The Chicago Bears have gone out of their way to anoint Devin Hester the starting Z receiver for the 2012 season, putting a damper on the expectations around rookie Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery has fans excited because he's tall, can jump well and showed great hands in college. Jeffery also showed many of these qualities in the rookie minicamp and OTAs he participated in while healthy.
Teamed with Brandon Marshall, Jeffery seems like an obvious compliment to the veteran who should step in and immediately contribute.
The Bears however have other ideas, that being implementing the Devin Hester package version 3.0... or is it 4.0? Dunno I've lost count how many packages the Bears have put together take advantage of his game breaking ability.
The mantra from the coaches has always been, get the ball in Hester's hands any way possible and Tice has emphasized that so far during OTAs.
So the question now boils down to a training camp battle that will occur at Bourbonnais between a rookie and a veteran.
Hester currently holds the edge based on experience and the public adoration the coaching staff and teammates shower him with.
Hester however has only one strong productive season as a receiver, the 2009 season in which he caught 57 passes for 757 yards in 13 games. Had Hester stayed healthy his season averages equated to him catching over 709 passes and going over 1,000 yards on the season.
Hester however never approached those numbers in the Mike Martz offense. He's struggled mightily the last two seasons catching 40 passes in 2010 and 26 in 2011.
The question now becomes will a simplified role in the Mike Tice, Jeremy Bates offense benefit Hester's production?
Perhaps Hester should stick to what he's best at, being a dynamic punt returner who can take it to the house on any given return.
The answer in that question is complicated not only by Jeffery's ability but what the average rookie production is for receivers drafted between rounds one and two.
I put together a spreadsheet analyzing the total rookie year production of every receiver drafted the first two rounds from the year 2000 until now.
The results were rather startling, rookie year receivers average a putrid 32 receptions and 432 yards and three touchdowns.
Punching in different averages, rookie receivers taken as the first overall receiver in the draft average a modest 40 receptions and 512 yards during their rookie years.
What does this mean? It means rookies struggle to put together big numbers in their first year in the NFL draft. No duh, right? However this lack of production undercuts the expectations that most Bears fans have for Jeffery.
These numbers are numbers that Devin Hester could easily achieve, or exceed as the starter. Adding to this intriguing camp battle is the Bears lack a true vertical threat in the offense with Johnny Knox likely sidelined for the entire 2012 season.
Offenses are best balanced when there is a big possession receiver, a strong slot receiver presence and a vertical down the field receiver. The Bears' only threat to stretch the field is Hester, which makes his value to the offense all the more important.
While starting Jeffery on the surface, seems like a no-brainer digging deeper into the projected numbers reveals a battle, that could go either way during the 2012 season.