The Senior Bowl has come to a close and the NFL Draft is rapidly approaching. The Bears needs in the draft are very well known. We know they need help at every position on the offensive line, they could use some help on the defensive line and also at the wide receiver position.
The wide receiver position is probably the most intriguing need in the 2011 NFL Draft. The Bears have a pretty good group of wide receivers right now but lack a true number one receiving threat that would force opposing defenses to double cover that player and open up other opportunities for other receivers.
Let’s take a look at five wide receiver prospects that could interest the Bears in the first three rounds of the draft (these players are graded first to third round prospects) and see which one might interest the Bears the most and help them right away on offense.
This list is in no particular order.
Big stars like A.J. Green and Julio Jones will be gone by the time the Bears make their first pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. It is realistic that Baldwin could still be on the board when the Bears make their pick in the first round, but he won't be around in the second round for sure.
Baldwin has the size the Bears would be looking for in a wide receiver and knows how to catch the ball. He is a reliable receiver who drops few passes, is willing to go over the middle and can block well in the running game.
The downside to Baldwin is he needs to learn to run better routes, but this will come with some good NFL tutelage. He also doesn’t have “great” speed but has enough to give cornerbacks problems.
If Baldwin is around when the Bears make their pick in the first round, they should really consider taking him depending on what’s available for the offensive line. Getting a threat at the wide receiver position would help them out on offense and give Cutler a good target to throw the ball to.
Young has really improved his draft stock in recent weeks and could be worth of a late first-round pick if he continues to excel in the scouting combine and workouts. He comes from one of college football’s most productive offenses and knows how to play the position.
Some of the upside with Young includes the ability to get deep in a hurry and the ability to cut quickly. He has been known for his route running and has can use his speed to burst free of the defender and track down overthrown balls. Young runs very well after the catch and can make big plays.
What he lacks is the ability to block well in the running game and this may affect his draft stock a little bit. He also needs to learn how to get a better and quicker release from defensive backs jamming him at the line of scrimmage and play much tougher when going over the middle to catch passes.
There is some room for improvement with Young, but he could turn into a big threat for the Bears in the receiving game after some time in an NFL offense. The Bears could show some interest in him depending on how well he does in the combine and post-combine workouts.
Smith is ranked as a second round pick in the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft (so far) and could be a solid addition to the Bears. He doesn’t come from a big-time passing program, but he’s got the talent and skill to make a difference in the NFL.
Some of the upside Smith has includes his ability to get up field in a hurry and the ability to get open. He has value in the return game and has solid change of direction. Smith has the acceleration to separate himself from defenders trailing him up the field and can accelerate to catch the ball when it’s in the air.
Some of the drawbacks Smith has include his size. He is a thinly built wide receiver with not a lot of bulk up top which may concern some when it comes to taking big hits in the NFL. He could also use some polish on his route running, but he runs those vertical routes very well. Smith’s pass-catching mechanics could use some work, as he tends to catch the ball with his body at times.
With some work, Smith could be an ideal candidate for the Bears, but his size may be of some concern. With his speed and ability to stretch the field, he may get a good look from the Bears early on in the draft.
The Senior Bowl was a showcase for Hankerson, and now he’s made quite a name for himself. He had a very productive senior bowl appearance and has raised the eyebrows of NFL scouts everywhere. Could the Bears be interested in Hankerson? Would he be a good fit in Chicago?
Hankerson has great size and speed ratio and is a great pass catcher mechanically (catches the ball with his hands). He’s not afraid to go up and get the ball and doesn't mind outmuscling defenders for the ball. He can run good routes and is very productive. He continued to improve each year in school and still has some room to grow.
There are times when Hankerson does not make the easy catch and will drop passes. He also has problems focusing and may make mistakes down the field. He isn’t explosive once he catches the ball and doesn’t get up the field as fast as you would think thanks to his timed speed.
Would Hankerson be an asset to the Bears knowing he has some definite issues? Perhaps, but the scouts and general manager will know just how good the player is, and if they want to take a chance on him, he might just be a good fit in Chicago.
Just knowing that Jernigan is from Troy may be enough to scare some people away, but Jernigan is a small school wonder whose skills would transfer over to the NFL very well.
Jernigan possesses the type of speed you would look for in a No. 1 wide receiver and reminds this writer of Johnny Knox when he came out of school. He is able to adjust well to catching passes when running at full speed and gets off the line of scrimmage quickly. He runs very well after the catch and can read defenses very well.
The downside to Jernigan is he isn’t that big and therefore could be an injury risk. His route running could use some polish, and he can get thrown off of his routes. He’s not a great blocker and may never be and hasn’t faced the competition like some of the other wide receivers in this group have.
Jernigan is following a similar path like Johnny Knox has, and it’s doubtful the Bears would take a hard look at Jernigan. Still, you never know. The Bears may want to add additional speed to their roster and may look at Jernigan as a player they could develop, but he isn’t a No. 1 wide receiver.