Don't expect Bears to use early draft pick on WR
Despite losing Alshon Jeffery in free agency, the Bears aren't expected to use an early draft pick on a wide receiver.
But they're depending heavily on Kevin White to finally stay healthy and fulfill the promise that made him the seventh overall draft pick in 2015. After missing all of his rookie season following surgery for shin splints, White had just started to show glimpses of his potential in the first four games last year. But a fractured left fibula and high ankle sprain ended that season.
So it's a bit of a leap of faith, as Ryan Pace realizes, but he still has high hopes for his first draft pick as the Bears' GM.
"The last two years, we haven't seen a lot," Pace said. "But I have a confidence in our doctors and his rehab and his work ethic to get to the point we need to get to.
"He's coming along fast. I still have a lot of confidence in him. He has a lot of confidence in himself. We're getting daily reports on his progress. I just want to see steady, consistent progress from him. Right now he's getting his body all in alignment, and he's feeling good. When I see footage of where he's at now, I get excited. I just want to see steady improvement."
White's absence allowed undrafted Cam Meredith to enjoy a breakout season (66 catches, 888 yards) in 2106. With Meredith and White on the outside, both of whom are 6-foot-3, the Bears have big targets, especially in the red zone.
Free-agent pickups Markus Wheaton and Kendall Wright provide an injection of deep speed from the slot, and both are upgrades over Eddie Royal, who has been oft-injured and disappointing in two seasons. Royal has one year and $5 million remaining on his contract, and he's a likely cut.
Between the free-agent pickups, the Bears have a bigger investment in Wheaton (two years, $11 million, $5 million guaranteed) than in Wright, who's on a one-year, make-good deal for $2 million with just $1 million guaranteed.
Sans Royal, the Bears have a young group, including Wright (27), Wheaton (26), White (25 in June) and Meredith (24) at the top who could have their best football ahead of them.
Bears draft history
Wide receivers drafted by Chicago Bears over past 10 years
Year (Rd.): Player, college
2016 (7): Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan
2015 (1): Kevin White, West Virginia
2014: No wide receivers selected
2013 (7): Marquess Wilson, Washington State
2012 (2): Alshon Jeffery, South Carolina
2011: No wide receivers selected
2010: No wide receivers selected
2009 (5): Johnny Knox, Abilene Christian
2009 (7): Derek Kinder, Pittsburgh
2008 (3): Earl Bennett, Vanderbilt
2008 (7): Marcus Monk, Arkansas