NFL Draft: With Meredith gone, Chicago Bears could seek WR help

Bears could target Day 3 for WR depth; appear set at TE

Published: Updated:
Lundy/slundy@dailyherald.com — Steve Lundy

This WR draft class is unimpressive at the top but considered extremely deep, with potential starters possibly available into the fourth round. Calvin Ridley is the consensus top wideout, but he could be the only one to come off the board on Day One.

There could be more tight ends than wide receivers taken in the first round, although the quality drops off precipitously with very little depth after the top four – South Dakota State’s Dallas Goedert, South Carolina’s Hayden Hurst, Penn State’s Mike Gesicki and Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews.

Bears WR depth chart

Allen Robinson

Kevin White

Taylor Gabriel

Josh Bellamy

Bears draft need at WR: Moderate

Bears TE depth chart

Trey Burton

Dion Sims

Adam Shaheen

Bears draft need at TE: Negligible.

Bears draft picks

Round 1 (eighth overall)

Round 2 (39th)

Round 4 (105th) and (115th)

Round 5 (145th)

Round 6 (181st)

Round 7 (224th)

The Bears have invested heavily in the TE position with draft equity, and especially in the UFA market. In addition to spending a second-round pick on Ashland TE Adam Shaheen in 2017, the Bears splurged in free agency in each of the past two seasons, giving Dion Sims $18 million over three years in 2017 and Trey Burton $32 million over four years earlier this year. 

They didn’t receive much of a return on their investments last year. Sims caught 15 passes for 180 yards, while Shaheen had 12 catches for 127 yards. Burton will be the main man in the passing game, but the Bears also want Sims and Shaheen to have roles there.

The Bears also dumped a lot of money into wide receivers this year, doling out $42 million over three years to Allen Robinson and $26 million over four years to Taylor Gabriel. Aside from selecting Kevin White with the seventh overall pick in 2015, the Bears have used just one draft pick on a wide receiver in the past five years, taking seventh-rounder Daniel Braverman in 2016. 

The loss of 25-year-old Cam Meredith robs them of depth and of a player who could be a key contributor for several years. Now, the Bears need Robinson to be ready by opening day as he recovers from last September’s torn ACL and for White to stay healthy for the first time.

2018 WR salary-cap situation:  Even with Meredith off the books, the Bears are still No. 4 in the NFL in percentage of salary cap allocated to wide receivers at $27.237 million, according to spotrac.com. Robinson is on the books this year for just over $11 million, while Gabriel and White each count between $5 million and $5.5 million.

2018 TE salary-cap situation: According to spotrac.com, the Bears are also No. 4 in money devoted to tight ends, so it’s doubtful they’ll add to that position in the draft. Most of the $15.449 they have allocated to the TE position goes to Sims ($6.333 million) and Burton ($5.675 million).

WIDE RECEIVER

Day One: There is no wide receiver in this draft class worthy of the eighth overall pick, and the Bears don’t need to address that position so early. It would be an upset if the Bears draft a tight end at all, and it’s certainly not happening in the first round.

Day Two: The Bears don’t have a third-round pick, and even after losing Meredith, they’re not likely to use their second-rounder on a wide receiver. They have more-pressing needs at several other positions. Aside from Ridley, there might not be another wide receiver, even at No. 39 overall, who entices the Bears enough to add help there that early. But they could be tempted if all the members of the second-tier wide receivers – Christian Kirk, Courtland Sutton, James Washington, Dante Pettis, D.J. Moore and Anthony Miller – are available.

The top four tight ends might already be gone, and even if they’re not, the Bears won’t be taking one.

Day Three: It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Bears make a play for a wideout early in the day (Round Four). If they do look to add depth, Central Florida’s Tre’Quan Smith and Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton could be steals, although it may be wishful thinking to expect either to last that long.

Hamilton was a four-year starter for the Nittany Lions, and he has good size for a slot receiver at 6-1 and 205 pounds. He lacks great speed and will not stretch a defense, but he may be able to create separation at the next level with his precise route running. He is tough and strong enough underneath to project as an effective possession receiver.

Smith has an excellent size-speed ratio: He ran a 4.49 at 6-2 and 202 pounds and had his best season in 2017 with 54 catches for 1,082 yards (20.0-yard average) and 13 touchdowns. With his speed, physical style, long (33.5 inches) arms and 37.5-inch vertical, Smith is a legitimate downfield threat, especially on 50-50 balls.

Boise State’s Cedrick Wilson could be another Day Three consideration. As a juco transfer, he played just two seasons at Boise St. but caught 129 passes for 2,419 yards, an 18.8-yard average, and 17 touchdowns. At 6-3 and 188 pounds, he could use a little bulk and a lot of strength, but he brings an intriguing combination of tools and big-play ability. He returned punts and kickoffs, and 26 percent of his catches were for 25 yards or longer. His father and namesake played wide receiver for seven years in the NFL.

For the Bears to take a tight end, it would have to be very late and be a player they had graded much higher.

Second in a series. Next up: running back.