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Analysis Bears

Bears: Dissecting the 2019 UDFA Class

The 2019 NFL Draft is over and the Chicago Bears made five selections. Trades for Khalil Mack and Anthony Miller left the club with a dearth of picks over the weekend and made the “8th round” of the draft especially interesting for the organization. After the draft is over, teams can begin signing players to free agent contracts that went un-drafted. In some cases, it’s better to be not selected than selected on day three due to the advantage of choosing a destination.

For example, the Chicago Bears used a 7th round selection on Florida Atlantic running back Kerrith Whyte. This was likely done strategically as a way to get this speedster into the organization. The Bears have a plethora of options in the backfield and might have had a tough time securing Whyte’s services as a free agent. There is a strategy involved as it pertains to the free-for-all that is un-drafted free agency.

Ryan Pace stated publicly this week that his intention was to sign 18-20 free agents after the draft to help fill his club’s 90-man offseason roster. I thought it would be more of a quantitative approach for the team due to having a roster that appears to be tough to crack on paper. Pace and his staff have done a fantastic job of supplementing the roster with quality during this period however. The General Manager confirmed the signings on the Mully and Haugh Show this morning on 670 The Score.

The draft is often referred to as the lifeblood of an organization and while that is true, players signed after the draft’s conclusion could be considered the pulse. The defending champion New England Patriots had close to 20% of their roster comprised of un-drafted players and there are more un-drafted players in the Hall of Fame than #1 overall picks. Pace and his scouting staff have had success signing contributors after the draft in the past and they are likely hoping to do so again.

Bryce Callahan (Broncos) and Cameron Meredith (Saints) are two noteworthy signings during Pace’s tenure. Roy Robertson-Harris (DL), Ben Braunecker (TE), Rashaad Coward (OL), Isaiah Irving (EDGE) and Kevin Toliver III (CB) are some of the additions in recent years who have been contributors. Free agent additions Taylor Gabriel (WR) and Trey Burton (TE) for signed after their respective drafts as well. During this current period, the scouting staff has landed the top available talent at tight end and wide receiver and one of the better interior offensive linemen as well.

While the roster will be a tough one to crack, the Chicago Bears have turned into a destination for players. This is evidenced by the 21 players about to sign free agent contracts to become members of the organization. There will also be many tryout players taking part in next weekend’s rookie mini-camp but I will delve further into the 21 new additions below.

Emanuel Hall WR Missouri

Hall was seen by many as the top receiver in the class that didn’t have a draft pick used on him. The 6’2″ 200 pound speedster from Franklin, Tennessee is a freak athlete who excelled in track and field and produced for the Tigers on the gridiron. Emanuel was projected to get drafted early on day three by many draft analysts and this stream of events will keep him hungry going forward as detailed by Alex Schiffer of the Kansas City Star.

Hall ran a 4.39 forty, posted a 43.5 inch vertical jump and an 11’8 broad jump proving his status as a 99th percentile SPARQ athlete. Hall is more of an athlete than a polished wide receiver but he can take the top off of a defense. He averaged nearly 25 yards per catch playing in the SEC and was named to the All Conference 2nd Team. Hall has a smooth release and is effective on “9” routes but he battled drops in his career and has fought lingering hamstring injuries.

The injuries prevented him from being drafted but he ends up in a great spot in Chicago. He should compete for a roster spot in year one and could develop into a contributor for the Bears. Nobody would have batted an eye if the club used one of their day 3 selections on him and this signing is like being awarded an extra mid-round selection.

Highlights courtesy of SJ Sports

Alex Bars OL Notre Dame

Bars was looking like a possible 3rd round pick early in the 2018 season but only played in 5 games for the Fighting Irish after suffering a fractured ankle. The 6’6″ 312 pounder made 12 starts at right tackle in 2016 and 13 games at right guard in 2017. Harry Hiestand, now the offensive line coach for the Bears, is very familiar with Bars and could potentially get the most out of him on the next level.

Alex has a thick body, plays with an aggressive style and can easily get to the 2nd level. He lacks core strength though and his initial punch could use some work. He also has a tendency to bend at the waist too often. If healthy, Bars likely gets drafted at some point on day three. Depth on the interior of the offensive line is a need for the Bears and Alex could be a nice project that could develop into a future starter down the line.

Highlights from HitStick Highlights

Dax Raymond TE Utah State

Raymond was considered to be a top 10 prospect in the class at his position by numerous draft analysts. The Utah State product stands 6’5″ and 255 pounds and ran a 4.73 in the forty with a 32 inch vertical. Dax served a two-year Mormon mission in Russia before enrolling at Utah State and will be a 24-year-old rookie because of it. He’s a natural hands catcher that has the speed to run up the seam of a defense. Raymond has good size and athleticism as well as a hard-working mentality with a high football IQ.

Dax needs to add more bulk to his frame if he’s going to play in-line as a Y tight end and he needs to improve poor hand usage that he displays at times as well. He should be able to help on special teams initially. Tight end is an important position in Matt Nagy’s offense and roster spots are available in Chicago. Raymond will be an interesting player to follow in training camp as he has a legitimate chance to make the roster and possibly contribute in year one.

Highlights from WatchStadium

John Baron II PK San Diego State

Baron scored 285 points for the Aztecs in his college career and made 98.5% of his attempted extra points. The left-footed kicker is 5’11” and 190 pounds and will have an opportunity to be the kicker for the Chicago Bears in 2019. The 23-year-old was 17-22 on field goals in 2018 and nailed five kicks from deeper than 50 yards. He was also perfect on PAT’s.

After the failures of the past in Chicago, there have been questions about place kickers all off-season. Baron II will compete with Redford Jones, Chris Blewitt and Elliott Fry for a roster spot with the Bears.

Highlights

Mathieu Betts EDGE Laval

The 6’3″ 254 pound defensive end will make the transition to outside linebacker in Chicago and play on the edge. Betts is 24-year-old and the Montreal native earned an invite to the East-West Shrine Game. Mathieu compiled 9 sacks in 6 games and has the most sacks ever in the Quebec Conference with 35.5. He displayed his excellent quickness and explosion at his Pro Day after posting a 6.77 3 cone time. Betts also ran the 40 yard dash in 4.7 seconds with a 29.5 inch vertical and 9’9 broad jump. He has an uphill climb to make the Bears’ roster but his story is an interesting one.

Highlights

Clifton Duck CB Appalachian State

Duck was named First Team All Sun Belt in 2018 and was a 2nd Team All America selection for his punt return ability. The 5’10” 190 pounder made 39 starts over three seasons for the Roadrunners. Clifton played well against Penn State and Georgia State and compiled 51 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception and 5 PBU’s on the season. Duck ran a 4.50 forty and is a bit of an undersized overachiever. He offers versatility on special teams and could compete for a practice squad spot with the Bears.

Clifton Duck vs Penn State

Marquez Tucker OL Southern Utah

Lance Zierlein of NFL.com lauded Tucker’s technique and the Two Time Big Sky selection is very strong (31 reps at 225 pounds at his Pro Day) and solid in pass protection as well. He needs to improve his pad level but he made 23 starts at LT and LG over the past two seasons. Tucker is 6’1″ and 300 pounds with 33 1/4 inch arms and fits best on the interior of the offensive line.

Highlights of Thunderbirds Pro Day by SUU Athletics

Sam Mustipher OL Notre Dame

Mustipher is another guy that offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is very familiar with. He’s likely a center at the next level and is listed at 6’3″ and 305 pounds. The Fighting Irish product lacks athleticism and ran a 5.59 forty at the Notre Dame Pro Day. Sam is a gritty player however who made 38 starts in South Bend. He has been hailed for his leadership ability and displays a strong work ethic.

Highlights from HitStick Highlights

Ellis Richardson TE Georgia Southern

Richardson was a standout QB at Douglas County High School in Georgia as a prep athlete. He went on to play the position at Alabama State as well before transferring to Georgia Southern. In two years with the Eagles, the 6’3″ 240 pounder has hauled in 5 touchdowns.

Highlights

Ian Bunting TE California

Bunting is a 6’7″ 255 pound blocking tight end from Hinsdale, Illinois. The 23-year-old played three seasons at Michigan before transferring to Berkeley. He compiled 195 yards in 7 games for the Bears.

California Bears Pro Day Footage

Chuck Harris EDGE Buffalo

The 6’4 255 pound edge rusher posted 6.5 sacks and 45 tackles during an injury riddled season for the Bulls. As a junior, Harris compiled 73 tackles with 4 sacks and was named Third Team All MAC.

Highlights

Dylan Carrol EDGE Grand Valley State

Carrol compiled 164 tackles, 33 tackles for loss and 15 sacks in 51 games with the Lakers. The 6’5 245 pounder posted a 4.76 second forty yard dash time with a 38 inch vertical, 10″5 broad jump and 30 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press at the Grand Valley State Pro Day.

Highlights from National Prospect ID

Lawrence Marshall DL Michigan

Marshall was a four year letterman at the University of Michigan and produced 68 tackles with 8 sacks and 3 forced fumbles. He is 6’4″ and 285 pounds.

Marshall tells MLive why he stayed for a 5th season

Jonathan Harris DL Lindenwood

Harris is an Aurora, Illinois, native and played his high school ball at Waubonsie Valley. The 6’5′ 290 pounder was a team captain and named to the MIAA All First Team in 2017. Jonathan posted 178 tackles and 22 sacks in his career.

Joe Lowery OL Ohio

Lowery was a three-year starter for the Bobcats and offers positional versatility. He has below average athleticism and shorter than ideal arms that likely limits him to the interior.

Thomas Ives WR Colgate

Ives is a 6’5″ receiver that played at Hinsdale Central High School prior to attending Colgate. He posted almost 900 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns in college.

John Wirtel LS Kansas

Wirtel is 6’3″ and 250 pounds and served as the primary long snapper for the Jayhawks this past season. Wirtel is an Orland Park, IL, native and played high school ball for Mount Carmel in Chicago. He will be given the opportunity to challenge Patrick Scales in camp.


Jordan Powell S Widener

The 6’1″ 190 pounder was a DIII All-American with 137 career tackles.
Highlights

Joshua Simmons DB Limestone

Simmons had 90 tackles in 2018 and played for Bears WR coach Mike Furrey in the past.

Blake Blackmar OL Baylor

The 6’5″ 325 pound Blackmar was a 5th year senior with the Bears and played in 51 career games.

Blackmar after spring practice

Ardarius Pickett S UCLA

Pickett had 49 tackles and an interception on the season.

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