By now, the story on Marquess Wilson, the Chicago Bears’ seventh-round draft choice, is well-known.
The talented college receiver broke team rules, left Washington State, lambasted the coaching staff and hurt his draft stock. The Bears then rolled the dice late in the draft to see if they could straighten him out and capitalize on his skill.
Wilson sounds sadly standard for a late-round pick in the NFL.
The rookie for Chicago had 3,207 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in his college career, which should have put him “off the board on the second day” if not for character concerns (according to NBC Sports).
With all of that talent, Marquess Wilson has a good shot to play at a thin position for the Bears.
Brandon Marshall accounted for far too much of the offense last season; he had to compensate for injuries to Alshon Jeffery and Earl Bennett, as well as Kellen Davis’ hands.
Even so, it’s logical that the Bears were largely content with their current situation. Jeffery was a second-round pick in 2012, so obviously more is expected from him in his sophomore season. Bennett showed good rapport with his college teammate, Jay Cutler, when on the field.
It also would have been perfectly logical for the Bears to add another option beside Wilson at wide receiver. Jeffery struggled with consistency when he played, and he failed to step up in a big game against Green Bay (three penalties, however questionable, playing against cornerback Sam Shields). Every year Bennett has played in the league, his yardage has declined.
On top of those issues, both players have histories of being hurt in the NFL. Jeffery has a small sample size, but it’s still a concern.
Thus, it’s fitting to say the Bears are thin at receiver, which is why it’s strange that Wilson was the biggest name they added this offseason at the position.
It works out just fine for the rookie receiver.
Wilson should easily beat out veteran Eric Weems and second-year pro Joe Anderson for the fourth spot on the depth chart.
The lanky receiver’s production at Washington State speaks for itself—he can get it done on the field. Wilson has great measurables, too. He stands 6’3” and ran a 4.51 at the NFL Scouting Combine (according to NFL.com).
The former Cougar made some impressive catches while in college. He has fantastic body control and goes up to get the ball above defenders. When he wasn’t making spectacular grabs in coverage, he was using his speed to blow by defensive backs for easy gains. If you don’t mind explicit language, you can watch some of his highlights for yourself on YouTube.
If the Bears stay healthy at wide receiver all season, don’t expect much from Wilson. He’ll see the field every now and then, but he’s too skinny to earn his way onto the gridiron immediately. Head coach Marc Trestman said “He has got a lot of growing to do,” but that he expects time in the Bears’ weight program will get him much stronger (via the Chicago Tribune).
In the event that either Jeffery or Bennett goes down, Wilson will get some serious playing time. He will probably struggle with how physical NFL defensive backs are but could contribute some catches and an occasional touchdown.
A slightly watered-down version of Alshon Jeffery’s rookie season is realistic if that happened. 250-to-350 yards with two or three touchdowns would be a huge boost from the seventh-rounder.
Look for Wilson to bulk up this offseason, and for his production to be contingent on an injury. Expectations for 2013 should be tempered, but his long-term future could be incredibly bright if he stays out of trouble.
*All statistics provided by ESPN.com.