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Chicago Bears 2017 NFL Draft Preview: Mid-Round Receivers

We highlight eight mid-round wide receivers in the 2017 NFL Draft, with a focus on high-upside, value prospects who can boost the Chicago Bears passing attack.

The Chicago Bears this off-season were unable to retain Pro Bowl WR Alshon Jeffery, who signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. 

GM Ryan Pace replaced Jeffery with Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright, neither of whom have proven to be anywhere near the caliber of playmaker as Jeffery. 

Kevin White and Cameron Meredith are also in the mix, yet both are uncertainties heading into 2017. 

The Bears won't be selecting a wide receiver with the third overall pick in the draft and with so many other serious needs on the roster, it's unlikely Pace will use his second-round pick on a pass catcher.

With that in mind, here are eight mid-round receivers who can add a value boost to Chicago's passing attack. 

JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC (6-1, 215)

Smith-Schuster was a three-year starter for the Trojans who, along with his kick return duties, posted 54-724-5 as a true freshman. He then had a monster season in 2015 (89-1,454-10) and a solid junior campaign (70-914-10), during which he was hampered by a back injury. He doesn't have blazing speed but Smith-Schuster is a physical receiver with very good hands and ultra-competitiveness. He doesn't get great burst out of his breaks, so he struggles to create and maintain separation, but he makes up for it with great body control and sticky hands. As a third-round possession option, the Bears could do a lot worse than Smith-Schuster. 

Projected: 3rd Round

Amara Darboh, Michigan (6-2, 214)

Darboh flew onto the radar after a solid senior season (57-862-7), earning him second-team All-Big Ten honors. He has the elite size that NFL teams covet and he quieted concerns about his speed after running a 4.45 at the scouting combine. Darboh is a very smooth route runner who has very good body control. He doesn't have great burst but once he builds up speed, he's a legitimate deep threat, especially on 50/50 balls. Darboh is also an outstanding boundary blocker who can eat up opposing cornerbacks and safeties.

Projected: 3rd Round

Dede Westbrook, Oklahoma (6-0, 178)

Westbrook was a unanimous All-American selection after a stellar 2016 campaign (80-1,524-17). He has great burst and the straight-line speed to take the top off opposing defenses. Westbrook has sticky hands and he's very dangerous after the catch. Size is a big concern with Westbrook, as his slight frame and thin legs could make him an injury risk at the next level, although he plays bigger than his size. He also has some off-field baggage, yet Westbrook's upside as a vertical threat may make him an attractive target for the Bears in the third round. 

Projected: 3rd Round

Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech (6-1, 194)

Ford earned first-team All-ACC honors in 2015 (75-1,164-11) and was named second-team all-conference in 2016 (79-1,094-7). He has outstanding acceleration and burst, both off the line of scrimmage and out of his cuts. His ability to gain separation is one of his most attractive traits. Ford has better game speed than he showed at the combine (4.61) and he tracks the deep ball well. He lacks functional strength and will struggle against physical NFL corners, while he's also not very elusive after the catch. Ford has height, burst and athleticism, and would be outstanding value for the Bears in the fourth round.

Projected: 3rd-4th Round

Mack Hollins, North Carolina (6-4, 221)

Hollins showed a lot of promise in 2014 (36-613-8) and 2015 (30-745-8) but a broken collarbone cut his senior year short after just seven games. One of the most dangerous deep threats in this class, Hollins averaged 20.4 yards per catch during his collegiate career. He's a long-strider similar to Jeffery, who uses his immense size to overpower defenders on deep balls. Hollins was also a four-year special teams captain at UNC. He must refine the rest of his game if he's ever to become more than just a deep threat but Hollins size, speed, upside and special teams ability. You can't do much better than that in the fourth round. 

Projected: 4th Round

Josh Malone, Tennesee (6-3, 208)

Malone had a breakout campaign in 2015, leading the team with 50 catches for 972 yards and 11 TDs. He then ran a 4.40 at the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine, which is very attractive when combined with his 6-3 height. He's a raw receiver who must refine his route running and overall awareness, yet he's full of upside and well worth a fourth-round pick. 

Projected: 4th Round

Kenny Golladay, Northern Illinois (6-4, 218)

A North Dakota transfer, Golladay put up gaudy numbers during two years as a starter for the Huskies (73-1,129-9 in 2015; 87-1,156-8 in 2016). His 32-inch arms and 6-4 height give him a large catch radius, while his play strength and size make him a weapon both across the middle and down the field. He's a strong receiver but Galloway runs soft and is easily knocked off his routes. He doesn't have great game speed either and needs a clean release to gain any separation. He's a pure height/weight project with considerable upside. 

Projected: 4th-5th Round

Malachi Dupre, LSU (6-2, 196)

Dupre led the Tigers in receptions and receiving yardage the past two seasons (43-698, six TDs in 2015; 41-593, three TDs in 2016) but his numbers don't stand out like some of the other receivers on this list. His lack of production was due in large part to quarterback inconsistencies at LSU. Dupre has good size and reliable hands, and he's an outstanding leaper, which will aid him in the red zone. Yet Dupre lacks ideal burst and straight-line speed, and must refine his route running and overall discipline as a receiver. Still, his upside is intriguing, especially in the fifth round.

Projected: 4th-5th Round

The Pick: Isaiah Ford

The Bears have a hole to fill at receiver but it's not a huge hole, especially if White and/or Meredith take big steps forward next season. With so many other needs, it makes sense for Pace to wait until at least the fourth round to grab a wideout.

If Ford is there in the fourth, he should be he pick. Unlike a lot of the other players on this list, Ford is not a size/speed prospect. He won't stretch defenses over the top but Ford could make a nice living as a possession receiver, where his burst and ability to create separation out of his cuts would be very valuable.

If White has retained his speed through the leg injuries, along with the addition of Wheaton, the Bears should be plenty fast out wide. What they lack is a quick, reliable possession receiver, which makes Ford tough to pass up in the fourth.


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