Bears

2020 NFL Draft Report: Jalen Reagor

2020 NFL Draft Report: Jalen Reagor

The 2020 NFL draft gets underway on April 23 and will look a lot different than it has in recent years. The COVID-19 outbreak has forced the NFL to audible its planned three-day extravaganza in Las Vegas and will instead likely hold a studio show without the fanfare that normally accompanies the realization of a lifelong dream for the more than 250 prospects who will hear their name called.

In this running series, we'll profile several of those players. Up next: TCU wide receiver, Jalen Reagor.

Reagor, 21, attended Waxahachie High School in Waxahachie, Texas where he was a productive receiver under the tutelage of former NFL quarterback, Jon Kitna. He totaled 967 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. Reagor was a star on the track, too. He won the gold medal in the long jump during the 2017 Texas High School state championships.

Reagor was regarded as a four-star recruit and the No. 6 wide receiver in his high school class (ESPN). 

Reagor made an immediate impact at TCU. He appeared in 14 games as a freshman in 2017. He led the Horned Frogs in receiving yards (533) and touchdowns (8) that year. His production climbed to 72 catches for 1,061 yards and nine scores. Entering 2019, Reagor was viewed as one of the most exciting receiver prospects in the country and a big season was expected, but his production dipped to just 43 catches for 611 yards and five touchdowns. He was victimized by poor quarterback play, but his statistical regression is at least a little bit worrisome.

Physically, Reagor has a running back's frame at 5-11, 206 pounds. He plays like one in the open field, too, with his hard-to-tackle after-the-catch ability. He has enough body armor to hold up against physical defenders and doesn't shy away from an on-field mix-up.

Athletically, Reagor is one of the most electric wide receiver prospects in the country. He's so explosive on tape that his 4.47 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was actually a disappointment (and that's a fast time). Reagor is a true offensive weapon who can put top-end defensive backs on their heels in a hurry. He'll immediately become one of his team's most dangerous playmakers the moment he's drafted.

Reagor relies too much on that athleticism at times and his route-running can get sloppy as a result. There are some concentration drops, too, which may be a result of trying to do too much with his limited opportunities in 2019.

In the run game, Reagor serves as more of a speedbump than a physical barrier, but the effort is at least there. That said, he won't be on the field because of what he does when the ball isn't in his hands.

Overall, Reagor is tailormade to succeed in today's wide-open offensive attack. His exciting speed and change-of-direction ability will make him a true field-flipper on the next level. Get him the ball and watch the fireworks ensue. If it wasn't for his questionable 2019 season, Reagor would be a sure-fire first-round pick.

GRADE: Late-1st, early-2nd

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Should the Bears sign free agent running back Devonta Freeman?

Should the Bears sign free agent running back Devonta Freeman?

Former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman remains unsigned after being released earlier this offseason following a 2019 season that totaled 14 games and a career-low 3.6 yards per carry.

Freeman, who earned back-to-back trips to the Pro Bowl in 2015-16, was at one time considered one of the NFL's top dual-threat running backs. His best season came in 2015 when he ran for 1,056 yards and 11 touchdowns while adding another 578 yards and three scores as a receiver. In 2016, he ran for a career-best 1,079 yards and 11 scores.

Injuries derailed what was a promising start to his career. He hasn't played a full 16 games in any of the last three years and in 2018, he missed 14 games with foot and groin injuries. 

Are Freeman's best days behind him? Maybe. Running backs tend to decline the closer they get to 30 years old, and at 28, Freeman is inching closer to the end of his career than its beginning. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have value for a team like the Bears, who lack any semblance of depth behind starter David Montgomery.

Chicago's running back depth chart is void of any real NFL talent behind Montgomery and Tarik Cohen, and let's face it, Cohen is more of a satellite weapon than he is a true running back.

So what's stopping the Bears from pursuing Freeman? Money.

Freeman is holding out for a reasonable payday that, apparently, involves demands beyond what the Seahawks offered in May (one-year, $4 million). The Bears, who still have in-house business to take care of, including an extension for wide receiver Allen Robinson, aren't going to offer Freeman a contract in that range. And they shouldn't. Montgomery is the unquestioned starter and that won't change even if a player like Freeman is added. As a result, he'll get a contract consistent with what's paid to a backup with starter's upside.

Remember: Freeman signed a five-year, $41.2 million extension with the Falcons in 2017, and like most players who believe they still have a lot left in the tank, he doesn't appear willing to lower his value by such an extreme amount.

Still, the market will determine Freeman's next deal. And if he's still hanging around and unsigned as training camp approaches, the Bears could find themselves in a favorable position to land an extremely talented running back at a mega-discount.

Chicago's offense will hinge on how productive the running game is in 2020. It would make sense to improve its chances of success by adding more talent. Freeman could be that guy, at the right price.

What would 1985 Chicago Bears look like if they played in 2020?

What would 1985 Chicago Bears look like if they played in 2020?

“We’re gonna do the shuffle then ring your bell,” sang Gary Fencik back in 1985. 

The updated lyrics in 2020 would be: “We’re gonna do the shuffle then get a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty.” 

Football today is a largely different game compared to when the Bears won their only Super Bowl in franchise history. You’ll see that when Super Bowl XX is aired on NBC this Sunday at 2 p.m. CT. But as I went back and watched some highlights ahead of catching the full game on Sunday, I wondered: What from the ’85 Bears would still work in the NFL today?

MORE: 10 crazy stats about the 1985 Bears

Talent, of course, transcends eras. Walter Payton would still be a great running back in 2020. Richard Dent would still be one of those pass rushers offenses have to gameplan around. Mike Singletary’s versatility, toughness and instincts would make him one of the league’s top linebackers. But that’s not what I was wondering. 

The Bears’ first offensive play of Super Bowl XX — on which Payton lost a fumble — came with two wide receivers, one tight end, one running back and one fullback on the field, otherwise known as 21 personnel. There was nothing odd about it back then. 

Only 8 percent of the NFL’s plays in 2019 used 21 personnel. 

The San Francisco 49ers and Minnesota Vikings were the only two teams to use 21 personnel on more than 20 percent of their plays, and both teams made the playoffs. Jimmy Garoppolo, remember, threw eight passes while the 49ers throttled the Green Bay Packers on their way to the Super Bowl back in January. 

Payton and Matt Suhey would’ve been just fine in today’s NFL running from under center quite a bit. But consider this: Jim McMahon’s passer rating in 1985 was 82.6, good for seventh-best in the league. Mitch Trubisky’s passer rating in 2019 was 83.0, ranking him 28th. 

How about Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense? 

I dug up this video we did a few years ago with Rex Ryan explaining his dad’s defense — which, while it turned out to be great at stopping the run, was actually designed to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Check it out:

The Bears’ defense in 1985 is, arguably, the best in NFL history. The Bears held opponents to 3.7 yards per carry and 12.4 points per game, the lowest averages in the league. Dent led the NFL with 17 1/2 sacks and, maybe the most mind-blowing stat of all: The Bears’ defense allowed 16 passing touchdowns and had 34 interceptions. 

But putting eight guys in the box doesn’t seem like a sound strategy in today’s pass-happy, 11 personnel-heavy league — a league that often forces defensive coordinators’ base packages to be in nickel. To wit: San Francisco’s Tevin Coleman faced the highest percentage of “loaded” boxes in 2019, with 40.2 percent of his 137 rushing attempts coming with eight or more defenders near the line of scrimmage. 

The Bears’ defense only had to defend multiple backs (i.e. a running back and a fullback) on 120 plays in 2019. 

So the 46 defense might not work in 2020. Then again, who would doubt Ryan’s ability to coordinate a good defense against today’s modern NFL landscape?

This is all building to my overarching feeling thinking about the 1985 Bears: They'd be fine in today's NFL. Greatness can transcend era. It might take a few tweaks and they wouldn't look the same as you'll see on NBC Sports Network on Sunday afternoon. 

But who am I to say one of the greatest teams of all time wouldn't be great in any era? 

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