Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Chicago Bears could use some upgrades at wide receiver.
Luckily, they’re in a great place to find help as the team’s brass is currently in Mobile, Ala., scouting the Senior Bowl. After all, six of the top 11 receiver prospects will be showing off their skills this week leading up to Sunday’s game. Sure, they missed out on Cooper Kupp (who killed it as a rookie for the Rams) last year, but the Bears can’t let history repeat itself again, right?
Josh Liskiewitz of Pro Football Focus explains how 2018’s class of Senior Bowl wideouts could be show-stealers this week. Some of the best wide receivers never make it to the Senior Bowl, instead choosing to opt for early entry to the NFL Draft as juniors or third-year sophomores. That’s why you won’t see the likes of Calvin Ridley or Courtland Sutton in this year’s game.
But this year feels a little different with Colorado State’s Michael Gallup and Oklahoma State’s James Washington arriving to the scene as two of the draft’s best receivers, both of whom are also seniors and should be on the Bears’ radar.
Washington is the second-highest-rated receiver at CBS Sports and is one of four receivers with first-round grades in Pro Football Focus’ most recent mock draft. PFF’s data reveals Washington has been a darn good deep threat, something the Bears didn’t have on its roster in 2017. The site counts deep passes as targets that are thrown 20+ downfield. With that in mind, let’s point out Washington’s 815 “deep receiving yards” were the most among FBS receivers and his eight “deep touchdowns” were the second most.
Oklahoma State sent Washington deep often, running him on post patterns 45.9 percent of the time and go-routes at a 37.3 percent clip. He might be built like a running back (5-10, 210), but his arm length measured at 33-7/8 inches and that should lessen some of the concerns regarding his height. Washington’s wing span essentially makes him a 6-5 target, which could go a long way toward hauling in what would otherwise be misfired passes.
After spending two years playing at the junior college level, Gallup was a baller at Colorado State. He followed a 76-catch, 1,272-yard, 14-touchdown junior year with a 100-catch, 1,418-yard, seven-touchdown season. That’s quite the two-year run for the 6-1, 200-pound receiver.
Gallup is a more balanced receiver, splitting equal time on the right and left side of the formation. He was PFF’s highest-graded wideout and with good reason. Gallup forced 20 missed tackles (ninth among FBS receivers) and had a healthy balance of routes (21 percent of targets on screen passes, post/go routes 40 percent). There is a bit of discrepancy on where Gallup will land on draft day. PFF has Gallup as the third receiver off the board in the first round, CBS Sports ranks him as its sixth-best receiver, while he checks in at 20 at Walter Football — which pegs him as a round 4-6 selection.
Despite a lack of consensus on how high the top receivers will go, it’s becoming clear that this group is deep. The Senior Bowl could provide an opportunity for someone like Gallup or Washington to move up the board with notable performances.