Entering the 2022 NFL Draft, wide receiver was atop the list of team needs for most Chicago Bears fans.
After the departure of Allen Robinson via free agency, the Bears brought in Byron Pringle on a one-year contract, but failed to make a real splash on the offensive side of the ball during the offseason.
Ahead of the Bears selections at 39 and 48 on Friday, many big-name receivers were left on the board including Georgia’s George Pickens, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, and Cincinnati’s (and Illinois native) Alec Pierce.
Ryan Poles opted to bolster his secondary instead, selecting cornerback Kyler Gordon and safety Jaquan Brisker in the second round. With the pick 71, the Bears would eventually grab their receiver:
Velus Jones Jr. from the University of Tennessee.
Not the household name Bears fans may have hoped, but an interesting study that the Bears hope will bring versatility to their new offense under OC Luke Getsy.
So what do you need to know?
Let’s start with the downside. Jones will be 25-years old as a rookie after spending six seasons in college between USC and Tennessee.
In those six seasons, Jones appeared in 61 games, but had limited production as a receiver until 2021. In his final year with the Volunteers, Jones showcased his offensive upside, posting 62 receptions for 802 yards. His value has historically come from his ability as a returner, as his route running and footwork need some polishing to be a dominant NFL wideout.
On the positive side of things, Chicago is getting a dominant special teamer with the physical traits to be a dynamic offensive weapon if used appropriately. He shared SEC Special Teams Player of the Year honors with Alabama receiver Jameson Williams as a return specialist, and he can absolutely fly.
At the combine, Jones ran an official 4.31, and showcased the agility to be an elusive weapon with the ball in his hands. Of Jones’ 802 receiving yards in 2021, 286 came as yards after contact, a stat that he ranked second in the SEC in.
His offensive highlights at Tennessee show this off nicely.
At the end of the day, Jones is an outside the box selection to fill the Bears hole at wide receiver. On paper, he certainly doesn’t grade out to be the target that can bail out a young QB, a player that Ryan Poles has publicly coveted:
#Bears GM Ryan Poles said they looked at historical cases of how to help a QB after his rookie year. The takeaway: find him a receiver who can bail him out when he needs it.— Patrick Finley (@patrickfinley) March 1, 2022
That said, his upside may look similar to Cordarrelle Patterson if used well in the Bears offense. When Patterson first came into the league, critics said much of the same, pointing to inconsistent hands, lack of production, and undefined route-running skills as his biggest weaknesses.
While Patterson has never developed into a true WR1 in the league, he is a dynamic playmaker that opens the playbook for any play caller or quarterback. If Luke Getsy is able to successfully work Jones into the offense, he could be the swiss army knife with big play potential the Bears have been missing ever since Tarik Cohen’s injury.
And who knows? Maybe there’s another wide receiver on the way.
Image via Calvin Mattheis-News Sentinel – USA TODAY NETWORK