ATM: Bears Need Speed

| February 26th, 2020

[Editor’s Note: Andrew and Data have taken on the same subject this week by pure coincidence. Today, Andrew looks at this problem facing the Bears from 30,000 feet. Tomorrow, Data dives deep.]

With the release of Taylor Gabriel last week, the Chicago Bears need to be searching for speed at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week.

The only true receiver on this roster (Cordarrelle Patterson is not a true receiver) who ran the 40 faster than 4.5 seconds is Anthony Miller. His times ranged from the mid-4.4s to low-4.5s at his pro day. Otherwise, the team has Allen Robinson, who ran a 4.6, Javon Wims in the low-to-mid 4.5s and Riley Ridley at close to a 4.6. The successful versions of the offense the Bears are trying to run have always had speed as a crucial component. The Bears don’t have it.

When the Kansas City Chiefs thought they might be without Tyreek Hill (4.29) for at least a part of 2020, they invested a high pick in Mecole Hardman (4.33). Recognizing a general lack of speed, the Philadelphia Eagles traded for DeSean Jackson last year and saw their offense struggle when he was injured.

When the Eagles won the Super Bowl two years ago, they had Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor and Alshon Jeffery: three guys who ran sub-4.5 40 times. The Bears have none.

Speed isn’t everything when it comes to receivers, but it certainly has proven to be an important part of Matt Nagy’s offense. It isn’t just about stretching the field and hitting deep passes, the Bears averaged 0.45 more yards per running play when Gabriel was on the field last year.

The 2020 NFL draft is generally thought to be a good place to find whatever kind of receiver a team needs. Some speedsters to keep in mind are Penn St.’s KJ Hamler and Jalen Reagor of TCU, although more names could surface after they blaze the track later this week.

The Bears will also surely take a look at the speedsters at other positions too.

Tight end, especially, was just too slow for the Bears offense last year. When healthy, Trey Burton ran a 4.61 40-time before the draft and that speed was used down the field in 2019. When he was injured or off the field in 2020 they had almost no speed.

Adam Shaheen (4.78), Jesper Horsted (4.77) and JP Holtz (4.79) are too slow for the U tight end role in this offense. Ben Braunecker (4.66) has enough speed, but is too stiff and Eric Saubert (4.67) probably doesn’t figure into the team’s plans either.

Ideally, the Bears will look for someone in the low-4.6 range. Two of the most successful tight ends in the offense the Bears run blazed 40s prior to the draft as Zach Ertz ran a 4.57 at his Pro Day in 2013 after a slow time at the combine and Travis Kelce ran a 4.64.

After Burton signed with the Bears, the Eagles also used a second round pick on Dallas Goedert, who ran a 4.68. The only tight end who would likely be considered with the 43rd pick is Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet, who isn’t expected to be fast enough for the Bears to consider.

If the Bears are going to address the position in the draft — which seems likely — watch the 40 times of players like Hunter Bryant, Brycen Hopkins and Adam Trautman. All players who are considered to be good pass catchers and should be available in the third or fourth rounds.

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