One day after Bears quarterback Justin Fields praised Ohio State receiver Chris Olave, his former college teammate and a likely first-round pick in next week’s draft, Bears receiver Darnell Mooney jokingly disapproved.
“It’s going to be hard for us to get him if he keeps hyping him up,” Mooney said Wednesday. “Everyone else is going to be talking about him.”
They already are. That’s the bad news for the Bears, who don’t have a first-round pick Thursday. The good news: Because they’re looking to draft a receiver, it might not matter. The contracts of current NFL star receivers are getting bigger, which figures to push their college contemporaries up the draft board this year. But recent history shows that great receivers — the best ones, in fact — are found on Day 2 of the draft, not Day 1.
Of the 15 receivers with the most yards since 2019, only five were picked in Round 1. Three — Davante Adams, DK Metcalf and A.J. Brown — were drafted in the second round. Five, including the Rams’ Cooper Kupp, the Super Bowl MVP in February, were third-round picks.
“The evidence is out there for all the hits in the second and third and even beyond,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said.
The Bears have three picks on Day 2 — Nos. 39 and 48 overall in the second round and No. 71 in the third. They’re one of eight teams without a scheduled first-round pick, but that’s not a death sentence. Here’s a look at the Bears’ three biggest needs and how they can find valuable players:
They’ll be gone before the Bears pick: Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, USC’s Drake London, Ohio State’s Chris Olave, Arkansas’ Treylon Burks and Penn State’s Jahan Dotson.
They’ll likely be available in Round 2: Georgia’s George Pickens, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore, North Dakota State’s Christian Watson, Alabama’s John Metchie III and South Alabama’s Jalen Tolbert.
We’re intrigued by: Pickens and Metchie. Mooney identified Pickens, who missed the first 11 games of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, as someone he has noticed on film. Metchie tore his ACL during last season’s Southeastern Conference title game. Because of their injuries, both players will come at a discount, relative to their pedigree and skill level.
Jeremiah said Pickens needs to be more consistent. He had higher praise for Metchie.
“If you were saying, ‘OK, who’s the closest thing to Jarvis Landry?’ I think John Metchie would probably be that guy,” he said.
The Bears can take inspiration from: The 2019 draft class, in which Deebo Samuel, Brown and Metcalf were selected 36th, 51st and 64th, respectively.
The last time: In the last 10 years, the Bears have drafted two receivers in the second round: Alshon Jeffery, who was a Pro Bowl player, and Anthony Miller, who was not.
They’ll be gone before the Bears pick: Alabama’s Evan Neal, N.C. State’s Ikem Ekwonu, Mississippi State’s Charles Cross and Northern Iowa’s Trevor Penning.
They’ll likely be available in Round 2: Central Michigan’s Bernhard Raimann, Tulsa’s Tyler Smith, Minnesota’s Donald Faalele, Washington State’s Abraham Lucas and Ohio State’s Nicholas Petit-Frere.
We’re intrigued by: Two tackles with unusual backgrounds. Raimann was born in Austria, played one season of high school football and switched from tight end as a junior at Central Michigan.
Faalele is from Melbourne, Australia, and played one season of high school ball. At 6-8, 384 pounds, he’s big enough to be a comic book villain.The Bears’ focus on mobile, athletic linemen probably precludes him from being on their wish list. Smith, who turned 21 this month, is a better fit.
The Bears can take inspiration from: The fact it can’t get worse. They drafted Teven Jenkins at No. 39 last year — the same spot where they’ll draft Friday. He had back surgery, played 14% of the snaps and didn’t cement himself at either tackle spot.
The last time: Before drafting Jenkins and Larry Borom in 2021, Ryan Pace had selected only two tackles as Bears general manager. Tayo Fabuluje and Arlington Hambright combined for just 84 career offensive snaps.
They’ll be gone before the Bears pick: Cincinnati’s Sauce Gardner, Washington’s Trent McDuffie and LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr.
They’ll likely be available in Round 2:Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr., Washington’s Kyler Gordon, Florida’s Kaiir Elam, Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt and Auburn’s Roger McCreary.
We’re intrigued by: Unsure. Bears coach Matt Eberflus gave a tepid endorsement of the cornerback unit during rookie minicamp, but the Bears need to find a starter opposite Jaylon Johnson. Booth didn’t do combine drills because of a quadriceps injury and later had sports hernia surgery, which could drop him to the second round. Clemson’s zone tendencies fit well with the cover-2 scheme that Eberflus runs.
The Bears can take inspiration from: The Cowboys drafting cornerback Trevon Diggs at No. 51 two years ago. He led the NFL with 11 interceptions last year, earning first-team All-Pro honors.
The last time: One of the Bears’ best recent hits came when they chose a cornerback in Round 2. Johnson went 50th in 2020.