With the new Chicago Bears regime in place, personnel on both sides of the ball will surely be fighting over who to select in the 2022 NFL Draft. One thing is still clear after several free-agent transactions, Justin Fields needs offensive playmakers surrounding him.
The Bears have focused heavily on addressing their defense and offensive line via free agency. If Chicago elects to target a wide receiver in the draft, Alec Pierce from the University of Cincinnati could be a solid option.
Looking at the Bears' current roster construction, Equanimeous St. Brown is the only receiver over 6-foot-1. Entering his second NFL season, Fields must have multiple options to target for 50/50 balls. Pierce provides that desired skill set.
Pierce possesses a 6-foot-3, 208 lb, long, athletic frame, which gives him a great build at wide receiver. While he doesn't have blazing speed, his movements are quick once he gets going. Pierce's ability to adjust to the ball is what really sets him apart. He employs intense focus when retrieving balls at the high point and wins on 50/50 throws.
“Those 50/50 balls become a little more 60/40, even 70/30,” Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell said of Pierce.
His best routes are verticals, overs, corners, and speed outs. Pierce excelled as a match-up player in the red zone during his time with the Bearcats. Isolation throws with Desmond Ridder proved to be an effective way for Cinicnnati to score or draw defensive pass interference calls.
In the run game, Pierce does a nice job of sealing the edge with his frame, helping with end-arounds and off-tackle runs.
Pierce did not have to tout an impressive route-running ability at Cincinnati. The Bearcats' route designs weren't nearly as complex as certain NFL systems mandate.
Pierce would often round out his breaks instead of being sudden and decisive. And occasionally, he would move before he caught the ball, which resulted in some untimely drops.
Alec Pierce's Story
Alec Pierce hails from the Chicago suburb of Glen Ellyn. He belongs to an extremely athletic family, as his dad played football and his mom played volleyball at Northwestern. His brother Justin played basketball at William & Mary and North Carolina State, and his other brother Caden, a Princeton commit, is one of Chicago’s top high school hoops prospects.
While Chicago Bears fans may be quick to assume Pierce is "one of us," he said in a recent interview that he grew up a Packers fan. While not forgivable, it's at least understandable considering his dad's side of the family is from Wisconsin.
Even though Pierce was Cincinnati's leading wide receiver, he began his football career as a safety at Glenbard West. During his junior year, Pierce made the switch to the other side of the ball. In his first year at wideout, he recorded 28 catches for 800 yards and seven touchdowns. That performance resulted in First-Team All-State Class 8A honors.
Due to inexperience, Pierce was a quiet three-star recruit among rankings at the wide receiver position. Despite this, Pierce tallied over 20 offers, with further interest from some bigger Power Five programs. Schools were just as impressed with his academics as his playing ability. Pierce was also set on becoming a mechanical engineer, and the University of Cincinnati offered him the best place to pursue that while playing football.
He appeared in 11 games during his freshman year with the Bearcats before earning a starting role his sophomore year. Pierce tallied 37 receptions, 652 yards, and two touchdowns.
His junior season was the infamous COVID year. Already a shortened season, Pierce missed an additional chunk of time due to injuries. That meant his senior year was going to make or break his playing career. Pierce caught 52 passes for 884 yards with eight touchdowns in 2021. His efforts helped the Bearcats make the College Football Playoff, where they faced Alabama in the Cotton Bowl.
Potential Fit With The Chicago Bears
Sizing up the current Chicago Bears' roster, there is mostly speed but not much height. Alec Pierce would give Justin Fields a trustworthy option in the red zone. Additionally, new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy would still be able to utilize Pierce as a vertical threat downfield.
In the run game, the Cincinnati product would provide dependable blocking prowess on the edge. In 2021, fans saw Fields' ability to roll out and get downfield on multiple occasions. While Matt Nagy didn't utilize this threat enough, the new regime will likely let Fields loose more often. And if Pierce is helping seal the edge, it could result in extra yardage for the second-year quarterback.
Alec Pierce learned and grew each year at Cincinnati. Bearcats' head coach Luke Fickell and quarterback Desmond Ridder only had rave reviews for the wideout. Expect him to continue to develop and become a staple on future Sundays -- whether that be in Chicago or elsewhere.