Adding 6-foot-6 tight end Martellus Bennett in free agency was an offseason priority, to sweep away the shortcomings of Kellen Davis and Matt Spaeth. With Brandon Marshall (6-foot-4) and Alshon Jeffery (6-foot-3), the Bears have totally made over their receiving corps in virtually every respect in just two years.
2013 Bears: Marshall caught a career-high 118 passes. The Bears traded up to grab Jeffery in the 2012 draft. Those are the starting wideouts going into minicamps and training camp. Earl Bennett is a sure-handed possession receiver who was injured in 2011, under-utilized in 2012 and given a four-year extension at the end of the ’11 season.
Devin Hester, whose WR starts have gone from 13 in 2010 to eight in 2011 to five last season, is no longer running routes even in practice, assigned solely to special teams and Eric Weems, with two catches last season, is working where Hester once did.
[Draft Capsule: South Carolina WR Ace Sanders]
Besides Bennett, the Bears added a big (6-foot-6, 280 lbs.) blocking tight end in Steve Maneri.
2013 draft: Wide receivers are regularly a dice-roll in the first round because of what Jerry Angelo referred to as “the bust factor.” Four wideouts went in the 2012 first round and, given the paucity of quarterbacks projected that high, that many could go again this tear. Tennessee’s Cordarelle Patterson and Justin Hunter, Cal’s Keenan Allen and Terrance Williams from Baylor all have first-round grades on various draft boards.
And receivers are expected to sprinkle through rounds two and three as well.
“There's a lot of depth to this wide receiver draft,” said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.
[Draft Capsule: Oklahoma WR Kenny Stills]
What there also is are tight ends expected to go in the first or early second round: Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz from Stanford.
Draft projecting: The Bears would like a true burner in their offense to create a threat that would draw attention away from Marshall, Jeffery and Bennett. They found that sort of threat in Johnny Knox in a fifth round (2009) and if there is a speed nugget in round four or later, the Bears could add more youth to a developing strength in the offense. They are currently without a seventh-rounder, however, and this is not a true need with their top three receivers under 30.
[Draft Capsule: Texas WR Marquise Goodwin]
Eifert has been projected to the Bears in several mock drafts. He also has been slotted as high as top 12, and the Bears will not give up picks to move up for Eifert nor spend a high pick on Ertz as the draft now lays out.
Likelihood to draft: Low, round five or later.