Chicago Bears

Which Bears rookie could be a surprise starter in 2023?

There’s been a lot of love for the Chicago Bears 2023 NFL Draft class over the last month or so. It’s understandable; GM Ryan Poles did a great job. He added no-doubt starters in RT Darnell Wright and CB Tyrique Stevenson and key rotational defensive linemen in Gervon Dexter Sr. and Zacch Pickens.

Fourth-round running back Roschon Johnson has been dubbed by many NFL analysts as a Day-3 rookie who could also emerge as a starter in 2023. And while I agree Johnson has the requisite skill set to be a hard-charging starting running back in the league, there’s another fourth-rounder could slowly work his way into the starting lineup: WR Tyler Scott.

Indeed, the Chicago Bears appear set at the top of the wide receiver depth chart with DJ Moore, Chase Claypool and Darnell Mooney. But Mooney is recovering from a fractured ankle suffered late last season, and Claypool has yet to prove he was a worthy trade target for Poles and the Bears last year.

Both Mooney and Claypool are on expiring contracts this season, and with how the wide receiver market has exploded in recent years (even mid-level receivers cash in), it’s unlikely both will return in 2024. The Bears know it; coach Matt Eberflus and offensive coordinator Luke Getsy know it.

With the Chicago Bears still a year or so away from legit contention, the coaching staff and front office will continue keeping their eye on the future. Scott should be a big part of that. He’s under contract for the next four seasons, and by the time his rookie deal expires, QB Justin Fields will be well into his second deal.

The point? He’s a team-friendly asset that the Bears must get the most out of before the end of his first contract. A starting-caliber receiver on a rookie contract is the next best thing to having a starting quarterback on a rookie deal. Don’t waste it.

It won’t be easy for Scott to ascend into the top three of the wide receiver pecking order. He’d need Mooney to suffer an injury setback or Claypool to be the same player he was in 2022. No Bears fan wants either of those two things to happen, but if they do, Scott will seize his chance to play.

Scott has a rare trait that coaches want on the field as much as possible: speed. He’s faster than his 4.44 40-yard dash — he routinely runs away from defenders in the same way speedsters like Tyreek Hill have proven capable of in the NFL. Scott is more than just a deep ball specialist, too. He’s a capable target on all three levels of the passing game, and his after-the-catch ability is second only to Moore among the Bears’ pass catchers. Scott was a running back in high school, and it shows.

“When I was at Cincinnati, that was kind of where I found my niche, that was my calling,” Scott said this month. “I love just taking the top off being able to open up and run. That just opens up my underneath game. DBs get scared and that helps with the run game, that just helps with the underneath game, that just opens up so many things.”

It can take wide receivers a few seasons to adjust to the NFL game, which may be the case for Scott. But his skill set is exactly what the Chicago Bears want from their WR3, and while the road to starter’s reps will be tough, there’s a path to first-team opportunities for Scott in 2023.

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