Looking at WR Fits in the 2020 NFL Draft

| April 7th, 2020

Last week I identified wide receiver as Chicago’s biggest roster need heading into the draft, so today I want to look at wide receivers in the draft and see which ones might be a fit for this offense. I’ve done previous work looking at wide receivers Andy Reid brought in to Kansas City, where he trained Matt Nagy. When examining their Combine performance, all typically excelled at three drills:

  • 40 yard dash: 4.51 seconds or better
  • Vertical jump: 35.5 inches or higher
  • Broad jump: 10 feet or longer

Receivers who were targeted for that offense usually hit at least 2 of those 3 thresholds, with many of them hitting all 3. And this seems to hold true in Chicago, at least in terms of the wide receivers in which the Bears have invested most. Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, and Taylor Gabriel all hit at least 2 of 3 thresholds. 2019 4th round pick Riley Ridley only hit 1/3, and 2018 7th round pick Javon Wims 0/3. (A day 3 pick is less of an investment.). Given that the Bears are likely considering WR in round 2 again this year, I think it’s worth looking at what players who might be good physical fits for this offense.

As always, these test results are not a way to say how good or bad a wide receiver will be, but simply if they match the physical characteristics of previous players who have excelled in this offense.

2+ Thresholds Hit

Unlike at tight end, this is a very athletic wide receiver class; 31 of the 45 WRs who did at least 2 of these 3 tests at the Combine hit at least 2 of the three thresholds. Their results are shown in the table below (missed thresholds are shown in red).

A few thoughts:

  • Not all misses are the same. Jumping 34.5″ isn’t that far off from the 35.5″ threshold, nor is 119″ that far from 120″. A 4.58, on the other hand, is appreciably slower than a 4.51. I had to set a threshold somewhere, so I set it as the historical Combine average at the position.
  • Given that I’ve already addressed Chicago’s need to add speed at the skill position spots this offseason, I’m particularly interested in players with a fast 40 yard dash time. There are plenty of options here who could be targets for them throughout the draft. Denzel Mims, Brandon Aiyuk, or Jalen Reagor could fit the bill. Reagor didn’t run a great 40, but he was clocked at 22.6 mph in game last year, which would have been the fastest in the NFL. Aiyuk likewise didn’t run a great 40 but was clocked as one of the 10 fastest players in college football last year in terms of maximum speed reached in a game.
  • If the Bears trade back and are looking round 3 or 4, players like Chase Claypool and Devin Duvernay provide that speed element, and late round options like Quez Watkins, John Hightower, or Darnell Mooney could be options.

0-1 Threshold Hit

The following 24 players hit 0 or 1 thresholds at the Combine, though for many of them it was more about not doing drills than testing poorly. Again, missed thresholds are shown in red.

A few thoughts:

  • Not all threshold misses are created the same. Antonio Gibson is an intriguing mid-round option who just missed both jump thresholds but is blazing fast. He fits the bill for what the Bears need from a physical perspective.
  • There are also several intriguing names who didn’t test, including Lynn Bowden, Bryan Edwards, KJ Hamler, and Van Jefferson. Van Jefferson was timed as the fastest player at the Senior Bowl, and Hamler was recorded running 21.8 mph during a game at Penn State, which would have been among the 10 fastest speeds in the NFL last year.

The Bears need to add speed this offseason, and have a glaring need for a 3rd starting WR next to Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller. Luckily for them, this draft is full of fast receivers who could fit that bill.

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