Allen Robinson is the type of receiver whose presence will garner additional defensive attention in the film room and on the field. With that in mind, the Chicago Bears had to sign another receiver who could make defenses pay for doubling down on Robinson.
Taylor Gabriel is that guy.
Player, Age (in 2018), Position
Taylor Gabriel, 27, wide receiver
- 4 years, $26 million ($28 million with incentives)
- $14 million guaranteed
- $6.5 million average salary
- Season stats: 16 games (4 starts), 33 catches, 378 yards, 11.5 yards per catch, 1 touchdown; 8 carries, 49 yards.
- Pro Football Focus grade: 65.9
Gabriel had a mini-breakout in 2016, but like most of the rest of the Atlanta Falcons offense, he had a relatively disappointing follow-up season in 2017. Gabriel saw his receiving yards drop from 579 to 378 and yards per catch slide from 16.5 to 11.5 under new offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
- Career stats: 58 games (13 starts), 221 targets, 132 catches, 1,819 yards, 8 touchdowns; 16 rushes, 110 yards, one rushing touchdown
- Per 16 games: 61 targets, 36 catches, 502 yards, two touchdowns; 4 carries, 30 yards
- Notable achievements: Ranked third in the NFL with 17.3 yards per catch in 2014 and seventh in that category in 2016 (16.5)
- Pro Football Focus grades: 83.2 (2016), 45.2 (2015), 78.5 (2014)
It’s apparent Matt Ryan wasn’t the only one who was missing Kyle Shanahan’s presence as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. Even more so, it’s clear Ryan was quite successful when targeting Gabriel. Over the last two seasons, Ryan has posted a 112.5 passer rating when throwing to Gabriel, which includes a 67.3% completion rate and pretty nice 6.9 TD% to go along with a diminutive 1.9 INT%.
With that in mind, it’s probably not a coincidence that both of Gabriel’s most productive years came when Shanahan (who is now the San Francisco 49ers’ head coach) was running the show on offense.
As a rookie with the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Gabriel caught 36 passes for 621 yards. And even though he scored just one touchdown, he averaged a whopping 17.3 yards per catch. A year later, Gabriel’s production took a tumble when John DeFilippo (wait a minute…) took over as the OC under Mike Pettine. The Falcons claimed Gabriel off waivers on September 4, 2016, reuniting him with Shanahan where his pseudo breakout would take place.
Gabriel’s injury history is limited, which is a great sign considering how the injury bug has constantly nibbled at the Bears for each of the last three years.
In 2016, Gabriel missed an October game against the Chargers with a concussion and sat out the regular-season finale against the Saints with a shoulder injury. He also missed two games with a concussion while with the Browns in 2015.
Visions of Tyreek Hill will dance in your head after watching the above-linked highlight reel. But if Matt Nagy’s offense can use Gabriel similarly to how Shanahan used the speedy receiver, that will definitely play in Chicago.
In 2016, Pro Football Focus ranked Gabriel as the top-rated screen receiver in the NFL as he earned a near-perfect 156.3 rating, catching all 12 of his targets, gained 144 yards, and scored two touchdowns. He averaged 15.8 yards after the catch on screens, with both touchdowns coming on pass plays of more than 25 yards. Getting Gabriel in space could open up new avenues for Mitch Trubisky and the rest of the offense.
There is an expectation (in part because of his 5-8, 167-pound frame, per Pro Football Reference) that Gabriel will play in the slot, but he can play all over the field – making him a dangerous piece to the puzzle. You can throw out the labels when it comes to Gabriel. The only one that matters here is playmaker.
During his introductory press conference, Gabriel shared an anecdote of how he learned about Matt Nagy’s offense from friend/former college teammate Charcandrick West, a Chiefs running back.
“He would talk about it all the time and how he loved it, the different schemes, and just kind of how (Nagy) was just a doctor at creating an offense and getting people open. If you go on YouTube and look up Kansas City offense, you see different things they did and how Tyreek Hill got open and how he made those explosive plays.”
You can watch that video in its entirety here: