UA-59049186-1 Chicago Bears 2023 Season Preview: Wide receiver - Good if it Goes

Chicago Bears 2023 Season Preview: Wide receiver

The new guy. [Photo: Jamie Sabau – USA Today Sports]

Probably the best part of that thrilling last-second Texans win that landed the Bears the first overall pick was that having the first pick instead of the second likely enabled Ryan Poles to demand D.J. Moore as part of the package for Carolina to move up from nine to one. Moore gives the Bears the true #1 receiver they’ve needed since Allen Robinson stopped caring. A sixth-year man out of Maryland, Moore has gone over the 1000-yard mark in three of his five seasons, despite the passes coming from the kind of quarterback you usually find here. He dipped below the 900-yard mark last year while dealing with a truly impressive collection of incompetence at QB. If you think that sounds harsh, only Baker Mayfield is in line to start somewhere else this season and that’s for a Bucs team whose other option was Wish brand Tom Brady Kyle Trask and who appears to just be outright tanking this season. Also in Carolina last year was Sam Darnold, who is now backing up Brock Purdy in San Francisco (although he did beat out Trey Lance for that spot) and P.J. Walker, who’s getting outplayed in camp here by a D-II UDFA and Nathan Peterman. 

In camp, Moore has exceeded expectations, which if that holds up during the season, would take him from “legitimate WR1” to “actual superstar.” He’s developing chemistry with Justin Fields with Fields showing real trust in him. Fields’ biggest lingering problem is that he still has to see a guy actually open before he throws the ball instead of throwing it as the receiver makes his break. This isn’t an issue with Moore. This is great news on two levels: Moore is awesome and it’s possible for Fields to break that last major bad habit.

With Moore around, Darnell Mooney gets to be WR2, a much better fit for him than having to be the man. A fourth-year man out of Tulane, Mooney showed serious promise as a rookie and then went over the 1000-yard mark in year two. Last year, however, he missed roughly a third of the season and his production dipped even when he was healthy. This space asserts that the true Mooney is much closer to the 2021 version than the 2022 and we will get to see that now that the Bears boast a true #1 receiver. 

Chase Claypool is here after being acquired for a second-round pick during the season last year, a move that, thus far, has not paid off at all. A fourth-year man out of Notre Dame, Claypool racked up 873 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns as a rookie and posted similar yardage the next year, but only had a pair of TDs. Last year, with his production down and being relegated to WR3 in Pittsburgh, he was dealt here, where he caught 14 passes for 140 yards over 7 games. Claypool is 6’4 with speed, so, between that and a draft class that didn’t look very good at receiver, it’s easy to see why Ryan Poles made the deal. That pick ended up being #32 overall, so there’s some pressure here to get Claypool back to his old form to make that move worth it. Your author is not particularly optimistic but won’t rule it out entirely.

Tyler Scott joins the Bears after being drafted out of Cincinnati in the fourth round of this year’s draft. After not doing much as a freshman for the Bearcats, Scott went over the 500-yard mark as a sophomore. His junior year, with Alec Pierce in the NFL and Scott now WR1 in Cincy, he finished a yard shy of 900 and racked up nine touchdown receptions. Scott is not the biggest guy in the world at 5’11 and 175 pounds or so, but separates well and has plenty of speed. His hands are somewhat of a concern, an issue that, unfortunately, has reared its ugly head in camp and in preseason play. Still, his upside is rather exciting. 

Scott could also end up returning punts if Velus Jones’ hands and decision making continue to be issues. Last year, those issues cost the Bears two games. A third-round pick out of Tennessee last year, Jones can go straight to collecting social security if football doesn’t work out. One would think that if a rookie is already 25 years old, you might be able to skip some of the rookie mistake phase. Alas, Pops was a walking mistake for Chicago last season and a black mark on a draft class that managed to produce three at least capable starters and a quality punter. Jones has the skill set to run some Deebo Samuel-type stuff in this offense, but will need to be able to hold onto the ball if he’s going to do that. 

Equanimeous St. Brown has a cool name and not much else. He was brought in last year to fill Ryan Poles’ quota of jabronis from Notre Dame, a move that your author praised because, unlike some previous jabroni pick-ups (lookin’ at you, Sam Mustipher), this one had some upside. That upside did not pan out. St. Brown is a very good blocker for a receiver, which is probably the tiebreaker between him and some other jabroni. As WR6, he’s okay. If pressed into serious action, we’re in trouble. He’s shown flashes, like when he made Jaire Alexander look like a total fool, but then he’ll do things like run a terrible route on a play that ends up being a game-losing interception.

Whatever Elmo’s calling it nowThreads: @312sportsguy


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