Trading for Brandon Marshall helped, along with the additions of Devin Thomas and Eric Weems, but certainly didn’t automatically erase concerns going into 2012 about the receiving corps of the Chicago Bears.
So while it’s widely believed the team plans to focus on defense in the NFL draft, the likelihood of the Bears taking a receiver in the first round remains. The club’s attendance at the pro days of receivers such as Baylor’s Kendall Wright, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd and Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill indicate as much. The Bears also met with Louisiana State receiver Rueben Randle, who is projected to be the third or fourth receiver off the board in the first round.
Of those receivers, only Wright stands shorter than 6-foot-3.
“Very few of the defensive backs are over 6-feet tall,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said at the NFL combine. “So that’s another problem [when a team faces tall receivers]. That’s where the quarterback comes in. You don’t have to have the ball in the perfect spot when you have a big body to throw to. Those things come into play when you look. I think most guys would tell you they would like to have big receivers. But as much as anything, you want to have good receivers who can do something with the ball.”
There’s no shortage of those types in the 2012 draft class. Seven of the top 10 receivers on our list are 6-2 or taller, and on Chicago’s current roster, only Marshall and Earl Bennett -- a No. 3 -- stand out as surefire playmakers headed into the season; meaning the Bears could stand to add a legitimate No. 2.
Marshall likely will finally put an end to the franchise streak of nine consecutive seasons -- longest in the NFL -- without a 1,000-yard receiver. But he’ll need help, whether from the current roster or outside.
“I think every quarterback in the league wants [more weapons],” quarterback Jay Cutler said on “The Waddle & Silvy Show” on ESPN 1000 in February. “We’re not happy unless we’re getting offensive guys year in and year out; more toys to play with.”
The next 10: 11. Chris Givens, Wake Forest, 5-11, 198; 12. Juron Criner, Arizona, 6-3, 224; 13. Rishard Matthews, Nevada, 6-0, 217; 14. Marvin McNutt, Iowa, 6-3, 216; 15. Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma, 5-10, 192; 16. Keshawn Martin, Michigan State, 6-0, 188; 17. Jairus Wright, Arkansas, 5-10, 182; 18. Nick Toon, Wisconsin, 6-2, 215; 19. Tommy Streeter, Miami, 6-5, 219; 20. Marvin Jones, California, 6-2, 199.
Position grade: B.
Analysis: ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. estimates as many as four receivers could be gone by the end of the first round. But beyond the first 32 picks lies immense value because of the depth of this year’s class. Explosive playmakers such as Blackmon and Wright should be off the board early, but at No. 19, the Bears will have plenty of solid options capable of stepping in as the No. 2 to Marshall immediately.