The Chicago Bears clearly have needs at receiver right now (not only do they have an absence of talent there, they also have a stud, young QB they want to look good), and, thus, have been connected in one way or another to top-of-the-market free agents such as Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry.
And while that isn’t likely to change until the Bears address their biggest offseason need (one piece probably won’t cut it), perhaps the best fit doesn’t have to be a high-priced free agent.
Greg Gabriel, who once served as the Bears’ Director of College Scouting, doesn’t see someone like Landry as the perfect fit for the Bears in 2018. Instead, he sees a different free agent as a better option once free agency opens up:
The FA WR that fits Bears offense far better than Jarvis Landry in KC’s Albert Wilson…. and he already knows scheme
— Greg Gabriel (@greggabe) February 11, 2018
Albert Wilson is a name to keep an eye on when free agency starts. He is familiar with Matt Nagy’s offense and that could turn out to be quite valuable with as much projected turnover the Bears expect to have on the offensive side of the ball this season.
If you’re not too familiar with Wilson, it’s probably because he’s played a small role for the Kansas City Chiefs offense and wasn’t necessarily *especially productive* since signing on as an undrafted free agent in 2014, when he was coming off a 71-catch, 1,177-yard receiving season at Georgia State. However, Wilson could see an up-tick in production from the slot if he sees his offensive snap percentage go up from the 52.2% it was last season.
But if you’re wondering why we’d expect that percentage to go up if the same coach is still calling the shots, remember that Nagy didn’t take over the play-calling from Andy Reid until Week 13.
And as it turns out … After playing on around just 53 percent of offensive snaps in his first eight games of the 2017 season, Wilson used on 91.3 percent of the offense’s plays during Nagy’s play-calling debut. And that started a four-week run in which Wilson played on at least 86 percent of the Chiefs’ plays.
Save for the season-finale when most of Kansas City’s regulars were resting, Wilson saw more playing time with Nagy calling the shots than he did when Reid was in charge. Clearly, there’s something the Bears’ new head coach likes about that particular receiver (this alone lends some credence to Greg Gabriel’s point).
Overall in 2017, Wilson caught 42 passes for 554 yards and three touchdowns and could take over the role of slot receiver previously occupied by Kendall Wright, who was in on 58.7% of the offense’s snaps last year. Wright ranks among the best slot receivers among this crop of free agents and checks in with a higher catch rate, lower drop percentage, and more routes run (and receiving targets) out of the slot than Wilson. HOWEVER, Wilson’s grasp/familiarity with Nagy’s offense could prove to be a more valuable asset than Wright’s replacement-level production.
Wilson is small in stature, but is tough as nails and a sharp route-runner. His ties to Nagy and the Chiefs could make his name one worth watching once free agency opens up in March.