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2023 NFL Draft: Late-round WRs for Bears to target

WCG’s Lead Draft Analyst looks at some of the top sleeper WR prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

TCU v West Virginia Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

There’s no such thing as too many weapons in the NFL.

The Bears made a major investment at the wide receiver position to kick off the 2023 offseason, acquiring DJ Moore in the trade that saw Chicago move down from the No. 1 pick. He joins a receiver room with Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool in the starting lineup, along with the likes of Velus Jones Jr. and Equanimeous St. Brown coming off the bench.

Although the Bears’ group of wide receivers looks worlds better than how it looked to start the 2022 season, that shouldn’t stop them from investing in the position in the 2023 NFL Draft. Mooney and Claypool are both slated to hit free agency after the end of this next season, and with the likes of Jaylon Johnson and Cole Kmet also having expiring contracts, one of the aforementioned receivers might leave.

There’s been plenty of talk about top receivers in the 2023 draft, such as Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jordan Addison, Quentin Johnston and Zay Flowers. This year’s class has some intriguing prospects likely to be selected early, but there’s a good shot the Bears will choose to wait until later in the draft to address the wide receiver position.

Here are 7 sleeper wide receiver prospects Chicago could target on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Andrei Iosivas, Princeton

I’m gonna get this one out of the way, since most of you who regularly read WCG have probably picked up on the fact that I’m a fan of Iosivas. If you’d like to find out more about him, you could click on my author name and read almost any of my draft articles. Odds are I’ve gushed about him in one of them.

Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia

Talk about a size-speed mismatch! Ford-Wheaton is a 6-foot-4, 221-pound ‘X’ receiver who ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the Combine. He accelerates well off the line of scrimmage and has the deep speed needed to stretch the field vertically. His catch radius is massive, and his combination of physicality and ball skills make him a threat on 50-50 balls. Though raw as a route runner and not super twitchy after the catch, he has some intriguing tools and would be worth taking a shot on as early as Round 5 if you’re Chicago and as late as a seventh-round selection.

Matt Landers, Arkansas

Another intriguing size-speed threat, Landers is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds with 4.37 speed. He’s a long-strided runner who exploded for 901 yards and 8 touchdowns on 47 catches at Arkansas this past year after a strong 2021 season with Toledo. His ball skills are certainly impressive, and he’s shown some promise in regards to his speed release. I have an undrafted grade on him purely off of tape because of a limited route tree, inconsistent separation and body catching. However, he’s someone who should be drafted, as his tools are too enticing to risk letting him hit the undrafted free agent market.

Tre Tucker, Cincinnati

Tucker is a departure from the previous two molds, being a smaller but shiftier slot receiver. He ran a 4.40 at the Combine and looks even faster than that on tape. His raw speed allows to create serious vertical separation, and he’s quite agile and creative when he gets the ball in his hands in space. He’s also an accomplished kick returner who had 2 touchdowns on special teams during his time at Cincinnati. Size and physicality lack a bit, but he has the YAC skills needed to thrive inside at the next level. He seems like a likely Day 3 pick who offers significant special teams value.

Xavier Smith, Florida A&M

With 87 catches for 1,021 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Rattlers this year, Smith stands out as arguably the most intriguing HBCU wide receiver in this draft. He’s undersized but is a shifty receiver with good spatial awareness against zone coverage and nice burst coming out of his breaks. His coordination attacking the ball in the air is good, and he’s shifty coming out of the slot. He won’t wow anyone in terms of strength or the competition he faced, but he deserves a shot to crack an NFL roster.

C.J. Johnson, East Carolina

If you like Ole Miss’ Jonathan Mingo in this draft but don’t want to take him around Round 4, Johnson might honestly be better value that you can get later. He’s a bulky receiver at 6-foot-2 and 224 pounds with massive hands. He has the size of a boundary ‘X’ but might be best suited as a big slot in the pros. Not only is he physical at the catch point, but he’s a powerful runner after the catch with good ball-carrier vision. He’s not a great route runner and won’t wow anyone with speed, but he’s a fun player the Bears may want to consider in Round 7 if he’s available.

Charlie Jones, Purdue

Jones was one of the biggest breakout stars in college football in 2022, but he’s honestly flown a bit under the radar in the pre-draft process. He exploded for 110 receptions, 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns for Purdue this past season and finished David Bell’s role as their No. 1 receiver incredibly well. He has one touchdown each as both a kick returner and a punt returner, and those tools help him as a wide receiver. He’s agile after the catch and changes direction seamlessly in space. Jones’ deep speed is quite strong, too; he ran a 4.43. He’s older, a bit skinny and doesn’t sell route concepts super well, but he’s a legit playmaker who could be a realistic Round 5 option.