Data Entry: Building a WR Profile for Chicago’s New Offense

| February 20th, 2018

The Combine approaches in a few weeks in Indianapolis, and with it an obsession over everything that can be measured. Height. Weight. Hand size. Three-cone. Jumping ability. Speed. Everybody will soon be discussing 40 times like they make the difference between a good and bad football player.

Before we get a bunch of data from the Combine, let’s take a look at which measurables might matter, specifically at wide receiver.

New head coach Matt Nagy comes from the Andy Reid offense in Kansas City, so I took a look at the Combine stats of WRs the Chiefs invested in  -either in the draft or free agency  -since Reid came to Kansas City in 2012. Basically, I wanted to find a physical profile for well-performing wide receivers in that offense that the Bears might look to follow this year. This can help us identify what wide receivers at the Combine might make sense as targets for the Bears in the draft.

Building the Profile

There were 8 Chiefs WRs identified that were drafted by them, signed to a substantial deal in free agency or earned a meaningful role with the team as an undrafted free agent since Reid took over in 2012. These players were Tyreek Hill, Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson, Chris Conley, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson, Da’Ron Brown, and De’Anthony Thomas. I used Mock Draftable to look up their Combine data (or found data from their pro day when the Combine was not available) in every category I could find, and compared it to the average WR mark in each of these categories that Mock Draftable has compiled. Full data can be seen here.

Many of the measurables didn’t show any clear pattern, but I identified three where players consistently scored well: 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump.

  • 6 of the 8 WRs scored average or better in each individual category
  • 7 of the 8 WRs scored average or better in at least 2 of the 3 categories
  • 5 of 8 hit all three.

(It’s also worth noting that the four most successful receivers in Reid’s time in KC have been Hill, Maclin, Conley, and Wilson, and all four scored average or better in all three categories.)

Thus we have a physical profile should the Bears try to bring the same type of WRs to Chicago. We want players that are average or better at the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump. Based on the averages compiled over the years, here are the thresholds that you should watch for from the wide receivers at the Combine:

  • 40 yard dash: 4.51 seconds
  • Vertical jump: 35.5 inches
  • Broad jump: 120 inches (10 feet)

It should be noted that simply hitting these thresholds does not mean a player is a good WR, or that he will excel in Chicago’s new offense. There is more that goes into it than just measurables. But it appears that players who excel in this offense typically possess traits that allow them to test well in these three areas. I just wanted to make sure to note that testing alone does not tell the whole story (as we’ll see below). Think of this as looking for a physical style of player who should fit the offense. It offers no attempt at scouting out how good the player actually is.

Current roster

Now that we have this data, let’s look at how WRs currently on the Bears roster match that profile. The table below shows Combine (or pro day) results in these three areas for every WR who finished 2017 with the Bears or is currently under contract with them. Missed thresholds are shown in red.

A few thoughts:

  • Cam Meredith is going to thrive in this offense. People really underrate how good his breakout season was in 2016. He is still fairly new to the position and has all the physical tools you want.
  • Kevin White matches the physical profile of somebody who should as well, but I’m not sure he still has these explosion numbers after the leg injuries.
  • I don’t care if he meets all three physical thresholds, Markus Wheaton needs to be cut. There are better players who the Bears can sign in free agency for that money who also meet the thresholds (more on that in a minute).
  • Kendall Wright fits decently well too, and it might be worth re-signing him given the rapport he already has with Mitchell Trubisky. I’m ok with Wright as a 3rd or 4th WR, not so much as the #1 like he was last year.
  • Dontrelle Inman doesn’t seem like a great fit, but I’d still be fine with letting him fight for a roster spot in camp.
  • I can’t wait to see fans hyping Tanner Gentry again this offseason.
  • I had honestly never even heard of DeMarcus Ayers, Mekale McKay, or Nelson Spruce before researching this piece. Apparently the Bears signed them to reserve/futures contracts after the season. They’re almost certainly just camp bodies, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t even make it that far. Now that Nagy has been hired, these are the types of guys who might get replaced by new UDFA who fit his offense better after the draft.

Free Agency

The Bears are likely going to add some WR talent in free agency this offseason. Let’s see how the notable names scheduled to hit the market check out. This is the same table as before, only I also added their age at the start of the 2018 season for some context on where in their careers these various players are.

Disclaimer: I wrote this on January 30, and as of this writing, all of these players were scheduled to be unrestricted free agents. Don’t get mad at me if some of them are off the market by now.

A few thoughts:

  • Everybody keeps talking about Jarvis Landry, but I just don’t see it. He doesn’t seem to fit the physical profile, which honestly surprised me. His testing numbers were horrible. And he’s going to be too expensive.
  • Not all red marks are the same. John Brown missed the broad jump by 1 inch, which is much different from Landry missing it by 10. Marqise Lee missed the 40 time by 0.01 seconds. I had to have a cutoff somewhere.
  • There are a lot of solid WRs who fit this profile scheduled to hit free agency. Not all of them will hit the market (rumors are that Robinson and Watkins, for instance, won’t), but plenty will. The Bears would do quite well to add any two players from this list (besides Amendola or Landry) to their roster. All have been productive to varying extents in the last few years and would be good physical fits in this offense. And all of them but Mike Wallace are still young enough that they can be meaningful contributors for at least the next 3 years.
  • Wallace, Matthews, Robinson, and Lee have all topped 800 yards at some point in the last two years. That would fit the bill of the one 750+ yard WR I said the Bears would need last week. Gabriel, Wilson, Richardson, and John Brown all fit the 500+ yard bill, with Jaron Brown just missing it at 477 yards last year. So realistically one player from each of those lists would be a very solid combo for the Bears that matches the plan I outlined. I’ll have more on that next week.
  • There are a few other free agents who might be worth cheaper flyers that I looked at, and several of them fit the physical profile as well. Guys that hit all three thresholds include Donte Moncrief, Cody Latimer, Michael Campanaro, Brice Butler, Tavarres King, Josh Bellamy, and Deonte Thompson. If you lower the criteria to hitting two of the three, options include De’Anthony Thomas and Terrelle Pryor (who has character concerns that raise a red flag). Remember: hitting these thresholds doesn’t mean the player is good (see Bellamy, Josh), it just suggests the player is a physical fit for the offense. That might make one or two of these players a good option on a camp tryout contract.
  • Another thing to keep in mind is that new options can emerge as players are cut. I’ll look at potential options there as they present themselves, but one who is already on my radar is Emmanuel Sanders, who has been rumored as a potential cap casualty in Denver this offseason. He meets all three thresholds (4.40s 40, 39.5″ vertical jump, 126″ broad jump) and would be another option in the 750+ yard category.

Lessons Learned

When looking at Combine numbers next week, pay attention to 40-yard dash, vertical jump, and broad jump numbers for the wide receivers. If the Bears look for WRs who fit the physical profile that excelled in Kansas City, players who do well in these three areas should be on their radar.

If you extend that profile to the current roster, Cam Meredith looks good, and those who haven’t yet given up on Kevin White can have some hope. In free agency, there are a number of productive options who fit the profile, meaning that the Bears should have plenty of options to upgrade their wide receiving core in a meaningful way this offseason. If they follow the plans I have outlined over the last two weeks, here’s what their depth chart could look like come training camp:

  • WR1: Cam Meredith
  • WR2: 1 of Marqise Lee, Jordan Matthews, Mike Wallace, Emmanuel Sanders (if cut)
  • WR3: 1 of Albert Wilson, Paul Richardson, Kendall Wright, John Brown, Taylor Gabriel
  • WR4: another 1 of the WR3 list, or rookie who hits the thresholds
  • WR5: Rookie who hits the thresholds and/or flyer like Donte Moncrief, Cody Latimer, Josh Bellamy, DeAnthony Thomas, etc.

This would be a deeper group of talent than the Bears have had at wide receiver in quite some time. While it might not have the huge names that would make waves, it would go at least 3-4 players deep with solid options who have proven they can be productive in the NFL and all match the physical profiles of players that have found success in this offense. In my book, that would mark a successful offseason transformation of the WR position.

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