Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears have a ton of hype going into the 2023 NFL season.
Last season was a brutal experience for the Chicago Bears as they went 3-14 and finished the season with the worst record in the NFL. They were below average on both sides of the ball, and they struggled mightily because they couldn’t throw the ball, and their defense was basically nonexistent.
Despite their lackluster performance last season, a lot of people are excited about the Bears and believe they may take a massive leap this upcoming season. The biggest reason for the hype surrounding this team is their starting quarterback, Justin Fields, who is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and showed a lot of promise last season as he became a game-breaking runner.
He is far from perfect, though, as he has been one of the least productive passers in the NFL since he entered the league in 2021. However, the Bears made a lot of significant moves this offseason to improve their offseason and help develop Fields into a franchise quarterback. Let’s break down some of the moves they made this offseason and see if they are enough to help turn Justin Fields into a star.
Bears Get Justin Fields a True WR1
Since the Chicago Bears had the worst record in the league last season, they were given the number one overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. They could’ve kept their pick and selected a fantastic defensive prospect like Jalen Carter or Will Anderson Jr., but they elected to trade back with the Carolina Panthers, who had the ninth overall pick, and they got an absolute haul.
The Bears got a plethora of draft picks to move down eight spots, but one of the biggest pieces in the deal was wide receiver D.J. Moore. Last season was a bit rough for Moore as he recorded just 888 total receiving yards while playing in an offense that was arguably the worst in the league for the first half of the season. Still, he has a track record of really good production, as he recorded 1,000 receiving yards for three straight seasons from 2019-2021.
During this time period, he was quietly one of the more productive wide receivers in the NFL. Here are the eleven wide receivers who recorded 200 receptions, 3,000 receiving yards, and 8.5 yards per target during these three seasons:
- Davante Adams
- Stefon Diggs
- Cooper Kupp
- Tyreek Hill
- Tyler Lockett
- D.K. Metcalf
- Chris Godwin
- Mike Evans
- D.J. Moore
- Amari Cooper
- Terry McLaurin
There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic about Moore’s potential in the Bears’ offense, though. For starters, while his counting stats are quite impressive, his advanced stats show that he has never consistently produced like an elite receiver.
His best season by PFF grade came in 2019 when he ranked 11th among receivers in PFF grade with a mark of 82.2. His best mark by yards per rote run came in 2020 when he ranked 13th among receivers in yards per route run with a mark of 2.23. Unfortunately, he consistently put up worse marks in both metrics following those seasons, and he hit rock bottom in 2022, ranking just 32nd among receivers in PFF grade and yards per route run.
The fact that D.J. Moore doesn’t have the statistical profile of an elite receiver probably isn’t a surprise to anyone, but the concerns don’t stop here. ESPN has created a set of metrics that use tracking data to measure players’ ability to get open, catch the ball, and generate yards after contact.
They use this data to come up with an overall rating which doesn’t necessarily tell us how good a receiver is, but it does give context and shows how they perform in terms of specific micro-skills. According to this data, Moore was below average at getting open and generating yards after the catch last season, as he had a total rating of just 44, which ranked around 68th among wide receivers.
D.J. Moore is an interesting receiver because he has produced at a high level before, but the seasons in which his production was strong were around three years ago. There is a chance that he is not that same player anymore, and he may not be as good in Chicago as people expect.
However, you have to consider the situation he was a part of when he played with the Panthers. His quarterback situation in Carolina was extremely shaky, and he wasn’t surrounded by other talented pass catchers who could take pressure off of him. Now he is in a better situation, and if he can play like he did in 2019 and 2020 this season, Justin Fields and the Bears’ passing attack can take a big step forward.