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Who Will Be Bears’ Top Receiving Target In 2017?

By Chris Emma—

(CBS) Upon arrival at Halas Hall, new Bears quarterback Mike Glennon knew well what he was getting into.

Having studied the Bears’ offense well in advance of his first discussions with the team, Glennon saw an offense that struggled with moving parts aplenty. It averaged just 17.4 points per game (tied for 28th) despite ranking 15th in football with 356.5 yards per game in 2016.

While going through that film, Glennon could surely spot the talents of Alshon Jeffery, now the new top target for Carson Wentz in Philadelphia. Glennon’s signing came on the same day Jeffery spurned the Bears for the Eagles, leaving a major void at receiver.

Glennon has to be wondering – who will be his top receiver in 2017?

The Bears are left pondering that thought, too, with the position in flux after Jeffery’s departure. The No. 7 overall pick in 2015, Kevin White has finished just three NFL games while undergoing two surgeries on his left leg. Incumbents Eddie Royal and Marquess Wilson may not even be on the roster come Week 1.

Rather surprisingly, Cameron Meredith emerged last season and was a bright spot amid a 3-13 campaign. He posted 66 receptions for 888 yards and four touchdowns as the steady target for three different starting quarterbacks. Glennon raved about what he saw from Meredith.

With Jeffery’s future in Philadelphia and White’s future in doubt, the Bears are sure hoping Meredith’s breakout season wasn’t a fluke. He enters this season with the inside track to be that top target.

Bears general manager Ryan Pace went to work in finding veteran receivers to mesh with the group, signing Kendall Wright, Markus Wheaton and Rueben Randle. The common denominator of the threesome is production in the past, limited to no production in 2016 and potentially good years still ahead. The Bears also have Dres Anderson, Josh Bellamy, Daniel Braverman and Deonte Thompson at receiver.

After Meredith’s 66 grabs, the Bears were led by Jeffery’s 52, Zach Miller’s 47 and Royal’s 33 last season. Matt Barkley was left utilizing Thompson and Bellamy down the stretch run of the 2016 season.

After an eventful offseason, the Bears head into the draft with Meredith as their de facto top receiver, left hoping for more from the rest of the group. They could move for a first-round receiver like Clemson’s Mike Williams or Western Michigan’s Corey Davis, though that wouldn’t be wise at No. 3. It would require a move down.

The Bears could also find a receiver on the second day, with players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Zay Jones and Cooper Kupp among those offering intrigue. There are close to 20 receivers worthy of taking in the first three rounds of the draft.

Pace would be wise to prioritize adding a high-ceiling receiver. He brought in the unproven Glennon to lead the Bears in 2017 and will likely be drafting a developmental quarterback prospect in the early rounds of this draft. Another receiver is needed for the Bears’ new direction on offense. Glennon needs somebody reliable to target.

In White, there’s boom-or-bust potential in place. Meredith was steady but not spectacular in 2016. With Wright, Wheaton and Randle, there are question marks as the Bears hope to hit on some potential. More will be added to the mix, but there’s no leader to enter Week 1 as the top target.

Now settled into his new home of Halas Hall, Glennon has to wondering to whom does he throw the football.

Chris Emma covers the Bears, Chicago’s sports scene and more for CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @CEmma670 and like his Facebook page.

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