Bears Land ‘Future’ No. 2 Receiver, Day 2 Pick in Proposed Trade

The Chicago Bears could be hoping that one of the top three wide receivers in the 2024 NFL draft class falls into their clutches with the No. 9 overall pick. If they feel strongly about receivers outside the trio, though, a trade back further into the first round could reap the most rewards for them.

Pro Football Focus’ Arjun Menon recently put together a market-implied mock draft for the sports analytics website, one that based its decisions on betting odds, such as what position a team is most likely to draft first or when a prospect is projected to be drafted.

For the Bears, Menon made an interesting play. With Rome Odunze on the board at No. 9, he projected the Bears to instead trade down with the Arizona Cardinals — who had already traded down from No. 3 in his mock draft — for the Nos. 11 and 99 selections. Then, with the 11th pick, the Bears landed their man with LSU’s Brian Thomas Jr.

“Step 1: Draft Caleb Williams; Step 2: Surround him with the best situation possible,” Menon wrote. “Brian Thomas Jr. helps achieve the latter for Chicago. While DJ Moore and the newly acquired Keenan Allen are already one of the league’s best wide receiver duos, the depth behind them is very spotty. Thomas instantly fixes that and gives Chicago a future WR2 if they can’t come to terms on an extension with Allen.”

Brian Thomas Jr. is an NFL-Ready Receiving Talent

Some Bears fans are sure to shake their heads at the suggestion that Chicago could pass on Odunze only to draft Thomas two picks later. Odunze has been mentioned in the same breath as Marvin Harrison Jr. and Malik Nabers — Thomas’ LSU teammate — throughout the pre-draft process with most analysts listing them as the clear top 3. Even for an additional Day 2 pick, the price of passing him up might not be worth it.

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Thomas is legitimate, NFL-ready receiving talent, though, so it is not completely unreasonable to think the Bears could find him a suitable target for their roster.

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Thomas caught more touchdowns (17) than anyone else in the FBS during his final season with the Tigers, finishing with 68 catches for 1,177 yards. He thrived on the boundary opposite Nabers and proved dangerous after the catch, making full use of the speed he showed at the NFL Combine (4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

“He has a very large catch radius because of his frame, leaping ability and ball skills,” NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah wrote of Thomas. “After the catch, he has some wiggle to make defenders miss and also boasts home-run speed. Overall, Thomas is a big-play machine and has the upside to develop into a No. 1 receiver for his drafting team.”

Does Bears Trade in Round 1 Make Enough Sense?

The Bears have just four total selections in the 2024 draft after trading their second (Montez Sweat), one of their fourths (Allen) and their fifth (Ryan Bates) for players over the past several months. It is the primary reason why there has been speculation that the Bears could look to trade down from No. 9 overall and acquire more draft capital.

How much sense does it make, though?

Bears general manager Ryan Poles has been comfortable trading back in his previous two offseasons. He moved back from No. 1 to No. 9 in the 2023 draft for a monstrous haul, then again from No. 9 to No. 10 to pick up an additional 2024 fourth-round pick. He has also shown a willingness to trade up, as he did last year for Tyrique Stevenson.

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But the opportunity to make a top-10 selection is a big one for a team that expects to contend in 2024. They want talent that can contribute now and the chances of hitting on a top-10 pick are higher than if they were to slide down deeper into the initial round. They may also feel that, if they are right about how they have built things, it could be some time again before they have another chance to make one of the first 10 picks.

That’s not to say the Bears won’t trade down, but they should (rightly) only be taking significant offers for their pick. They are also unlikely to consider any trade offers for the pick until the first night of the draft on April 25. It makes too much sense for them to wait and see how the board falls before making any hasty decisions.

If all of their blue-chip prospects are taken, though, a trade starts to sound better.

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This article was originally published on Heavy.com

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