Three months after losing in the AFC championship game, the Chiefs — for whom new Bears general manager Ryan Poles was the assistant player personnel director — didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2019 draft.
They weren’t set to draft until No. 61 overall, the third-to-last pick of the second round. But they sent the Rams a fifth-round pick to move up five spots and drafted Mecole Hardman, the raw Georgia receiver whose 40-yard dash had wowed scouts.
“There were still a lot of good wideouts left,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said at the time. “But none that ran 4.27.”
Three years later, Hardman has been to the Pro Bowl once as a special teamer. Last year, he caught a career-high 59 balls for 693 yards. That’s steady, not standout, production.
“I think we made the right calculated guess there,” Veach said after making the trade. “You kind of see how the board’s falling and how those wideouts are falling.”
In his first draft Friday, Poles will have to judge exactly where the wide receivers are falling. Regardless of his assertion Tuesday — or was it a bluff? — that he could support quarterback Justin Fields by picking players who don’t catch the ball, the Bears enter the second round of the draft in desperate need of a receiver.
The Bears are scheduled to have Picks 39 and 48 in Round 2 and No. 71 in Round 3. Poles said this week he’s willing to move down to get extra selections if the Bears deem that part of the draft particularly deep.
Receivers available when the second round begins Friday include North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, who stands 6-4, and Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, who is 5-10.
Alabama’s John Metchie III and Georgia’s George Pickens are stars each returning off torn ACLs; Metchie hurt his knee in the SEC title game in December and Pickens was injured during spring practice, returning for the last four games of a national championship season. Memphis’ Calvin Austin III, Cincinnati’s Alec Pierce and South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert will be on the board in Round 2, too.
Teams that needed receivers pounced Thursday.
The Eagles traded the No. 18 and No. 101 picks to the Titans for star receiver A.J. Brown, who had clamored for a contract extension. The Eagles reportedly signed him to a four-year, $100 million deal, and the Titans used their new first-round pick on Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks.
He was the last of six receivers picked in the top 18. Four were chosen during a five-pick run, starting with the Falcons’ choice of USC’s Drake London at No. 8. The Jets took Garrett Wilson, one of Fields’ former teammates at Ohio State, No. 10. The Saints traded up to select another one, Chris Olave, with the next pick. The Lions then moved all the way up to No. 12 from No. 32 via a trade with NFC North rival Minnesota to take Alabama receiver Jameson Williams. Later, the Commanders drafted Penn State’s Jahan Dotson at No. 16.
The Cardinals, having seen the run on receivers, traded their first-round pick, No. 23, for Ravens veteran “Hollywood” Brown, who had 1,008 receiving yards last year, and Pick No. 100. He played at Oklahoma with Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray.
The pressure will be on Poles to find his guy Friday. The three free-agent receivers he signed to one-year deals have question marks. Byron Pringle had 42 catches for 568 yards with the Chiefs last year — fewer than Hardman — but was arrested Saturday on suspicion of reckless driving and driving on a suspended license.
Equanimeous St. Brown had two fewer catches with the Packers last year than he has letters in his first name — nine. Former Seahawks receiver David Moore, who signed after trying out in last week’s minicamp, didn’t have a catch last year.
That leaves the Bears, and Poles, looking for more.