The Chicago Bears have a need at receiver and are in a great position to nab one of the best prospects in the draft, but there is a belief that taking one with the eighth overall pick would be a reach. And considering the Bears’ issues at other positions, stepping out for a receiver might not be the best strategy.
ESPN’s Todd McShay recently released his big board of NFL Draft prospects, and it was bereft of wide receiver talent at the top. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley was McShay’s top receiver, but the jury is still out on where he’ll be taken. Of course, Ridley isn’t the only talented receiver in the draft – he might be the guy most ready to step into a professional offense and be a solid contributor from Day 1 (and that shouldn’t be overlooked, especially by a team that lacked viable pass-catching targets for rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky) – but he’s not the only talented pass catcher.
Christian Kirk of Texas A&M, joins Ridley as the only two receivers in McShay’s top-25 (ranked 23rd overall), though he garnered a bit of a mixed review.
“Kirk hasn’t been running an NFL route tree at Texas A&M, but he’s a speedy slot receiver and dangerous punt returner,” McShay wrote. “He had some focus drops during a frustrating 2017 season, but Kirk has good football character and he’s a dynamic threat with the ball in his hands.”
The 5-11, 200-pound Texas A&M product was a three-year contributor and finished his college career with 234 catches, 2,856 yards, and 26 touchdowns. In addition to his playmaking abilities as a receiver, Kirk also added 1,048 kick return yards, 814 punt return yards, and seven total return touchdowns. And yet, Kirk has his limitations as a prospect.
At the top of the red flags list are McShay’s comments regarding his limited route tree. It’s hard to look past that considering Kevin White’s issues with learning an NFL playbook early in his career. Still, Kirk has done enough in three years at the highest level against top-flight SEC defenders to garner a first-round grade from some evaluators.
On the other side, I can’t get McShay’s use of the phrase “football character” out of my head. It reminds me of the 2017 Senior Bowl when Bears GM Ryan Pace made “football intelligence” into a buzz word and point of emphasis when he speaking to reporters. If Kirk’s football character is as good as McShay suggests, it wouldn’t be surprising if Pace falls for Kirk at some point in the draft process. But probably not to the point where he would be selected with a top-10 pick.
A popular suggestion at this stage is for the Bears to trade out of the eighth overall pick, add some value picks in later rounds, and scoop up a receiver in a spot where it doesn’t feel like a reach. Frankly, it’s not a bad idea, even if the team traded out of a position to draft Ridley, who is the top receiver prospect in the eyes of McShay and ESPN colleague Mel Kiper Jr. If the Bears were in search of a viable back-up plan if that scenario unfolds, Kirk could be a sensible selection later in the first round because he fits a need, is among the most talented players at his position, and could be acquired without the risk of reaching.
How the Bears approach solving their receiver issues in free agency will give us a better idea of how they’ll use their draft picks. But as we start sorting through the avenues in which Pace and the front office can improve the position, it’s becoming clear the team has its fair share of options.