For the first time in recent memory, the wide receiver position for the Chicago Bears is not one of the team's weakest positions.
Chicago's last 1,000-yard receiver was Marty Booker (2002). Furthermore, there have been only six 1,000-yard seasons and two 1,200-yard seasons for the Bears since 1990.
There is a good chance that will change in 2012.
Not only did they trade two third-round picks to the Dolphins for receiver Brandon Marshall, but the Bears used their second-round pick on South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery in this year's NFL draft.
Marshall, who has five straight 1,000-yard seasons, is the team's clear No. 1 receiver, but Jeffery should be able to make a solid contribution to the passing game as well.
While Jeffery lacks elite breakaway speed, he possesses a big frame (6-3, 216 pounds) and excellent hands. Compared to his playing weight last year at South Carolina, however, Jeffery has slimmed down from 230 pounds.
Jeffery had a breakout season for the Gamecocks in 2010 with 88 receptions for 1,517 yards and nine touchdowns. In his junior season (2011), however, his production (49-762-8) regressed to the level he had as a freshman (46-763-6).
While the decline last year can be attributed to things both beyond his control (quarterback kicked out of school) and things under his control (weight), reports and comments about Jeffery in training camp have been generally positive.
“The best way to say it is, he’s a Brandon Marshall in the making,” cornerback Charles Tillman told the Chicago Sun-Times. “He has that capability to be as good as Brandon if he continues to have the work ethic and work on ball skills and work to be a better player. But he can definitely be on that level.”
“I’m sure he can learn a lot from me, but at the same time,” Marshall said (of Jeffery), “I’ve already learned a few things…from his game.”
Even if he's not "dominant" this year, he should still have a solid rookie season.
Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed to wide receivers last year by all of the Bears' opponents this year, Jeffery and Bears' receivers have the fifth-most favorable schedule from a fantasy perspective and second-most favorable in the fantasy postseason (Weeks 14-16).
The Bears face the Vikings, who allowed the most passing touchdowns in the NFL last year, in Week 14 and the Packers, who allowed the most passing yards last year, in Week 15 as well as the Cardinals in Week 16.
With his size and ball skills, Jeffery should see plenty of red-zone targets come his way as a rookie. Jeffery won't cost you much on draft day (current Yahoo ADP: 72nd WR, 134.5 overall) and has upside as a late-round pick.
Typically with any rookie receiver, their long-term outlook is more favorable than that of their rookie season and Jeffery is no different. As a big target with great hands, Jeffery has the potential to develop into a fantasy-starting receiver, especially in point-per-reception (PPR) leagues, within the next couple of years. Even if he doesn't become the next Brandon Marshall.
Projection: 45 Receptions, 585 Receiving Yards, 6 TDs
Also, check out: