I would suspect that a true scout at heart like Ryan Pace relishes this process even better than the draft itself. It’s a chance to roll up your sleeves and truly project. Sure, the process is the same as it is for players you actually draft no matter the round. You do your background work the same as you do with your first rounder as you do the last player you sign to a college free agent. You break down tape, You attend their college all star practices, you interview them, attend their pro days and the combine if invited, you give them private workouts and everything else involved in the pre draft process. However, generally it’s all forecasting.
Most UDFA’s are not drafted for a reason. Be it for athletic reasons, IQ reasons, off-field reasons, injury red flag reasons or they’re specialists like Long snappers for example. Sometimes it’s just too hard to project players at the next level wo come from smaller schools playing against less talented players and being coached by second level coaching. It’s pretty much all traits based evaluation when it comes to identifying roster-able players. Sometimes, they become even more. Sometimes you even find a blue chipper.
The Bears just lost a player who was a UDFA that turned into one of the best players at his position in Bryce Callahan who parlayed that into a very nice contract with the Denver Broncos. They also have Roy Robertson-Harris who has been a very good player as a rotational Defensive lineman who gives them versatility as well. They also have Rashaad Coward who himself was a UDFA and looks like he is well liked by this administration and may be in line to take over the right Tackle spot once Bobbie Massie’s time is done with the Bears. The Bears have others on the roster and signed to reserve/future contracts who are former college free agents and have a chance at making the roster.
The Bears are not the only team adding developmental players via the college free agent route. There are players all over the league who are valuable special teams players, key backups, rotational players and even starters. Some even pro bowl starters. It’s yet another tool that if used correctly can be valuable in building your roster. Here are some names I researched and thought might be targets for the Bears. I fully expect the Bears to be very active in college free agency. Especially with only five picks and only one late in day 2 of the draft. There’s also a glaring need at kicker the Bears may attempt to solve via this avenue. Expect to hear of a lot of signings once the draft ends. Perhaps even a few of the names on this list. Keep in mind some of these names may have gotten drafted as I posted this before the draft ended so don’t @ me on it if that’s the case please.
Donald Parham – Stetson: There is a possibility that Parham is drafted due to his size. At 6’8″ with a 36 1/8″ arm length he profiles as an excellent jump ball/red zone target. The biggest issue with Parham is the fact that he is slight and looks like a basketball player. Someone with a creative offensive mind should be able to scheme some catches for Parham. The Bears head coach Matt Nagy certainly qualifies as that. He has good hands and at his pro day showed good athleticism and had a very good workout displaying good hands and the ability to catch the ball. He isn’t slow as he ran in the high 4.6’s and had a 38.5 Vert.
Isaiah Searight – Fordham: Searight is long limbed pass catching Tight End with very good movement skills to play the U in Nagy’s system which may garner interest from the team. He does need a bunch of development which is why he goes undrafted but the skill set is there for an exciting developmental move Tight end.
Daniel Helm – Duke: Helm is a local kid of sorts coming out of Illinois as an All-State Tight End in high school. wasn’t used much as a pass catcher but should be a nice U TE option in Nagy’s offense. Has real good athleticism and can block some too. he also profiles as a core special teamer at the next level.
Kendall Blanton – Missouri: Blanton is a huge TE (6’6″ 262) with long arms at nearly 34″ arms and huge 10 3/8″ hands make him a nice target to use as a possession or red zone target and even as a bailout option for Mitch Trubisky. He moves better than his combine numbers would suggest when you see him on the field. He profiles as a Y TE.
Jerome Washington – Rutgers: Washington is an athletic TE who played mostly H-back at Rutgers. Shows good athleticism and body control to adjust to off target throws. Didn’t really produce but shows enough ability to develop on a practice squad as a Tight End. Definitely has the size 6’3″ 241 and skill set to project as a U TE in Matt Nagy‘s system.
Kerrith Whyte – Florida Atlantic: Whyte has not been talked about a lot as Singeltary was FAU’s starter and got about half the touches of Singletary. However, He is even more explosive of a player albeit not as developed as his combine numbers tell you 4.36 40/42″ vert./11′ broad jump. While more explosive he is not as elusive preferring to accelerate through tackles than rather avoid them. He was also extremely productive with his opportunities. He was an honorable mention for All Conference USA last season. Not bad for a backup. He accumulated 134 carries for 866 yards 6.5 average with 8 TDs rushing while also contributing as a receiver with 10 catches for 160 yards with a 16.0 average with 2 TDs receiving. He’s a real asset to special teams as he was named 2nd team all conference as a kick returner returning 19 for a 28.7 yard average and a TD.
Marquise Young – UMASS: Young is a stout back 5’11” 211 with very good athleticism 4.47 40, 37.5 vertical and a 10’3″ Broad jump at his pro day. He was very good out of the backfield as a catcher with 99 receptions in his career. He is elusive in the open field and shows good vision with good contact balance which fits in with Pace’s requirements for a back.
Alec Ingold – Wisconsin: Ingold is a FB who has some skill as a runner and receiver. With an already crowded RB room it would be a slight surprise if the Bears signed a FB but it’s possible because he does stand out above the rest as a blocker as well as a receiver and occasional runner which could contribute on 3rd downs. He also figures to be a key special teamer as a pro. 21 TD’s is very good production for a FB at any level of football yet alone in the Big Ten.
James Williams – Washington State: Williams is one of my favorite Backs in the entire draft. By far the most accomplished pass catcher from this RB class with over 200 catches who runs a diverse route tree and can be split out wide or motioned into the slot. Good hands and body control to haul in off target throws. He’s smaller 5′ 9″ 197 but is tough and stout especially below the waist. Pretty good athlete with a 36.5 vert. 10′ broad jump, 7.01 3-cone. Would give incredible value here.
Joe Connor – Concordia (MI): Connor is a bit of a hidden gem here coming out of a small school. He has good size 5’10” 201 with explosive athleticism and nice production out of college. Can do a bit of everything but like most Backs needs to learn to contribute in pass pro if he’s eventually going to get on the field in the NFL on nickel downs.
Darwin Thompson – Utah State: Thompson is a smaller back who runs like a bigger back not afraid to stick his nose inside and lower a shoulder on a DB. Averaged a TD every 6.8 carries with 14 on only 153 rushes. Had a great pro day running a 4.5 40 39″ vert. and a 10’6″ broad jump who can catch the ball well as an outlet receiver.
Graig Reynolds – Kutztown: Reynolds brings good size at 5’10” 212 and has nice athleticism as he showed at his pro day. He’s also a very good option to throw to out of the backfield with 40 catches this past season as a RB.
Bruce Anderson – North Dakota State: Anderson has NFL RB size (5’11” 210) who is a former track star and it shows on the field. He did test surprisingly poor for someone considered a burner at his pro day with a 4.58 40. However, on tape you see him consistently win the edge and separate from would be tacklers once he gets into the open field. Vision is questionable so he’ll need development.
Aeris Williams – Mississippi State: Williams is a good sized back 6′ 215 with decent athleticism who seems to thrive in a zone blocking scheme. He’s also a willing blocker and should contribute on special teams. Good developmental Running Back who would land on the practice squad with the Bears loaded at RB.
DJ Montgomery – Austin Peay: Montgomery brings some interesting physical traits with him 6′ 1″ 201 with long arms 32 1/2″ and big strong sure hands 10 1/8″. Had a great pro day running a 4.41 40 and jumping 37.5 vertical showing explosion. He’s a big play receiver averaging 19 yards a catch and a TD every 4.2 receptions in 2018. Has great movement skills and feet to get in and out of his breaks. Should be a nice option in the red zone too.
Scott Miller – Bowling Green State: Miller is another local product out of Barrington Illinois. He’s a prototypical slot receiver with extra value as a possible returner on special teams. He’s tiny by NFL standards (5’9″ 174). He definitely needs to put on some weight and work his tail off in the weight room. He does offer exciting possibility as a specialist on nickel downs and in some specialty sub sets from the creative mind of Nagy. He has high end speed (4.39 40) and quick twitch. He is not as thick but does offer Tyreke Hill like ability as a play maker.
Olamide Zaccheaus – Virginia: Zacccheaus like Miller is another tiny (5’8″ 188) but speedy and explosive slot receiver who has questionable hands. If the Bears feel good about his work ethic he may be able to improve in that area. He profiles as a perfect gadget player. He routinely took short passes and turned them into explosive plays. It wold be a nice thing to have a player who can take a high percentage short throw and turn it into a big play. Bears now have a bunch of possession types and need to stock up on some of these waterbug slot types into the mix.
Terry Godwin – Georgia: Pace seems to love the Georgia program so why not add yet another one and put 3 WR’s from there who are former teammates in the same room together. Godwin is yet another great technician when it comes to route running. More quick than fast he’s smooth in and out of breaks and has good reliable hands and can high pint contested catches well.
Jaylen Smith – Louisville: Smith Is big 6’2″ 220 with long arms almost 34″ and is fast (4.47), explosive and athletic. He’s also strong and tough and is a great technician as a route runner. However there are questions about his work ethic as his 2018 tape shows bouts of a lack of effort and interest. A contrast from 2016 and 2017 when he was extremely productive and seemed interested. Bears will have to find out if he was pouting because of worse QB play once Lamar Jackson left for the NFL.
Marcus Green – Louisiana Monroe: Green is yet another speedy (4.39) slippery slot receiver who is small 5’8″ but has a little thickness to him 190lbs. He relies on pur speed and athleticism as he can jump a little too but struggles to haul in contested passes so his hands and route running need work. Can contribute as a returner as well. A possible practice squad developmental slot.
Ashton Dulin – Malone: Dulin is a specimen with prototypical size/speed/athletic traits of an NFL WR1. He does need development however as a route runner and learning the pro passing game. However he brings size (6’1″ 215), length (33 3/8″ arms) and speed (4.43). He’s pretty agile (7.0 3-cone) and explosive (38″ vert./10’2″ Broad Jump). He also is positional transcendent being used as a runner, receiver and returner and scored 22 TD’s the last two years in a variety of ways.
Greg Dortch – Wake Forest: Dortch is a small 5′ 7″ 173 slot receiver with great quicks and route running savvy and toughness and does not mind at all catching routes inside. Will contribute on special teams as a return as well. He could add that extra dimension to Nagy’s offense that the Bears may not have after Turbo Gabriel’s time is up with the Bears.
Johnnie Dixon – Ohio State: Dixon is a small slot but powerfully built who can handle all the inside routes you want in a slot. He may go undrafted but he has an excellent chance of making an NFL team right out of training camp. Has experience playing big time college ball coming out of the Big Ten and the moment shouldn’t be too big for him. Not terribly productive because there aren’t that many balls to go around with a roster filled with big time athletes and recruits. He’s fast 4.41 40. He’s explosive with a 38″ vertical and a 10’2″ broad jump. An excellent candidate to return kickoffs for the Bears and play gunner as well.