Last year's acclaimed "greatest wide receiver draft ever" is being followed by an even greater draft for wide receivers.
The hype was a little overboard last year. This year, 18 of Todd McShay's top 87 players and 13 of Pro Football Focus' top 87 are wide receivers.
A team can fall out of bed and find a wide receiver in about any round.
What the Bears can use is speed because they have all other types of receivers. This isn't all they value, though.
In fact, it might be third on the list.
Last year they were sizing up Darnell Mooney and their description indicated the two other aspects they loved in Mooney, as well as all receivers.
"What you see, is his releases are really good off the line of scrimmage," coach Matt Nagy said. "He understands leverage. And when I say that, there might be a defensive back that's trailing him on his inside hip and he makes a move to the inside to get the snap and then he turns the outside and create separation making it a friendly throw for the quarterback. You just feel every route he runs he's real smooth."
The route running is critical. The speed was obvious on a clock. To get the Nagy stamp of approval, one of his favorite qualities is the same for any receiver or anyone with the ball in their hands for that matter.
"The other thing that jumped out to all of us as we were watching tape, he's one of those guys, where there's a lot of stuff on tape and he shows where he makes the first guy miss and when you're able to do that," Nagy said. "With the acceleration that he has, it can turn a 12-yard gain into a homerun and a touchdown and we like that."
Mooney really showed these to be true. At only 176 pounds, he was one of the most slippery receivers the Bears have drafted in recent memory. The first tackler rarely seems to get him in the open field, even when they have the angle, size and good speed.
Here are possibilities in each round for the Bears with an emphasis on the slot position because of Anthony Miller's reported faltering grip on a roster spot in Chicago. Keep in mind Matt Nagy would love to have someone like theses players, but there could be pressing needs at other spots preventing the selections in rounds 1 and 2 so they have options down the line:
Rondale Moore, Purdue
First Round, No. 20
There seems a split among analysts whether Moore rates higher than Florida's Kadarius Toney, who is slightly bigger but the same type of player. There shouldn't be. If you're talking about special talent. then Moore is the clear winner. He's faster, cuts and stops better and he runs better routes. He leaps better. His problem has been the hamstrings and availability.
A special player with the ball in his hands and ranked the fourth best receiver in the draft by NFL Draft Bible, Moore had a 42 1/2-inch vertical leap. At only 5-foot-7, 180, he still shows a knack for running through tackles. Toney also has this ability but Moore ran a 4.29 40 to Toney's 4.39 and his vertical was three inches better. The Bears would benefit from either, but the qualities Moore has fit better with what Nagy described about ideal receivers. The clincher: He looks like a better route runner than Toney. The Bears have visi
Elijah Moore, Mississippi
Moore has rocketed up charts. In Pro Football Focus' big board he rates as a first rounder, fifth best overall. That could be taking it a bit too far. The reason for the rise from mid-third day is largely the meteoric final season he had, averaging more than 150 yards a game. It was as if something just clicked. There had been questions about whether he had faced enough press coverage to win consistently from the slot in the NFL but he pretty much trashed every type of coverage he saw in his final season and then ran 4.35 seconds in the 40 at his pro day. Although he showed ability to make plays downfield on passes, he is 5-9, 181 and better suited to the slot. The Bears had a virtual visit with him according to Walterfootball.com.
Amon-Ra St. Brown
You won't find St. Brown on lists of top pro day 40 times. He ran 4.51, which is faster than all the top five Bears receivers did except Mooney. However, St. Brown displayed route-running ability on a level with the best first-rounders. So he played faster than plenty of fast runners. At 6-1, 194, he is built more like an X-receiver and did some of this in his last season. However, he has moved around the offense and looked better to most scouts the previous two years while playing in the slot. He gets open, and has enough shake to make the first guy miss. If the Bears are looking for pure speed, then D'Wayne Eskridge or Anthony Schwartz might be the better pick here. But their description of ideal receivers might as well have had a photo of St. Brown stamped on it. In fact, in a three-round tag-team mock done by Mel Kiper and Todd McShay for ESPN, they sent St. Brown to the Bears in Round 3. Bears coaches and scouts had a big presence at the USC pro day and it wasn't entirely for teammate Alijah Vera-Tucker.
If you're taking a slot receiver this late in the draft, why not make it one who serves a dual purpose? This might be the most explosive kick returner available to replace Cordarrelle Patterson among those who did it on a regular basis. Players at all junctures of the draft can be used for this, like Jaylen Waddle was with Alabama. But few did it all the time. Stevenson did, averaging 26.1 yards for 34 returns. A little taller than most slots at 6-foot, 190, Stevenson has great acceleration, a 4.45-second 40 time and can cut well in open field. Some scouts note the best part of his receiving game might be his route running. He sounds a little like a fifth-rounder the Bears took last year, except from the slot.
In a highly productive offense, Newsome often got overshadowed. He's a little larger than many slots at 5-11, 190, and not overly fast in terms of the 40, but he made enough big plays to warrant a look. He also did something else extremely well. With 48 punt returns, he averaged 11.1 yards. The Bears may need to consider this need because Tarik Cohen may not be 100% healthy at the outset after a torn ACL and if he is do they really want to submit him to more risk on punt returns when he has such a vital offensive role?
Toss in this extra receiver for Round 4. Although the Bears have no fourth-rounder, it would be surprising if they didn't make a strong attempt to get one when they try to trade Anthony Miller. In that case, look for Western Michigan's Eskridge as the receiver of choice. He has acceleration almost like Rondale Moore, and a really good field vision. He's always headed for the open spot whether he has caught or pass or is making a return. Another player the Bears have shown interest in with interviews.