Last week in Chicago, the Matt Nagy-brand offense showcased just how good Taylor Gabriel can be in today’s NFL. The diminutive speedster nicknamed “Turbo” is starting to get a fair shot as an NFL wide receiver. He is making the most of his opportunities in his fifth season.
Gabriel had a breakout game against Tampa Bay scoring two touchdowns while catching seven passes for 104 yards (14.9-yard average). He earned a spot on the NFL Week Four Team of the Week with a 92.0 grade by profootballfocus.com for his performance.
The former undrafted free agent (UDFA) is holding off former first-round pick Kevin White and recent second-rounder Anthony Miller as the starter opposite former Pro Bowler Allen Robinson. His 22 receptions on the season currently lead the Bears wide receiving corps.
Who is Taylor Gabriel?
He signed a four-year deal with Chicago this off-season worth $26 million. That is starter money for a player, who until recently, was constantly overlooked since entering the league in 2014. But Gabriel stands only 5’ 8” and weighs 165 pounds not the typical size of the average NFL player. Does size really matter?
His recent nomination as the Flex-O player of the week suggests he still isn’t viewed as a complete wide receiver yet. He had a higher grade (92.0) than fellow wide receiver Dede Westbrook (90.0) of Jacksonville but Westbrook got the final nod by PFF for the position.
His history tells a different tale. The wide receiver consistently makes plays every time he steps on the field. At Abilene Christian University, he holds the record for most career touchdowns (27). He caught 73 receptions for 1,060 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final season and still went undrafted in 2014. He signed with Cleveland as a UDFA eventually finishing his rookie season with 36 receptions, 621 yards, and a touchdown. His numbers declined the following season before his release in September of 2016.
“Turbo” was quickly picked up on waivers that same month by Atlanta. He finished the season with 35 receptions 579 yards and six touchdowns. His efforts earned him a second-round tender during 2017 negotiations before resigning with the Falcons. His numbers declined once again following an offensive coaching change.
The NFL is in the business of searching for behemoths and this antiquated thought-process is part of a football acumen of yesteryear. NFL front offices continually overvalue the biggest players to draft early and often. But the league is changing, it’s faster than ever, and it is set-up for today’s passing attacks as the new rules suggest. In theory, the NFL offers the quarterback the utmost protection from harm’s way. This trend allows more offensive schemes to utilize its playmakers in the open field. Enter Taylor Gabriel and others like him around the league like teammate RB Tarik Cohen and the Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill to name a few. Each makes an impact when provided the opportunities and each stands less than 5’10.”
GM Ryan Pace witnessed something special in Gabriel during the 2017-18 evaluation process. Turbo isn’t disappointing. The Bears roster is full of unlikely heroes ready for a deep playoff run and Gabriel plans to contribute mightily, just ask Coach Nagy.
“He can take it to the house any given play, he’s just so fast,” Coach Nagy recently told NBCsports.com. “But he’s learning right now how to be a full-time wide receiver, meaning he’s getting a lot more reps. So when you have him in different motions and moving him around a lot, that can be tiring. But he has handled that really well.”
No one can disagree with that assessment and he is trending up.
Until next time, stay thirsty. JT out!