Bears Urged to Pursue Hyper-Athletic Wideout This Offseason

Justin Fields, Bears

Getty QB Justin Fields of the Chicago Bears looks on prior to a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field on December 18, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bears have their quarterback of the future in Justin Fields. Now it’s time to load up the roster with talent around the young star.

Franchise wide receivers have proven pricey in free agency, with Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill both netting record-setting contracts amid a flurry of significant financial investments at the position across the league. As such, the best option for the Bears may be to take a hard look at a wideout in the upcoming NFL Draft. Any conversation about incoming rookie playmakers on the edge has to start with Quentin Johnston of TCU.

Will Dewitt of All CHGO on Wednesday, December 21, made the case for Johnston as the Bears’ No. 1 prospective wide receiver target.

If you’re looking for that big-bodied “go up and get it” guy, Johnston is your man. And he’s more than just all size, as Johnston is a superior athlete, too.

Fields loves to throw the ball deep, and the Bears would benefit from Johnston’s downfield ability. His body control allows him to make tough grabs.

He’s more than just a “jump ball” guy, as he can do damage in catch-and-run situations where he tends to run through defenders to gain extra yards.

Bears’ Draft Position, Priorities Make Selecting Johnston Possibility

Quentin Johnston, TCU

GettyWide receiver Quentin Johnston of the TCU Horned Frogs reacts after a touchdown reception during the second half of a game against the Texas Longhorns at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium on November 12, 2022 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Chicago has strong draft position heading into the final three weeks of the season, currently slotting in at the No. 2 position. Considering Fields’ prowess and the Bears’ competitiveness, even despite a lack of playmaking on the offensive edge, several draft experts have urged the team to find a way to bring Johnston into the fold.

The issue is that Johnston’s talent, combined with most projected draft orders, tends to slot him just outside of the top 10 in most mock drafts. Chicago has a multitude of needs, including a presence along the interior of the defensive line and a pass rushing threat on the edge. Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter and Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. both have the potential to be generational talents, and it is hard to see the Bears letting both of them slide by if they end up selecting at the very top of the draft.

That said, there are scenarios in which the Bears trade back a couple of spots, leveraging the ever-present need in the NFL for talent under center and a top-heavy quarterback class in 2023. If Chicago decides to move off the No. 2 pick and drop a couple of spots, Carter or Anderson could still be there for the taking. If the Bears can bring back another first-round selection in such a deal, then moving up for a second choice in the middle of the first round brings Johnston seriously into play.

WR Chase Claypool Has Disappointed Since Bears’ Trade With Steelers

Chase Claypool, Bears

GettyQuarterback Justin Fields (right) of the Chicago Bears hands the ball off to wide receiver Chase Claypool (left) during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Soldier Field on November 6, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Johnston qualifies more as an upside bet than a high first-round prospect taken because of dominant collegiate performances. The receiver’s numbers haven’t been bad, but they haven’t been elite to this point either. With at least one game yet to play in the College Football Playoff Semifinals against Michigan, Johnston has amassed 53 catches for 903 yards and five touchdowns over 12 outings in his junior season.

Some of the wideout’s value to the Bears is simply due to the fact that the team has yet to hit a home run in attempts to add high-level talent around Fields. Chicago took the first couple stabs at doing so this season, trading with the Pittsburgh Steelers for wideout Chase Claypool after selecting wide receiver/kick returner Velus Jones Jr. in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Claypool has been underwhelming since his arrival in Chicago and is now missing practices with a knee injury, while the team has used Jones sparingly on offense amid his recent struggles on special teams. The Bears also traded a seventh-rounder to the New England Patriots for former first-round pick N’Keal Harry over the summer, though Harry has been even more disappointing in Chicago than he was with the Pats, failing to eclipse 100 yards receiving on the entire season despite eight appearances and four starts.

The Bears do appear to have a quality wideout option in Darnell Mooney, who is now out for the season after sustaining an ankle injury against the New York Jets late last month. Mooney posted 493 yards and two touchdowns on 40 catches through 11 games, after putting up 1,055 yards and four touchdowns on 81 catches last year. Chicago also has a quality target at tight end in Cole Kmet, who has pulled in 39 catches for 433 yards and a team-leading five receiving touchdowns.

Adding Johnston to the mix could help the Bears take the next step forward on an offense likely to improve significantly in 2023, as Chicago is projected to have well over $100 million in salary cap space to spend this offseason.

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