used free agency to shore up their offensive line and defense with great signings like cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton, pass rusher Trey Hendrickson, and offensive tackle Riley Reiff. Heading into the draft though, the majority of the NFL world wanted the Bengals to draft Penei Sewell to further protect their franchise quarterback.
Instead, the Bengals went with drafting a familiar weapon for Joe Burrow and the rest is history. After Jamarr Chase’s struggles during the preseason, many were sure that the Bengals made the wrong decision. Chase proved critics wrong and the Bengals right by having arguably the best season a rookie receiver has ever had.
Burrow and Chase’s chemistry caught fire right away and the Bengals historic offense led them to the Super Bowl. Burrow’s Pro Football Focus grade jumped from 75.1 in 2020 to a position-leading 98.1 in 2021. Chase won Offensive Rookie of the Year and among receivers, finished in the top ten in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and touchdown receptions.
For the Bears heading into the 2022 offseason, we also have glaring needs in the roster. Ryan Poles has hammered home the need for change at offensive line and with a new defensive scheme coming into place in Matt Eberflus’ system, expect many changes in the defensive depth chart next season. But everyone knows that the Bears need to become much more explosive on offense in order to compete and after Ryan Poles’ press conference on Tuesday morning, drafting a weapon or two for Justin Fields seems like a top priority.
This draft’s wide receiver class is loaded with talent. Even without a first round pick, the Bears will be in place to possibly draft talented receiver prospects with both their second and third round picks. Names like David Bell, John Metchie, and Justyn Ross stick out as options in these later rounds. If the Bears want to take a page out of the Bengals’ playbook though, they could have a shot at drafting a receiver that Fields has experience throwing to. Here are three wideouts that could spark a similar Burrow-Chase connection with Fields.
1) Chris Olave
Garrett Wilson’s draft stock rose substantially this season with C.J. Stroud at quarterback but in the two years prior, with Fields at the helm, Olave was Ohio State’s number one receiver. Olave is a versatile weapon who can line up all over the field. His and Fields’ chemistry is undeniable as Olave went for over 1500 yards and 19 touchdowns in 20 games between 2019 and 2020. Olave and Fields have the connection to make a huge impact in Luke Getsy’s new offense right from the jump.
2) Jameson Williams
Williams exploded onto the scene in 2021 at Alabama with 15 touchdowns and over 1500 yards, but people might forget that Williams transferred from Ohio State. Although his workload was minimal and he was lower on the depth chart there, he still spent two full seasons with Fields getting practice reps and hauling in three touchdowns during those years. Williams is widely regarded as a top three receiver in the draft and a likely first round pick, but his ACL tear during the national championship could lower his draft position and possibly put him in range for Poles to bring him to Chicago.
3) George Pickens
This is more of a stretch as far as a quarterback/wide receiver connection goes as Pickens and Fields never played on the same team. However, Pickens, a three year player at the University of Georgia, was drawn to the Bulldogs’ program because Justin Fields was on the roster when he committed there. Pickens and Fields knew each other before college as they played with each other on Cam Newton’s 7-on-7 team. Pickens had an outstanding true freshman season in 2019 when he hauled in 49 balls, had over 700 yards, and caught eight touchdowns in an offense not usually relying on production through the air. Many presumed him to be a top wide receiver selection a year ago but he also tore his ACL during the 2020 season. Pickens is another uber-talented prospect who could fall into the Bears’ lap because of an injury.
The Bears are without a first round pick in this year's draft and I’m sure Bears fans aren’t too upset with that since the would-be pick was used to move up and get Fields last year. Although most think Olave and Williams will be gone by the second round, Ryan Poles is lucky that this year’s draft is so deep with receiver prospects.
Whether or not one of the three players above is not available, the Bears should have many more exciting prospects to pick from. But if the organization wants to emulate a Burrow/Chase-like connection, Olave, Williams, and Pickens would be able to come to Chicago and hit the ground running.