Let’s get this disclaimer out of the way: Luke Getsy hasn’t called plays at the NFL level, so we don’t know with complete certainty what his scheme will be.
However, using such Getsy influences like Matt LaFleur, Kyle Shanahan and Joe Moorhead, the Bears’ offense should figure to unlock the vertical aspect of a passing attack much more than the previous regime. RPOs will play a big part in the system, but play action with longer-developing routes are also a key role in the success of the offense. That said, it’s important to have wide receivers who can stretch the field accordingly.
The Packers used the likes of Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and Allen Lazard as weapons who were 6-foot-4 or higher but also had the deep speed needed to beat defenses deep. Though St. Brown is now on the Bears’ roster, he served in a reserve role for Green Bay, and it’s expected he’ll do the same in Chicago.
Not every wide receiver on this list is quite as tall as the aforementioned three players, but they all have the ability to beat defenses deep in their own way. Here are 8 wide receivers the Bears could consider as fits in Luke Getsy’s offensive scheme.
Christian Watson, North Dakota State
If there are two wide receivers I — along with my fellow WCGers — have talked plenty about in this pre-draft process, it’s Christian Watson and the man who follows him on this list.
You likely know the drill with Watson at this point, so I won’t spend too much time on him. That said, he’s a 6-foot-4 weapon with elite deep speed, tremendous leaping ability, very good ball skills and underrated lateral mobility. Even if he’s still developing as a route runner, that’s the type of guy you take a chance on in Round 2, if not earlier. Should he be available for the Bears with one of their two selections in that round, Watson projects to be a very good pick.
George Pickens, Georgia
Had it not been for a torn ACL which saw him miss most of the 2021 season, we would likely be talking about George Pickens as a first-round lock.
The 6-foot-3 receiver plays a brand of bully ball that sees him dominate at the catch point and come down with difficult grabs, utilizing his play strength, focus and body control to contort himself to square up to the ball and make the snag through tight coverage. Pickens’ deep speed allows him to stretch the field as a vertical threat, and he has shown flashes of promise in his route-running diversity at the line of scrimmage. He figures to be a starter along the boundary pretty quick in the league, which should definitely entice the Bears in Round 2.
Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
Pierce has been a big riser up boards this offseason, as a stellar Combine outing and exposure at the Senior Bowl have helped propel him into the spotlight.
I covered him recently when I highlighted Illinois-native prospects. To avoid sounding repetitive — and to give you all a link to expose you to more players — here’s what I wrote about Pierce:
The Glen Ellyn native was a four-sport athlete at Glenbard West, so it’s no surprise that athleticism is a calling card of his game. He’s a 6-foot-3, 211-pound weapon with a 4.41 40-yard dash and both broad and vertical jumps in at least the 94th percentile for the wide receiver position all-time. Pierce’s deep speed stands out on tape, and he has the breakaway ability to outrun defenders in space. He uses his size very well when boxing out defensive backs at the catch point, and his physicality and body control are stellar in the air.
The bigger concern with Pierce’s game is his generally thin route-running tree, as well as a lack of elite production. If he can improve even a little bit in sinking his hips into his cuts, he could be a very tough player for NFL defenders to cover. His size and speed combination could see him drafted as early as Round 2, and the Bears may want to consider him with one of their selections.
Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
With over 140 receptions and 2,500 yards in his final two seasons at South Alabama, Jalen Tolbert enters the 2022 draft as one of the most productive weapons in the class.
Tolbert is a well-rounded receiver who basically does a little bit of everything. He’s an intelligent route runner who can vary his releases off the line of scrimmage and eat up space against off-man coverage and zone. His ball skills stand out when you watch him on tape, as he does a very good job of squaring up to the ball in the air and contorting himself to take the best possible angle to the ball. It feels at times like he’s unbothered by contact, as he does a good job of maintaining focus in tight coverage and not being scared off by defenders shooting downhill to close a quarterback’s window.
The drawback with Tolbert is that he’s solid at a lot of things, but he doesn’t have something that he’s really great at. His explosiveness is just okay, his route tree was a bit limited in college, and his YAC ability won’t wow anyone. He’s a high-floor type of prospect who should be in consideration around Round 3, and the Bears could look to him as a solid Day 1 contributor for their offense.
Romeo Doubs, Nevada
As the go-to receiver for gunslinger Carson Strong at Nevada, Doubs had his fair share of opportunities to stretch the field in his collegiate career.
Doubs — whose last name is pronounced “dubs” — finished his Nevada career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and had 20 touchdowns in his last two seasons. He has a frame with solid length that he uses to his advantage, as he fights hard through press coverage and maintains active hands through his stems. His deep speed makes him more than capable of stretching the field, and his development as a route runner from 2020 to 2021 is encouraging; his cuts generally seemed more crisp than what he had previously shown.
He might not have elite play strength at the catch point, and he still can improve his burst as a route runner, but Doubs can stretch the field well and has shown promise as a route runner. He should end up going in the range of Rounds 3 or 4, so if the Bears want to wait until after Round 2 to take a wide receiver, he could be a player worth monitoring.
Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
He’s certainly raw, but the combination of length and speed that Tyquan Thornton possesses makes him an ideal developmental piece in the Bears’ offense.
Thornton is 6-foot-2 with 33 1/4-inch arms, the latter of which placing him in the 83rd percentile at the wide receiver position. He exploded with a 4.28 40-yard dash at the Combine, confirming what his tape displayed: he can flat-out run. His deep speed makes him a challenge for any defensive back to defend down the field, and his speed release against press coverage is polished. Especially for a taller receiver, he offers very good coordination across the middle of the field.
It will likely take a little while for Thornton to develop, seeing as though he’s skinny at 181 pounds and isn’t too crisp out of his breaks. If he can pack on anywhere between 10-20 pounds and improve the sharpness of his movements as a route runner even a little bit, he could easily outplay his draft positioning. The Bears would be smart to look into him as early as Round 5.
Tanner Conner, Idaho State
Back in February, I mentioned that Conner not getting invited to the Combine was a disappointment when I highlighted some small-school sleepers, which might be followed up soon with an even deeper look at small-school guys!
It’s no surprise, then, to see that Conner finished with an 8.83 RAS score and elite size and explosion grades at his Pro Day. Here’s what I had to say about him a few months ago:
Conner is an imposing receiver to say the least; at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he possesses very good length and rare bulk for a boundary receiver. He was an accomplished track athlete during his time at Idaho State, and considering he’s jumped a 40-inch vertical and is projected to run a 4.4-4.5 40-yard dash, that background will show up in testing. He’s a great 50-50 ball competitor whose ball skills and sheer size allow him to bully smaller defenders at the catch point, and he also has good deep speed for his size.
In addition to the obvious competition concerns as an FCS receiver, Conner is also raw as a route concept salesman and will likely struggle with more intricate concepts early in his career. However, his physical upside is obvious, which makes him worth taking a flier on as early as Round 6, especially for a receiver-needy team like the Bears.
Jalen Nailor, Michigan State
Though his 4.50 40-yard dash fell short of expectations, the tape shows that Nailor is one of the top deep threats in the 2022 draft.
His explosiveness off the snap stood out, and his ability to pick up speed on vertical route concepts played a big role in his averaging 16.9 yards per catch at the collegiate level. Not only does he have the raw athleticism to create separation, but he does a good job of adjusting his footwork through his stems to attack leverage points against defensive backs. Nailor does a good job of tracking down the deep ball in the air, and his agility after the catch is also encouraging.
Play strength, reliability as a hands-catcher and durability can all be issues with Nailor, which could see his draft stock limited strictly to Day 3. However, if the Bears want another receiver to take on in Round 6, he could be an intriguing target for them.