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NFL Draft

Who Will Be Bears’ Most Productive Slot WR In 2021?

  • The Draft Network
  • July 23, 2021
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By Michael Fitzpatrick

Chicago Bears receivers coach Mike Furrey got a little pushback for how he phrased a response to a question about Anthony Miller, but the message rang true.

“It's not going to be a need-base, you know. We don't need you,” Furrey said. “We've got guys that are going to be able to produce. You better be a pro, you better be on your details, you better do what we're asking you to do.”

The Bears don’t need Miller anymore. When general manager Ryan Pace traded up to draft Miller in the second round of the 2018 draft, they needed him, but not anymore. The Bears have stocked up on other options in the slot this offseason. Through three seasons, Miller has been unable to consistently learn the playbook and behave like a professional. Punching Chauncey Gardner-Johnson in the face(mask) during a playoff game and getting ejected AFTER the Bears had an entire meeting about not allowing Gardner-Johnson to get under your skin is emblematic of Miller’s career. He has tremendous talent, but he has not allowed himself to showcase those abilities consistently.

Dazz Newsome broke his collarbone earlier this offseason, so that’s one less competitor for Miller at slot, at least for the start of the season. That leaves the Bears’ two free-agent signings at receiver, Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd. Both guys are built more like slot receivers but have never consistently played there. Goodwin struggles with running consistently crisp routes, and that has kept him off the field at times despite his Olympic-level speed. Miller has also struggled to run good routes, though. Goodwin’s speed seemingly gives him an advantage over Miller. If neither is able to run strong routes, then it makes sense to go with the guy who can create more separation with his speed alone.

The receiver who will be the most productive out of the slot in 2021, though, is Byrd. The former New England Patriot is lightning fast, not as fast as Goodwin, but he can still fly. He played 90% of his snaps as an outside receiver in 2019 with the Arizona Cardinals, but after Julian Edelman went down for New England last season, Byrd moved inside and didn’t miss a beat. He set career highs in yards and catches, and those weren’t all that far off from Miller’s career highs. 

Byrd may not be as talented as Miller on paper, but he’s much more consistent. Having a guy who can consistently get open and make life easier on the quarterback will be a welcome addition to the Bears’ offense. Byrd will be that guy.

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