It’s a really, really good year to need a wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft. That’s great news for the Chicago Bears, who currently don’t possess a first-round pick but need to add a starting-quality wide receiver at some point this offseason.
The expected departure of free-agent-to-be Allen Robinson will leave the Bears’ depth chart light—literally—at wide receiver. Only Darnell Mooney will remain as a guaranteed starter, placing the onus on general manager Ryan Poles to add at least two quality pass-catchers between free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft.
The first night of on-field workouts at the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine is in the books and it featured one of the most dazzling groups of wide receivers that we’ve seen in many years. Despite this year’s class of wideouts not having a Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle in its mix, there are a lot of quality prospects who will bring elite speed to the NFL next fall. Several of them will be on the board when Chicago picks at No. 39, too.
North Dakota State’s Christian Watson put on an absolute show at Lucas Oil Stadium in a performance that may have actually catapulted him into the first-round discussion. He was the best combination of size and explosive athleticism at the combine. Watson checked in at 6-foot-4 and 208 pounds, ran a blazing 4.28 40-yard dash, had a 38.5-inch vertical jump, and a position-best 11-foot-4 broad jump. Just… incredible.
Watson was smooth in the on-field drills too, looking every bit like the do-it-all dynamo who has the potential to develop into a go-to guy in an NFL offense.
Watson wasn’t alone in his stellar performance. Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir elevated his draft stock with a shockingly fast 4.35 40-yard dash. Shakir is already considered one of the best route-runners and underneath playmakers in the 2022 NFL Draft; add this new element of speed to his scouting report and there’s no telling how high he could come off the board. He’d look great in the slot for Justin Fields and the Bears’ offense next season.
Memphis field-flipper Calvin Austin III did exactly what most draft analysts thought he would, and it was terrific. His 4.32 40-yard dash was on-brand and his 39-inch vertical jump was the third-best of all wide receivers at the combine. He weighed in at 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds, and it’s unlikely Poles will want to field a receiving corps that features two targets under 180 pounds. But speed kills, and pairing Mooney with Austin (in the slot) would give Chicago one of the fastest pass-catching duos in the NFL.
Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce was remarkable as well. He led all wide receivers with a 40-inch vertical jump and raced to a 4.33 40-yard dash. Think about it: he’s just as fast and explosive as Austin but stands 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds. He’s the perfect (and realistic) target for the Bears in the second round, especially if they’re able to trade down a few spots. Pierce’s size-speed combination is of the kind the Bears haven’t had in their offense since the days of Brandon Marshall.
The biggest takeaway here is this: the Bears are going to back into a fantastic wide receiver prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft who can start and be a high-impact rookie even without a first-round pick. In a draft class as deep as this year’s, players who traditionally would have a first-round value will become a Bear at No. 39.
And that’ll have Fields smiling from ear to ear.
- May 16, 2022
- May 16, 2022