In 2022 the Chicago Bears had perhaps the worst wide receiver group in the NFL. The leading receiver among the wideouts was Darnell Mooney, who had 40 receptions in 12 games. After that, the next most productive receiver was Equanimeous St. Brown with 21 receptions and Dante Pettis with 19. In short, it wasn't a group that would scare an opposing defensive coordinator.
Granted, injuries played a role in the lack of productivity, but it was also the players' unfamiliarity with the scheme. As I have written several times, it's a scheme that takes a long time to learn, especially for receivers, because of all the adjustments that need to be made in the course of the play.
This season, the group looks entirely different from the group that started the 2022 season. Let's take a look at the top players in the group.
The Bears got Moore as part of the trade package with Carolina when they traded up for the first overall pick in last April's Draft. Contrary to what many national scribes and analysts want to say, Moore is a legitimate number-one NFL wide receiver. In my opinion, Moore can do for the Bears what Stefon Diggs did for the Bills when they traded for him in 2020. Both players had played five seasons with their previous team, and when you compare the numbers, they are almost identical.
In Moore's first five years at Carolina, he had 364 receptions for 5201 yards and 21 TDs. He got that production playing with a legitimate NFL quarterback in only his first season and a half (Cam Newton). The rest of the time he was with a number of quarterbacks, none of whom could be considered a valid starter in the League.
Moore has great size and speed and is a superb route runner who consistently gets separation. Coming out of college he measured 6000 – 210 and ran a 4.42. He also had a 39.5" vertical jump and an 11' standing long jump. It's no secret that he is a top athlete.
When he entered the League, Stefon Diggs was 6000 – 195, ran a 4.46, and had a vertical of 35" and a standing long jump of 9'7", so who's the better athlete?
In Diggs' five seasons with Minnesota, he had 365 receptions for 4623 yards and 29 TDs. Early in his career, there was some instability at QB, but it was mainly Teddy Bridgewater, and then he finished playing with Kirk Cousins. So he had a little better QB play helping him.
The other similarity is that Diggs went to Buffalo in Josh Allen's third season. He had been up and down his first two years, and the jury was still out as to how good he could become. Well, Moore comes to Chicago in Justin Fields' third season, and the similarities in his play are very similar to Allen's. You can't tell me that Moore won't do for the Bears what Diggs did for the Bills because the numbers say he will.
Moore will play both the Z and slot positions for the Bears, and with his ability to separate, he will become a top target for Fields.
Mooney is going into his fourth season as a pro. He was excellent in his first two years, but then last year his season was cut short by an ankle injury. At 5100 – 179, Mooney isn't the biggest guy, but he is strong for his size, and until last year he has been very durable. He runs a 4.37, and like Moore, he can consistently get separation. He has great hands, and his ability to adjust to the ball is excellent. Like Moore, Mooney will play the Z and slot and give the Bears two very fast players at the positions.
I'm not about to re-hash what I wrote about Claypool a few weeks ago, but I will repeat, the Bears are not disenchanted with him. What was said is nothing but rumor with no facts attached.
In the Bears' system, the X receiver has to be a tall, athletic receiver who can stretch the field and win jump balls. That is exactly what Claypool is. Coming into the League, Claypool was 6042 – 229, ran a 4.42, and can jump out of the building with a 40.5" vertical. Having three starting receivers with sub 4.43 speed gives the Bears just about the fastest WR group in the League. No, they don't have THE fastest receiver, but top to bottom, no team has the speed the Bears have.
Claypool is a good route runner who will compete in traffic and can run after the catch. He's also a solid blocker. He is the perfect X for this offense.
Equanimious St. Brown
EQ will be Claypool's backup at X and can also play Z. Like Chase, he is big and fast (6046 – 214, 4.48). He is also the best blocker of the wide receiver corps as well as a good special teams player. EQ has never had great production, but he does the little things well and is the consummate hard worker. He gives the Bears good depth at two positions,
Scott is a rookie fifth-round pick who isn't the biggest guy (5097 – 177), but he is well built, plays strong and is very fast (4.39). In college he was a big play waiting to happen and is the type of player who can turn a short reception into a long gain with his run skills. He will also be tried as a returner. How soon Scott gets on the field will be determined by how quickly he picks up the offense. Once the coaches are confident that he is ready to go, he can fill in for Mooney or Moore.
Velus Jones Jr.
Jones, a third-round pick last year, was a bit of a disappointment for many fans. That said, he is still the fastest player on the Bears roster (4.31) and is capable of making big plays. I personally feel that all Jones needs is confidence. When a player is new to a system like the Bears use, it can take time to learn it. When that happens, a player seldom plays as fast as he times. I'm looking for Jones to improve dramatically this year, and if that happens, he will be another weapon for Fields.
The sixth and final spot on the Bears WR roster will be a battle between Pettis and Jones. Pettis is a former second-round pick who never lived up to expectations. He has size and is very fast (4.42), and is an adequate returner. He can be reliable as a receiver, but he did have some costly drops. For him to make the 53, he must noticeably beat out Jones.
All told, this is a pretty good group, albeit inexperienced in many areas but with a lot of talent and speed. It will be exciting to see how this group progresses in training camp in another month.
Who do you predict for Chicago's 53-man roster at receiver?