Gabriel: Assessing Bears' WR Positional Battle

The competition begins in earnest as OTAs open this week.

Greg Gabriel
May 20, 2019 - 4:51 pm
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(670 The Score) The start of organized team activities also marks the start of positional battles for NFL teams, and that will be the case as the Bears gather this week.

One of the most intriguing positional groups to keep an eye is the wide receiver corps.

Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel and Javon Wims are the incumbents who return for the Bears, who added two new receivers in free agency in Cordarrelle Patterson and Marvin Hall. The Bears also used a fourth-round draft pick on Georgia receiver Riley Ridley and signed several undrafted free agents this offseason who have a chance to make the roster. Most teams keep six receivers on their final 53-man roster, meaning the competition for the final spot or two will be fierce.

Patterson is the most high-profile addition, as he has good size at 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds and 4.40 speed. He can play receiver, work at running back and also return kickoffs with his skill set. 

Patterson isn't expected to be a full-time player but rather fill a role in which he garners 10 touches or so a game between receptions, carries and returns. The Bears are looking for some big plays from him with such a workload while also keeping him fresh.

Hall, 26, is raw but showed in Atlanta over the past couple seasons that he has upside as a receiver and can be a solid cover guy on special teams. Hall may be the fastest player on the Bears' roster, as he ran a sub-4.3 when he was in college. He has special athleticism and had 10 catches in 2018.

The rookie Ridley is a quality route runner with exceptional hands. His ability to get in and out of cuts well allows him to play faster than the 4.61 that he timed at the NFL Combine. In some ways, Ridley reminds of Robinson. Ridley’s size, speed, athleticism and route running are similar to what Robinson possessed coming out of Penn State.

Following the draft, the Bears signed Missouri receiver Emanuel Hall, who tested out as perhaps the most athletic receiver at the combine in running a 4.39 and posting marks of 43.5 inches in the vertical jump and 11 feet, 9 inches in the standing long jump. There's no questioning his athleticism, but he was an inconsistent player at Missouri and was deemed to have a track mentality in the opinion of some -- meaning he needed to be 100 percent to take the field.

A local product is the final receiver in the Bears' mix right now. Jordan Williams-Lambert was born in Chicago before playing his high school football in Indianapolis and attending Ball State. Williams-Lambert was one of the better receivers in the Canadian Football League in 2018, catching 62 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. He also has a reputation as a quality special teams performer, and he has good size at 6-foot-3, 228 pounds. Williams-Lambert also plays faster than his 4.60 timed speed coming out of college.

Generally, the first four receivers on a team's depth chart make the roster because of their skills in the passing game. With the final two slots at the position, players need to showcase the ability to be solid contributors on special teams.

Robinson, Miller, Gabriel and Patterson have roster spots locked up. Because of his status as a fourth-round pick, Ridley also would seem a shoo-in to make the roster.

That would leave Wims, Marvin Hall, Emanuel Hall and Williams-Lambert battling for one roster spot -- or perhaps two if the Bears choose carry an extra receiver given Patterson's unique role.

Marvin Hall of Williams-Lambert have the desired special teams skill set but not the receiving talent of others. That means it will be the goal of Wims and Emanuel Hall to prove to the coaching staff that they're not just capable of playing on special teams but also productive in that role. If they can't be, they'll be on the outside looking in come September.

One of the mainstays on the Bears' roster the past few seasons was receiver Josh Bellamy, who earned one of the final roster spots because of his consistent production as a core special teams members. The Bears' receivers competing for a roster spot have to look no further than Bellamy's story to understand what it takes to make an NFL roster.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.