Before the start of this year's NFL Scouting Combine, the Chicago Bears officially parted ways with wide receiver Johnny Knox, whose spine injury in late 2011 knocked him out of football.
Knox was the team's speed receiver, the player who could threaten the deep part of the field. Devin Hester is just as fast but the Bears have finally put that failed experiment to rest and will use him purely as a return man going forward.
During the combine, GM Phil Emery talked about the offense's lack of speed at wide receiver.
"Anytime you lose a player of [Knox's] quality and that kind of speed, it does impact you," Emery said. "To say [not] would be silly. It does impact us. We'll look at all avenues in terms of finding someone who can add to that mix at receiver."
And there you have it: the Bears will be searching for a wide receiver in this year's draft. To that end, Bear Report has been told the team is very interested in former Texas A&M wideout Ryan Swope. Let's go to the film room to break down this receiver prospect.
Arms: 31 3/8 inches
Hands: 8.5 inchse
40-Yard Dash: 4.34
Bench Press: 16 reps
Vertical Jump: 37.0 inches
Broad Jump: 125.0 inches
3-Cone Drill: 6.76 seconds
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.25
Swope runs the crispest routes of any receiver in this draft class. His cuts are sharp and quick, which allows him to consistently create separation from defenders. Against zone coverage, he does a great job of searching out and sitting in soft spots. His on-field intelligence is obvious during each snap.
Swope has outstanding hands, arguably the best of any wideout in the 2013 class. He can run any route on the route tree and excels using double moves. He's at his best on underneath routes but he's also a weapon down the seams, showing very good straight-line speed and burst.
As a blocker, no one beats Swope. He's active, aggressive, and understands angles and body positioning. When plays break down he actively searches out defenders and will lay the lumber if an opposing player isn't paying attention. His cut blocks are amazing.
Swope is small. He barely cracks six feet and will not be out-jumping defenders any time soon. He's also not very productive after the catch and doesn't have the moves to beat defenders in open space. Beyond that, he's a pretty solid player.
There were questions regarding Swope's speed during his collegiate career. Most believed he didn't posses the requisite straight-line pace to beat corners and safeties at the next level.
At the combine, Swope obliterated those worries, running a 4.34 40-yard dash, which was second best of all combine participants. That type of speed will allow him to be a threat on underneath routes, as well as down the seams. On top of that, Swope has top-tier hands. He can make every type of catch and rarely lets a ball bounce off his hands.
His size likely means he'll be limited to a slot role but that is exactly what the Bears are looking for. On film, Swope shows the potential to be just as effective as Wes Welker, only Swope is faster and has better hands.
Most consider him a third-round pick, a pick the Bears last year traded away for Brandon Marshall. So if Chicago wants Swope, they'll have to take him in the second round with the 50th overall pick. But, from what he shows on film, that would still be a steal.
Swope plays with all out hustle and does everything right. He's typically the smartest and most aggressive player on the field. His blazing speed, route running and hands would make him a first-round selection if he were three inches taller. By drafting Swope, the Bears would get the fast slot receiver the offense desperately needs.
Considering the team's interest, which we're told is considerable, if he's staring Emery in the face in the second round, I would bet half my bank account that Swope ends up in the navy and orange.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.