Top 25 most important Bears in 2022: Jones Jr. could emerge as No. 3 receiver
We're counting down the Top 25 most important Bears for the 2022 season.
What makes one player more important than another? That's subjective, of course. But for our purposes it comes down to this: Are the Bears worse off if this player can't play? Does this player have untapped potential or past greatness to live up to? Is his story going to be one fans follow closely this season?
No. 14 Velus Jones Jr.
Position: Wide receiver
NFL experience: Rookie
Last year's ranking: N/A
Looking back: After selecting defensive backs with each of his first two draft picks in April, Bears general manager Ryan Poles zeroed in on Tennessee wide receiver and return specialist Velus Jones Jr. with the 71st overall pick, early in the third round.
Poles has tried to re-imagine the Bears' receiving corps this offseason, jettisoning pretty much everybody not named Darnell Mooney. He signed receivers Byron Pringle and Equanimeous St. Brown, among a few others, from the free-agency bargain bin.
But the position still needed to be addressed in the draft. Jones is an intriguing prospect who probably isn't going to be a No. 1 receiver in the NFL, but who can do a lot of different things with the football in his hands.
He was a late bloomer in college, transferring from USC to Tennessee before having his best season as a super senior in 2021. The now 25-year-old caught 62 passes for 807 yards and 7 touchdowns last season and was the SEC special teams co-player of the year as a return man.
Looking forward: How the Bears use Jones will be one of the most fascinating storylines to watch through training camp and into the season.
He might be the most versatile skill position player on this offense. Physically, at 6-foot, 200 pounds, he's built somewhere between a receiver and a running back.
In a year when every team in the NFL is on the hunt for the next Deebo Samuel, the Bears hope Jones might be theirs. Don't be surprised to see him receive touches all over the field. The Bears are going to utilize the screen game a lot more often than they did under former coach Matt Nagy, and Jones should be on the receiving end of his fair share.
The Bears' coaching staff is looking for receivers to step up. This team can't succeed with only Mooney making plays. Jones has impressed his teammates, notably Mooney, and should be a key contributor. It's entirely possible he emerges as the receiving room's third-best option behind Mooney and Pringle.