The Chicago Bears made a lot of new additions to the wide receiver position this offseason. A total of six new faces to be exact. Some have gotten more attention than others. Most notably veterans like Marquise Goodwin and Damiere Byrd along with 6th round draft pick Dazz Newsome. This has made it easy to forget some of the other names they acquired. Particularly Khalil McClain.
It isn’t a huge surprise he was an afterthought. Undrafted free agents usually are. He was one of a dozen new additions shortly following the draft, coming out of Troy. Considering he had just 383 yards receiving his final year there? McClain must’ve had other attributes outside of productivity the Bears were interested in. Probably the most telling of them was his 6’4, 222 lbs frame.
As the saying goes, “You can’t teach size.”
To be fair, McClain demonstrated knowledge of how to use that frame well in his two years playing for Troy. Of the 77 total catches he made, 13 of them went for touchdowns. He showed a knack for winning 50/50 situations and making some tough catches. What makes him an even more interesting story is he actually didn’t start college as a receiver. He was quarterback out of high school. After one year as a backup at Tulane, he decided to change positions.
After another year at a community college, he played well enough at his new position to get scooped up by Troy. That opportunity led McClain to finally land with the Bears on an undrafted contract. So this young man has traveled the hard road to the NFL. That doesn’t seem to have impacted his confidence. While speaking with Throw It Deep during an event for youth football, he sounded like somebody who has high expectations of himself.
“I know the platform I have now. Any way I can give back and help, that’s what I’m going to do. As soon as I become a big name or whatever, it’s going to be even bigger. I’m not going to stop. This is what I want to be doing.”
— Throw It Deep (@ThrowItDeep) June 18, 2021
Khalil McClain has a tall mountain to climb
Draft experts were mixed on McClain. While they saw the big body, wide catch radius, and strong hands as nice benefits, they had misgivings about other parts of his game. Most notable his lack of speed and short-area quickness. Both of which were deemed below average. So not only is he considered slow but also doesn’t have the foundation to become a great route runner either.
That could make it difficult for him to make the necessary impression the Bears coaching staff will be looking for. Matt Nagy’s offense puts a premium on receivers who can run sharp routes. If Khalil McClain can’t grasp that part of the game quickly, then his best and maybe only hope is to become a standout on special teams. Otherwise, it is the practice squad or nothing for him.
Then again, crazy things happen.
Don’t forget another QB-turned-wide receiver made a name for himself a few years back in Cameron Meredith. He too had a size advantage along with an inexperienced background and speed question marks. He ended up delivering a memorable year in 2016 before sadly tearing up his knee the following preseason. Perhaps the Bears see McClain as another of those types.