July 27, 2010
Most would argue the Bears' WR depth chart is a complete guessing game. ADP data dictates when the dust settles it will read Devin Aromashodu(notes) (81.3), Johnny Knox(notes) (108.1) and Devin Hester(notes) (115.5). Brad Evans agrees. But Scott Pianowski sees the order shaking out differently. With scalpels in hand, our pigskin prognosticators offer their diagnoses.
Evans fires: A cursory examination of the Bears' current wide receiver pecking order provides little clarity. Quotables from Halas Hall suggest every wideout wearing navy is primed for a breakthrough season/possible Hall of Fame career. Attempting to pinpoint exactly who will yield the most value is equivalent to solving a Rubik's Cube while riding a unicycle.
But to the Noise the answer is obvious. Devin Aromashodu is the guy.
The former seventh-round selection exploded onto the fantasy scene late last year. After weeks of clamoring by quarterback Jay Cutler(notes) to insert the then-unknown receiver into the starting lineup, Aromashodu finally was given a chance to prove his mettle in Week 14. As championship-seeking owners fondly remember, he didn't disappoint. Over the final four weeks of the season, the journeyman established an instant chemistry with Cutler, catching 22 passes (39 targets) for 282 yards and four scores.
Knox garnered significant praise throughout OTAs and mini-camp, but his smaller frame, unpolished routes and blazing speed are better suited for the Az-Zahir Hakim(notes) role within Mike Martz's Don Coryell-styled offense. Because of his big play ability, his performance, much like his rookie season, will be erratic. He's more Willie Gault '86 than Marcus Robinson(notes) '99.
Aromashodu's size, route-running skills and rapport with Cutler give him the clear advantage over Knox and Devin Hester. His equally impressive work ethic this offseason has also generated much excitement among the coaching staff. When grilled recently by Bears.com wide receivers coach Darryl Drake admitted the veteran target gives the team something "extra," noting "there are so many things he gives us from a physical standpoint and a blocking standpoint." Because of his height and aggressiveness across the middle, he will undoubtedly be the team's greaseman and primary vertical weapon inside the red zone. As Drake remarked, Knox isn't nearly as strong mentally and physically.
Bottom line: Aromashodu is the Chicago pass catcher to target. His skill set and comfort level with Cutler are unmatched. Since this will be a pass-first offense, even near the goal-line, the well-traveled wideout is poised for a 75-catch, 1,200-yard, 7-9 TD campaign. In other words, for the Noise's mid-round money, he possesses more fantasy gold than Fort Knox.
Pianowski responds: I'm excited about the Bears passing game, as we all should be – for all of Martz's flaws, he's a star-maker when it comes to fantasy. But when you're thinking sleeper pick at the wideout spot, Knox has to be the play.
Let's first consider what Martz wants from his receivers – speed, agility, quickness out of breaks and cuts. There wasn't a single Greatest Show on Turf wideout taller than six feet. Martz isn't looking for rebounders, he's looking for speedsters who can fake a defender out of their jock. Advantage, Knox.
Aromashodu's late-season run last year was a blast to watch, but let's not forget most of his pro career has been living out of a suitcase. He's already on his fourth organization – the Dolphins, Colts and Redskins cut him prior to 2009. When one team discards a player, maybe it's just a bad fit or a timing thing; when three teams say "thanks, but no thanks" we might want to read into it. The Bears did all they could to not use Aromashodu last year until injuries basically forced a move. The new regime is already using Knox ahead of Aromashodu on the depth chart; that might not matter in September, but if nothing else it makes me more curious about Knox.
Rookie receivers aren't supposed to make a major impact in the NFL, but Knox did far more than expected as a rookie (45 grabs, 527 yards, five scores, plus one return TD). He's the cheaper option in this debate (per ADP) and he's the guy in line to receive more snaps. If Aromashodu comes up smelling like a rose, I'll credit Mr. Evans down the line, but for now, put me down for the School of Hard Knox. In the World of Mike Martz, speed is king.
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