Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy was not being fictitious when he said he’d pay close attention and give a fair opportunity to every tryout player, no matter how small the school they came from, during rookie minicamp.
On Sunday, it was reported that the Bears were giving contracts, and a spot on the 90-man roster, to three of them-Florida Atlantic’s John Franklin III, Benedictine’s Matt Fleming, and South Florida’s Jeremi Hall.
Obviously, none of these three players are household names, with the possible exception of Franklin, who starred on Netflix’s Last Chance U. Today I’ll take a look at how each of them got here, what kind of skill-set they bring to the table, and how much of a shot they have of making the roster after the last round of cuts are done.
John Franklin III, Defensive Back/Kick Returner, Florida Atlantic University
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 2, 2017
Okay, okay, okay. I know what you’re thinking. Do me a favor and only watch the first 10 seconds of that clip.
The point is, the guy can run. On what little tape I could find, all of it involves Franklin using FAU head coach Lane Kiffin’s offense to make plays in space with his speed. He opened some eyes when at a pre-combine (he did not get a combine invite) workout he clocked in at an insane 4.19 seconds one the 40-yard dash. That number may have (almost certainly was) been somewhat fudged to make Franklin look good, but running anything in that vicinity is impressive nonetheless.
Franklin has bounced around a lot, from starting at Florida State as a quarterback, to East Mississippi Community College (where he was featured on Last Chance U) to transferring to Auburn, to finally ending up at Florida Atlantic where he was used as a gadget player of sorts while officially marked down on the roster as a receiver.
Him being listed as a kick returner is key, because potential impact on special teams is the number one way for UDFAs, or any backup players, to make NFL teams. That and some depth questions at cornerback, which is also where he’s listed, give me a hunch that Franklin will have somewhat of a shot at making the Bears roster when it’s all said and done.
Chance he makes the team: 15%
Matt Fleming, Receiver, Benedictine University
— Coach Kinseth UWO (@coachkinseth) February 26, 2017
As the clip in the tweet will tell you, Fleming was a track star in college, so like Franklin, he’s an obviously raw player with whom the Bears are banking on speed. (It is not easy to find clips of him playing football at such a small school). TLS’s Dan DeYoung, a blocking tight end at Wisconsin Lutheran University, played against Franklin during the 2017 season.
He’s a notable signing because Nagy went out of his way to compliment Fleming’s effort in rookie mini-camp. He’s a small, quick, high-character player that the Bears seem glad to at the very least take into training camp. He’s also a Chicago native, coming out of Simeon High School (they’re known for their basketball, with alumni such as Derrick Rose and Jabari Parker).
Nagy’s comments about Fleming intrigue me and it’s a nice story with his Chicago background but the Bears’ receiver depth chart looks pretty full right now. They signed two high priced free agents, drafted two receivers, like two guys on the roster for special teams purposes, and Kevin White still exists (probably). He could sneak his way onto the team, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Chance he makes the team: 5%
Jeremi Hall, Guard, University of South Florida
Big shouts to client @USFFootball OG Jeremi Hall (@YoungB_73) for signing with the #ChicagoBears after trying out this weekend. As you can see in his highlights, he's a big nasty dude #ATFam 🐻⬇️ pic.twitter.com/1igVLxWiMl
— Athletes Trust (@TrustAthletes) May 13, 2018
The first thing that strikes you about Hall is his size. The kid is massive. At 6’5″ 335 pounds, Hall has a tendency to pummel players into the ground when he gets full control of them. He has that kind of angriness and nastiness in finishing his opponents that teams desire when looking for offensive linemen.
The reason Hall was merely a tryout player is because of his size. He also doesn’t move all too well and isn’t too useful as a pulling guard either. He has some impressive knockdowns in pass pro but the question is can he keep up with the quicker, more impressive hand fighters that we see more and more of in today’s game on the interior defensive line.
Hall could challenge for a depth spot on the Bears, as guard tends to be a position where the Bears need constant reinforcements due to injury, but they’re getting Eric Kush back from injury and signed or re-signed a few decent backup options there. It’s not likely for Hall, but it’s possible.