(Ed. note from Luis: Oh, hey. Hi. How ya doing? Do you miss me yet? I miss you. Unfortunately, I’m not ready to be back in the saddle just yet. I’m still sorting through stuff. But I wanted to write something in an attempt to occupy my mind with something different (if only for a few moments). So thanks for entertaining some of my prose today.)
Pro Football Focus has begun releasing its early batch of top 10 rankings for 2023 NFL Draft prospects at various positions. And even though the draft isn’t for another 118 days, it is never too early to dig in on prospects who might land on the Chicago Bears’ radar.
More specifically, prospects who play positions of high need for the Bears.
And, to be even more specific in this case, the wide receivers.
- Quentin Johnston, TCU — True X, Top 10
- Zay Flowers, Boston College — Movable weapon, 1st
- Jordan Addison, USC — Separator, 1st round
- Josh Downs, North Carolina — Underneath route runner, Rounds 1-2
- Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State — Power slot, Early Day 2
- Rome Odunze, Washington — Well-rounded, Day 2
- Nathaniel Dell, Houston — Separator, Day 2
- Parker Washington, Penn State — Power slot, Day 2
- Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee — Vertical threat, Day 2
- Rashee Rice, SMU — Possession receiver, Late Day 2
There are already a handful of names on the list above with which Bears fans should be familiar. For instance, Smith-Njigba has been on our radar as a possible Bears target since the first mock drafts for 2023 came out last spring. We can say the same about Addison and Flowers, for that matter. Downs and Hyatt were collegiate standouts this season. And Johnston’s stock has been rising meteorically all season long with TCU’s run to the College Football Playoff.
With that being said, you might notice there is one high-profile name missing from that group. That name is Kayshon Boutte, the LSU receiver whose change of heart and entrance into the NFL Draft after originally declaring he’d return for another season with the Tigers adds intrigue to this upcoming draft class of receivers:
Boutte had first-round potential coming into the season, but was originally set to return for another year of college ball. Hence, his absence from PFF’s top 10 receiver prospect countdown. But when Boutte is healthy and available, he has been one of college football’s most eye-catching wideouts.
Boutte put up 735 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns as a freshman All-SEC performer in 2020. A year later, he came up with 509 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns — but did so in just six games due to an ankle injury that cut his year short. The stat line for Boutte’s junior season (48 catches, 538 yards, 2 TDs) is disappointing. And his 2022 campaign was something out of a college football telenovela. Boutte began the year scrubbing his social media of LSU stuff and was thought to be an early-season transfer candidate after a season-opening one-point loss to Florida State. But he did end the year with a 6-catch, 107-yard, 1-touchdown performance against Georgia in the SEC championship game.
So while there are concerns that we’ll address momentarily, there are also flashes of Boutte’s excellence in these clips:
I’m not sure Boutte is a first-round candidate anymore. Between his early season sideshow and an unexpected change of heart ahead of LSU’s bowl game, NFL talent evaluators might dock his draft stock a bit and chalk it up to immaturity. How Boutte does during in-person interviews will probably guide how NFL teams project the receiver prospect’s draft placement. But if Boutte interviews well and the testing checks out, then he’ll likely crack that top 10. Perhaps it puts him in line to be on the Bears’ radar. Or maybe Boutte’s entry into the draft knocks someone else into Chicago’s lap. Whatever happens, we’ll watch with great interest. Because even if GM Ryan Poles adds to the receiver room via trade or free agency, he would still be wise to take another shot in the draft. In any case, we’ll be watching with great interest.