As apart of a brand new series, Rookie Preview aims to preview every rookie selected by Ryan Pace and give insightful analysis for the latest in Bears history.
Last year gave us a much-unwanted case study into just how poorly a passing system can both be designed and executed. A 1960s high school playbook fueled the disdain towards passing and throwing a precariously raw rookie into the fire without little support outside of the overly relied-on run game didn’t go over so well. Only a single receiver crossed the 400-yard mark and no receiver had more than one touchdown all season. The leading receiver, Kendall Wright, had merely 614 yards and a sole score.
So in efforts to not waste a potential gem at quarterback in sophomore Mitchell Trubisky, the Bears made it a mission to surround him with as much receiving talent as possible. While supplementing Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel will be a massive boost to the offense and gives Trubisky his first true number one target in his career, last season left such a bad taste in the offenses’ mouth that Ryan Pace couldn’t stop there. In efforts to continuously beef up the receiving corps, Pace dealt the 105th overall selection along with next year’s second rounder for the rights to select Memphis receiver, Anthony Miller.
Miller, a consensus All-American in 2017, started his Memphis career as a walk-on and would redshirt for his first two seasons. By 2015, he grew into a reliable option in the offense, making four starts with 694 yards and five touchdowns to his name. As 2016 rolled around, he blossomed into a household name and then the greatest receiver in school history by 2017, breaking school records for career receptions, touchdowns, and yards to add to his single-season touchdown record that same year.
The Bears haven’t had a highlight reel type player since the days of Alshon Jeffery but that all stands to change with Miller. A volatile route runner, Miller’s electrifying style of play will have immediate impacts on a characteristically dry offense. His incredible shiftiness allowed him to average 15.1 yards per catch for his career and that should translate nicely into the league. A lightning fast first step and fine top end speed allow for deep threat dynamism especially with his gilt-edged footwork and high attention to detail. While quicker than he is fast, his brutal acceleration compliments his golden route running perfectly.
Despite standing at only five foot ten inches, Miller has a fantastic ability to win 50-50 balls. With ten inch hands, he can bring down the tricky catches, with one hand or two. While random drops may have been a slight issue in college, an accurate passer like Trubisky should clean this up in the NFL. The most attractive facet of his game would be his sheer competitiveness. Starting off his career as a walk-on and really just willing his way to the top highlights his work ethic, a winning mentality that will pay off.
Though his trash talking and motor do get out of control at times, fiery personalities have their purpose in the league. If harnessed properly and obviously kept in check, he will be a critical energy bringer. Also, sacrificing five years in college leaves less career than teams would hope for him. Though polished, a twenty-four-year-old rookie has drawbacks.
Either way, the Bears have miraculously created potentially one of the finer receiving corps in the league in hardly an offseason and the spirited Miller simply tops it off. His big-play capability and madcap competitiveness will be a welcome change of pace for a historically dry offensive culture.