With the Rookie mini camp concluded I thought it’d be a good time to take a look at some of the Bears new faces. I chose to feature the new offensive skill position players the Bears have drafted and signed to college free agent deals. The Bears have an impressive amount of new rookie weapons to aid Matt Nagy with his play calling and Mitch Trubisky with his execution of Nagy’s offensive play calls.
They all bring different things to the table and I’ll be going over them in this blog. I’ll also be attempting to identify how they’ll be integrated into the Bears ever expanding playbook. Let’s get the Undrafted Free Agents out of the way first. Not only do I feel they have a chance to make the team I fully expect them to. Let’s take a look at what they bring to the table along with a little player bio.
Emanuel Hall – Missouri WR: Hall finished 2018 ranked second according to Pro Football Focus in yards per route run (4.14) and fourth in passer rating when targeted (141.8) and he did it while having the second highest depth of target (20.3) out of all FBS draft eligible Wide-outs. He also averaged over 22 yards per grab. He isn’t a seasoned Wide Receiver yet but his raw physical ability is something that just leaves your mouth agape. First you start with his size (6′ 2″ 201 33 1/4″ arms 9′ 3/4″ hands). Than there’s what he can do with that frame (4.39 40, nearly a 44″ vertical 11′ 9″ broad jump). Had elite 10 and 20 yard numbers as well showing off his acceleration off the line of scrimmage. He did not run the 3-cone however. His overall RAS (relative athletic score was an amazing 9.92 tied for the highest score of all the WR’s in this class along with Hakeem Butler.
His route tree will have to improve but he has all the tools to do that and does run the routes he can run now, well. Sinks his hips nicely and has very sharp decisive cuts he executes on the drop of a dime which helps him get in and out of his cuts quickly. However, at this point you can literally script like 5 plays for him and throw them in here or there and you’ll get results until he learns the intricacies of his craft. With great route technicians as his teammates and the pro coaching I would suspect that won’t take that long for him if he’s serious about being a pro receiver. He didn’t get a lot of action but did well with what he got. In 17′ and 18′ combined, he caught 70 balls for nearly 1,640 yards and 14 scores.
It’s going to be hard to keep him on the season roster with all the bodies they currently have, but with that said, I’d be shocked if he wasn’t. An injury may occur or he can simply play so well he beats out an established player. The likely scenario is the Bears just carry 7 Wide Receivers with him on it or they create some mystery injury and IR him and develop him for next season. It’s not likely the Bears try to sneak him over to their practice squad which in my opinion will not work. He’ll likely get picked up by some receiver needy team come cut time. Especially if he shows well in the pre-season opportunities he gets which I see happening unless the Bears purposely hold him back to hide him from the rest of the league. I would not be a bit surprised if the Bears just kept his pre-season game reps limited as to not expose him to the rest of the league thus increasing their chances of sneaking him through waivers. With a player that had a 4th round grade by most higher by some, but draftable by all, you try and do everything to keep him on your roster. My best guess is he’ll be integrated as an X at first and than be taught the other spots as the Bears require their receivers to handle all 3 positions out of their Wide Receivers.
Hall is known for his size and insane speed/athleticism and it shows here. Playing Split End on the left boundary he takes a hard step forward ensuring the CB continues in his back pedal to create space between he and the defender. He then cuts hard inside along the line of scrimmage and in one act receives the short pass and makes a quick move to his left avoiding the hard charging DB and picking up the 15+ yard play for a first down.
Hall begins his route by using his strength to run through contact on press technique by the Cornerback and proceeds down the left sideline on a go route. This makes the defender bite hard on the go to keep up with Hall’s elite speed than breaks off the route for a beautifully executed back shoulder completion showing off his balance and ability to contort his body to haul in off target passes even though this was clearly a planned back shoulder pass.
Here, Hall reads inside leverage on press and makws the right choice to turn it to the outside along the sideline for the score on the fly route.
Dax Raymond – Utah State TE: Raymond Has the prototype body and athletic traits to play the U Tight End position employed in Nagy’s offense. Most of the draft media had him going no later than early 6th. He goes 6′ 5″ 255 and although he isn’t a great blocker he has the willingness to stick his nose in there and go toe to toe with his assignment on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He’s a pretty good athlete while not elite having a fairly pedestrian RAS score of 6.27. Ran a 4.73 40 at the combine and showed some short area quickness with a 7.15 3-cone drill. He does moves pretty good for a bigger man which should help him run precise routes and create separation.He shows natural hands to catch the ball away from his frame. He also shows the ability to adjust to off target throws. As I alluded to his blocking technique could stand to use some work. He does well with targeting blocks as an H-Back. Needs work on his pass pro as most young Tight Ends entering the NFL do. Part of that is also him getting stronger. Needs to put in some serious work in the weight room. Had decent production especially coming out of a run first offense. Had 41 catches for 456 yards (11.5) and a TD in 2017 and in 2018 has 27 receptions for 345 (12.8) and 2 TD’s. Aside from blocking and catching the ball Raymond will have to become a core special teamer until he can prove he can handle some snaps on offense. While I don’t see the next Travis Kelce or George Kittle in him he certainly can have the same career current Bears U Tight End Trey Burton.
In this GIF I have two plays that show his route running savvy and athletic fluidity.First play, he executes a combo route with the slot receiver running a quick In route while the slot runs a intermediate level out route. On the second play he runs a quick slant off the RPO for a big gain and a near score.
Here, Raymond leaks out into the middle of the field on a stop route and with no wasted motion catches the quick toss and turns on the Jets sprinting in for the score.
On this play, Raymond runs a quick out lined up from the H-back position so there is the threat of a run play here. He crosses from the left hash into the right flat and in one motion catches the ball and sprints down the sideline showing his speed and agility as a RAC receiver.
On this next play, Raymonds shows his ability to threaten the seam which should keep safeties honest or pay the price. On this play, he scores the TD and indeed makes the defense pay.
Now on to the drafted guys. Right up front I fully expect the entire draft class to make it including the two Cornerbacks they drafted. I think the talent and scheme fits play a huge part of it but also the fact they need to add bodies to pad their depth on the cheap. They also have to plan for the future and develop players who will inevitably leave via free agency or by way of getting cut due to roster attrition. Building a solid pipeline of talent is very important to sustaining success in the NFL. Having a roster loaded with talent helps to develop these guys and get them ready to roll when vets leave. It also is cost effective and helps navigate the treacherous waters of NFL free agency to keep yourself in a healthy place relative to your cap space. There are three to profile here.
David Montgomery – Iowa State RB: This pick is more of a love affair then it is talent acquisition. The Bears loved him, he loved the Bears. It was clear that love affair developed during his visit at Halas hall. He fits the culture, character and the skill set the Bears are looking for out of their main Running back option. In a recent press conference after the second rookie mini-camp, Montgomery was asked about whether he looked at specific teams including the Bears about scheme fit and whether he had hoped to get drafted there. His response was yes and that the Bears were on top of his list. He then was asked is he was happy being drafted in the 3rd round or would he have preferred to go in the 1st or 2nd to another team and he said he would rather be here in the third round. I know this is usually what prospects say about their new teams but you get the impression he is absolutely sincere. This appears to be a match made in football heaven.
Aside from the fact he seems to love being a Bears and wanted to be here all along what else does he bring to the table? Well, number one he is the ultimate high character player and the epitome of what a teammate should be. Team captain material which he absolutely seems destined for. He also brings max effort when on the football field. Combining contact balance with superb pad level he is tough to bring down on initial contact during tackle attempts. This makes him valuable as a stick mover and on goal-line situations. He’s also a very fluid athlete which is probably the biggest difference between he and former Bears back Jordan Howard and why he’s here and Howard’s not.
Montgomery is not a burner but he is cat quick and has the ability to make tacklers miss in the hole and the open field. His RAS score is about at average athleticism for NFL Running Backs with a 5.27 score, which was hurt by his vertical and 40 yard dash results. He’s not slow however, as he ran in the low 4.6’s. He’s just not going to run away from many DB’s. He is most comped to Kareem Hunt as a football player which is perfect in this offense. He is a great route runner with great hands who can adjust to the ball when off target. Something Howard struggled with so unlike Howard he doesn’t need a perfect ball to haul it in. He also is very good in pass pro so his value on 3rd downs is immense as a do it all back. His production speaks for itself while at Iowa State but what makes it even more impressive is the fact his offensive line was basically trash. Imagine what he can accomplish with a much better offensive line in front of him like the one he’ll have in front of him with the Bears.
On this play, you see Montgomery’s ability to bounce it outside after having no holes inside and his cutting ability as he avoids a tackle cutting to the inside. He than displays how hard he is to tackle with his relentless running style.
Next, Montgomery shows his ability to plant and go once his plus vision sees the hole open for a breif moment. It’s a very clever play. Iowa State shows an overloaded formation to the right and pre snap shift the overload to the left side of the formation by motioning the two Tight Ends on that side of the formation but still run the play to the right.
In this next GIF, there are two play that put Montgomery’s vision and cutting ability on display. Both runs start inside that he bounces out once he sees the holes close.
On this play, Montgomery displays those quick feet of his navigating through the trash for a first down after a near loss in the backfield.
On this play, he has a Walter Payton-esque run bouncing off tacklers and displaying his devastating stiff arm putting a hopeful tackler on the ground with it as he plows ahead grinding out yardage with a relentless violent effort.
Here, Montgomery jukes the jock off of a Linebacker that meets him in the hole that turns a would loss into a big play.
In this GIF, you a play the Bears use quite a bit in their playbook. It’s a simple shovel pass turned into a huge play. Something we should expect to see a lot of.
Riley Ridley – Georgia WR: Ridley will be a big part of this offense. That’s my big hot take here with him. Not exactly going out on a limb with a 4th rounder most had going in the 2nd. However, with the insane depth the Bears have it makes that statement a little more out of the box than one would usually expect it to be. Ridley is another guy that scored a less than impressive RAS score. His score was under 5.00 which makes him a below average athlete according to NFL standards. His vertical hurt him a lot here at 30.5 and his 3-cone wasn’t all that impressive at 7.22 but he plays a lot quicker and shows more explosion on the football field. The Vertical is surprising because all you see from him when he goes up for 50/50 balls is catch after catch. His broad jump was solid which makes his vertical all the more perplexing. He isn’t slow with a 4.58 40 but certainly he’s not a guy who’s going to take the top off of a defense.
Riley is going to win with IQ, technique, and physicality. That is his game. He is a perfect fit with this team as the Bears run a lot of read routes as well as combination routes. He should be a natural fit as a hot read option given his attention to detail reading coverages and than breaking off routes and simply turning to look for the ball on stop routes. His route running is thought to be among the best in this class which compensates for the lack of quick twitch and raw speed to get consistent separation. He did not et a lot of opportunities at Georgia as they ran the ball a lot and spread it around their vast amount of weapons. However, when they needed a reception to extend a drive Ridley was the guy Kyler Murray looked for.
Another skill Ridley brings with him is his willingness to block both in the run game and down-field after one of his teammates catches a pass. This will help the Bears screen game out tremendously as well as the run game. His blocking will come in handy on special teams in the return game as will his physicality in the coverage phase of special teams. Ridley fits in perfectly to the culture and the scheme of the team.Here, Ridley shows his ability to track the ball over his shoulder while on the dead run.
In this GIF, Ridley shows his awareness, agility and concentration walking a tight rope along the sideline staying in bounds for a big catch.
On this clip, Ridley shows superb body control comforting himself in one motion and catching the back shoulder pass for the score. Of course, in the pros he’ll have to keep both feet in bounds for it to count.
On this next video, Ridley shows off his footwork defeating press by shifting to the outside shoulder of the Cornerback and still catching the ball over his shoulder in the middle of the field on the hash in spite of inside leverage while also displaying his sneaky speed.
In this GIF, he shows his sharp cutting ability executing a post route for the score. On the second. Play Ridley finds the soft spot in zone coverage and is exactly where the Quarterback expects him to be. This is the type of responsible route running Mitch Trubisky will be able to rely on.
On this play, Ridley runs a skinny post for the score. He gets the proper separation and shows off his strong reliable hands to snag the canon throw from Jake Fromn.
Kerrith Whyte – Florida Atlantic RB: Speed, speed, speed! That’s what Whyte brings to the table. To be honest if Whyte were the only RB the Bears drafted I’d have been very happy with the pick. I feel he’s destined to be a much better pro than he was a collegiate player. Of course it all depends on how you define better. He may not quite have the counting stats to show for it on this team as the weapons are vast and deep and there simply isn’t enough balls to go around but I will go out on a limb and say his percentage of big plays per touches will be among the highest on the team.
I actually see him running a lot of the plays Nagy schemed up for Tyreke Hill. Not saying he’ll get converted to Wide Receiver but he will run a lot of the same razzle dazzle routes and jet sweeps Hill did. To what success who knows but both he and Hill are similarly built and like the comp between Hunt and Montgomery are eerily similar. The vitals on Hill are as such; 5’10” 185 lbs., 30 1/2″ arms, 4.28 40 at his pro day. Whyte, 5’10” 197 lbs, 29 7/8″ arms, and a 4.36 40 at his pro day 13 lbs heavier than Hill. In Saturday’s post rookie mini-camp presser Nagy offered an unsolicited gushed filled description of Whyte’s speed saying something to the effect,” Some guys time well in the 40 but not all live up to it on the field. Some guys you can feel the speed on the football field. You guys see K-Dub? You see him on that go route we threw to him in practice? The kid can fly!” It’s that type of commenting that gets me excited about what Nagy can scheme up for him because he in fact, is excited.
The mis-matches they can exploit with Whyte is something that should make whatever personnel grouping he’s involved with extremely hard to defend. Both as the main option and as a diversion to help out his teammates succeed when it’s their turn to get the ball. I can see crossers, rub routes, double reverses, Jet sweeps, leak routes, draw plays, shovel passes, option routes galore and whatever evil genius plays Nagy, Mark Helfrich, Brad Childress and Harry Heistand can scheme up.Here, is an example of the type of things I see Nagy doing with Whyte in relation to how he used Hill in Kansas City.On this play, Whyte lines up in an H-back type of look and on the snap pulls left and the Quarterback in shotgun flips him the ball as he crosses his face and he takes it all the way home for the score.
Here, you see the explosive play making ability from Whyte on kickoffs. According to the scout who was featured on this video he is a 4 phase special teamer. Imagine having he and Cordarrell Paterson back on a kickoff on either side of the boundary.
The most obvious trait Whyte brings is speed and explosion and with good reason, he’s fast and explosive. Duh. However he does have excellent contact balance as well and it’s on display here as he take a low hit with a DB or LB coming in like a missile and hitting him on his right side and he simply goes with the contact like a good boxer goes with a punch and continues toward the end zone. He also displays his power with a riding another defender on his back into the end zone.
In conclusion, the Bears decided to go with proven, seasoned and ready to contribute day one prospects that aren’t elite athlete’s with their first two picks. withtheir last three choices they elected to go with elite athletes in the late rounds with upside to contribute in special packages designed to either exploit the favorable matchup or match it across from their opponents, as well as, contribute to special teams. Time will tell how this plays out but with the limited picks in this year’s draft the Bears have to feel pretty good about their haul especially with how they supplemented it via the UDFA market. With the offense getting a few new playmakers this should propel the Bears into the top half of the league offensively. Especially in year two of the offense and the further development of Mitch Trubisky.