In his first season as general manager of the Chicago Bears, Phil Emery moved swiftly to address the wide receiver position, one of the biggest weaknesses on the team at that time. He immediately traded for Brandon Marshall at the start of free agency and then selected Alshon Jeffery in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Yet despite those additions, Chicago's passing offense took a step back last season, finishing 29th in the league, behind such offensively inept teams as Arizona, Miami and Buffalo. Much of that has to do with quarterback Jay Cutler's regression as a passer in 2013, as Marshall was better than advertised, earning his fifth straight trip to the Pro Bowl, and Jeffery was productive when on the field.
Yet a lot of the blame can also be placed on a lack of quality options beyond the top two receivers. Devin Hester was so bad he's been relegated to returner-only duties, Johnny Knox has retired and Earl Bennett is a yearly disappointment. Despite that, Emery did not address the receiver position in free agency and waited until the seventh round in this year's draft to select former Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson.
Let's go to the film to see what Wilson offers to the Bears as a pass catcher.
|Height||Weight||Arms||Hands||40-Yard Dash||Bench Press||Vertical Jump||Broad Jump||20-Yard Shuttle||3-Cone Drill|
|6-3||194||31 1/8||9 1/4||4.51||7||34.5||10-2||4.33||6.65|
Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports
Wilson is very quick off the line and has great footwork when working against press coverage. This is helpful in fighting past defenders but also in creating separation on underneath routes. He was used a lot on short screens, or "0" screens, showing good burst after the catch and plenty of open-field moves. He always high-points the ball and has plenty of leaping ability, which will give him a big advantage over shorter cornerbacks.
Wilson tracks the deep ball very well. Near the sidelines, he shows outstanding body control and is able to pull in the pass at its highest point, while still keeping his feet in bounds. He runs the entire route tree and has the speed to get past the defense. He can make the circus catch on occasion and does not lack confidence. When plays break down and the fire drill ensues, he shows great awareness in getting open for his quarterback.
Wilson must get stronger if he's going to develop any consistency at the next level. He posted a measly seven bench-press reps at the combine and his lack of strength shows on the field. When defenders get a hand on him in press coverage, and he can't beat them with his feet, Wilson doesn't have the power to rip away from physical corners. He also struggles mightily making catches with defenders on him and is easily out-muscled by cornerbacks on jump balls.
Wilson's biggest weakness is his concentration. In traffic, he often gets overwhelmed and loses track of the ball, and his hands are very sketchy, with him often trying to run before he pulls in the catch. His inconsistency in catching the ball is frustrating to watch on film. Like most rookies, his route running needs a lot of work, as his cuts are far too round. While he can make defenders miss in space, he's very easily taken down when hit and isn't going to break many tackles.
Wilson is a very talented player. There is no questioning his natural athletic ability. He has some flaws but those can be fixed with good coaching. If Bears wide receivers coach Mike Groh can get Wilson to keep his concentration, the kid has a lot of potential. He's quick enough to play in the slot and big enough to play out wide. His good speed also makes him a quality big-play threat.
With Wilson, his question marks are all mental. He walked out on his team in the middle of last season, which instigated his fall in the draft. This was after a sophomore year in which he broke Washington State single-season records for catches (82) and receiving yards (1,388). Anybody who is selfish enough to walk out on his teammates and school, and then lie about coaching abuse to save face, obviously has issues. But in the right environment, Wilson has the physical tools to be a very productive player in the NFL.
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.