Just one year ago, the Bears’ receiving core was not only scraping the bottom of the barrel of the NFC North, but it was arguably the worst in the entire league. They were counting on career backup Equanimeous St. Brown and journeyman Dante Pettis to play crucial roles on Sunday, which was evident in Chicago’s putrid passing numbers.
There is no denying the improvements that the front office has made to address the receiver position. However, it is fair to debate whether they have done enough to warrant the recognition of having the best group of pass-catchers in the NFC North. Have their new additions provided enough juice to earn them that title?
The Bears took their first step to improve their receiving corps ahead of last year’s trade deadline when they traded a second-round selection to the Steelers for Chase Claypool. While the move has yet to pay dividends, it could prove to be a fruitful acquisition if the 24-year-old can regain some of the promise he showed early in his career. It is worth noting that none of the receivers on the board at pick 32 (the selection they gave up for Claypool) were worthy of being selected that high, and only one more pass-catcher went in the top 50.
Their most significant addition to the receiver room came when they poached D.J. Moore from Carolina while trading down eight spots in the draft. The 26-year-old has steadily flown under the radar throughout his career and is one of the most underrated pass-catchers in the league. He is the type of alpha number-one receiver that could take Justin Fields’ game to the next level.
No one would have blamed the Bears brass if they were content with the receiver position heading into the draft, as they already boasted one of the league’s most potent three-receiver sets on paper with Moore, Claypool, and Darnell Mooney. However, they addressed the position again in the fourth round with the addition of another promising pass-catcher in Tyler Scott. Many thought that the University of Cincinnati product would be a day two selection. He combines elite speed and athleticism to make an immediate impact (even if that won’t be necessary) as a deep threat.
The Vikings are easily Chicago’s biggest competition for the best-receiving corps in the division. They have arguably the league’s best pass-catcher in Justin Jefferson and a quality second option in Jordan Addison, whom the team selected in the first round. K.J. Osborn also provides Kirk Cousins with another reliable option out of the slot.
It is tough to say that Chicago’s group of pass-catchers will outperform the league’s top receiving threat, but you could easily make the case that they possess more depth at the position. If one of the Vikings’ top weapons goes down to injury, they would have to rely on the likes of Jalen Nailor (a 2022 sixth-round selection) or Jalen Reagor (LOL). Meanwhile, the Bears would turn to Scott, St. Brown, or 2022 third-round selection Velus Jones Jr., who flashed potential late last season.
Detroit will be short-handed at receiver early in the season after Jameson Williams got slapped with a six-game suspension for betting on college football while in the team facility. However, it feels safe to say that they are still a tick behind the Bears group, even with the 2021 first-round selection in the fold. He has incredible potential but still has to prove he belongs after only catching one pass in his rookie season.
The Lions do, however, possess an elite playmaker in Amon-Ra St. Brown, who has developed into one of the best slot receivers in the game. With that said, there is little depth behind him. Marvin Jones Jr. is returning to Detroit (after two seasons in Jacksonville) and will probably be counted on to play a vital role on offense right away. Behind him, Josh Reynolds and Khalif Raymond round out a depth chart that is arguably worse than last year’s group (they lost DJ Chark in the offseason).
The Lions might not feature a top-tier group of pass-catchers, but they are still in a much better spot than the Packers, who could be fielding the league’s worst receiving core. Like Williams, Christian Watson possesses sky-high potential but has yet to prove that he can consistently play at a high level. He scored eight touchdowns in a four-game span but failed to reach the end zone again in his (somewhat overhyped) rookie campaign.
Behind Watson, they will be counting on a few question marks to make life easier for Jordan Love. Romeo Doubs flashed potential in his first season but was also plagued by inconsistency and concentration drops. Many expect second-round selection Jayden Reed to fill the team’s slot receiver role from day one, but the Michigan State product is a complete unknown.
The Bears’ front office has done a superb job of turning around a broken roster and surrounding Justin Fields with ample talent, especially in the receiving corps. They might not be the favorite to come out on top of the division, but they have more than enough firepower to keep up with their rivals.
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