Just when you thought the Chicago Bears had plugged a hole at wide receiver, another leak springs out of nowhere.
At least that’s how it feels after the Bears refused to match the offer sheet given to Cameron Meredith by the New Orleans Saints. The decision leaves the Bears combing the market for available talent at wide receiver, ideally, someone capable of playing a starter’s role.
Because if Allen Robinson is the “X” receiver, Taylor Garbiel is in the Zebra role, Adam Shaheen is the in-line tight end, and Trey Burton is the “move” tight end, the Bears are still left without a “Z” receiver on the outside.
The “Z” receiver role is one that would have been filled by Meredith, had the Bears decided to match the offer sheet from the Saints. Gabriel is versatile enough and has played outside often enough to fill that role, but that still leaves the Zebra position open. In any case, there is a(nother) starting role that needs to be filled in the Bears’ offense.
The NFL’s season doesn’t start today, but if it did, the players vying for that role would include Kevin White, Joshua Bellamy, Tanner Gentry, DeMarcus Ayers, and Mekale McKay. Not only does that group not inspire much confidence, it serves as a reminder that the team is a few unfortunate injuries away from having Josh Bellamy starting again.
The overriding feeling this offseason was that the Bears would still find a way to draft a receiver in the middle or late rounds in order to add some depth, round out the group, and create a position of depth. But with Meredith’s departure, the Bears might have to re-calibrate their weekend plans a bit (Michael: Or we just needed to recalibrate our expectations).
Based on the list of players the Bears have visited, met with, and worked out, GM Ryan Pace should be prepared to take a talented wideout at some point in the draft.
Zack Pearson of Scout.com, WalterFootball.com, and NFL.com each have a list of players the Bears have met with at some point during the pre-draft process. Let’s dive into some of the possible targets.
Calvin Ridley, Alabama
It wasn’t all that long ago when a vast majority of the mock drafts were sending Ridley to the Bears with the No. 8 pick. Things changed when the team signed Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel, but the pendulum could swing again and Ridley could end up returning to the Bears’ radar. Ridley recently received a second-round grade from one draft analyst, but is still widely viewed as the draft’s best and most polished receiver prospect. The Bears met with Ridley at the Combine, where he confidently stated his belief that he could be an immediate playmaker. Chicago could certainly use one of those now. Perhaps the Bears can move back in the draft and still land its top pass-catching prospect.
Courtland Sutton, SMU
Sutton has a weekend workout planned with the Bears. Talk about good timing! Back when we were tracking the Bears’ 2018 draft spot, Sutton was one of the players who was believed to be in play for the Bears depending on where they picked. Sutton’s big-play potential made him one of my favorite players to keep an eye on during the college football season, but there is no consensus on where he’ll be drafted. We have seen him mocked as high as the ninth pick going to San Francisco or falling into the second round.
Deon Cain, Clemson
Cain met with the Bears at the Combine, telling Chris Emma of WSCR 670-AM/CBS Chicago that he felt he could be “a great asset” to the Bears’ offense. Once believed to be a first-round type of talent in line to follow in the footsteps of Clemson products like DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins, Cain’s stock has dropped to a potential Day 2 target. Back in September, a ridiculously early mock draft had the Bears picking Cain with the fifth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. Here is what he had to say at the time:
“What will likely be three years of top-end production at a powerhouse program from a top-end athlete is reason enough for Cain to land in the top five. No, he’s not the contested-catch phenom Mike Williams was a year ago. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. Cain flourishes down the field and after the catch. The Bears need to bolster their wideout group after the unfortunate injuries to Kevin White.”
That’s how much things can change after a college football season. Then again, some things just stay the same.
Simmie Cobbs Jr., Indiana
The Oak Park, Ill., product and All-State prep player has a desirable frame (6-3, 220 pounds) and played his best against the best competition (11 catches, 149 yards, 1 TD against Ohio State in the 2017 season opener) is someone deserving of additional attention. He is described as a smooth route-runner and a willing run blocker, which are good traits to have in this offense. Cobbs’ NFL.com draft profile projects him to be a fifth-round pick, but his size and skill set could lead to him jumping up a round or two.
Equanimeous St. Brown, Notre Dame
The limitations of Notre Dame’s quarterback situation limited St. Brown’s production for the Fighting Irish. St. Brown checks in at 6-4, 214 pounds and has impressive athleticism. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.48 seconds and bench-pressed 225 pounds 20 times at the Combine. St. Brown has NFL-caliber size, speed, strength, and athleticism, but still needs to refine his skills. There isn’t a consensus on where St. Brown will land in the draft. WalterFootball.com projects him to go anywhere between the first and third rounds, but NFL.com’s draft profile sees him as a candidate to go in the third or fourth round.
James Washington, Oklahoma State
Washington was one of the six top-11 receiver prospects who showed off their skills at the Senior Bowl … which feels like ages ago. Built like a running back (5-11, 213 pounds) with the kind of long arms you usually find on a wide receiver (32 3/8″), Washington was a steady and reliable deep threat in Oklahoma State’s offense. He worked well inside and out, tracks the ball well in the air, and has averaged more than 20 yards per catch over the last three seasons. He is the type of receiver who could be an ideal candidate to be taken in the second round.
Jonah Trinnaman, BYU
The Bears had dinner with the BYU standout back in March and his workout numbers were off the charts:
Your 👀 Pro Day numbers come from BYU WR Jonah Trinnaman.
I’m told his was clocked as fast as the mid-4.2’s in the 40 (fastest WR at the Combine ran a 4.34).
40.5” vert would have been No. 1 among WRs at the Combine.
Per source, the Bears had dinner with Trinnaman last night.
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) March 30, 2018
Trinnaman didn’t play in a receiver-friendly offense. In fact, he had more rushing attempts and yards on the ground than he did catches and receiving yards. Sounds like a late-round sleeper pick to me.