Combine Profile: Chris Finke, Wide Receiver
Notre Dame has nine former players set to attend the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine, which begins next week. It is an opportunity for each player to improve his draft stock. Before it begins, Irish Breakdown will profile each former Irish player and discuss what’s at stake for him at the combine.
CHRIS FINKE, WIDE RECEIVER
Hometown/High School: Dayton, Ohio / Archbishop Alter
2019 Stats: 41 catches, 456 yards, 11.1 YPC, 4 TD’s
Career Stats: 106 catches, 1,251 yards, 11.8 YPC, 8 TD’s / 602 punt return yards
Overview: Finke began his career as a walk-on but quickly earned a scholarship. Head coach Brian Kelly awarded Finke a scholarship in August of his sophomore season (2016). Finke stepped into the punt return role late in 2016 and controlled that job for the final three seasons of his career. Finke was a backup wide receiver as a redshirt freshman, catching 10 passes for 122 yards and two scores, mostly in mop up duty.
Finke began the 2017 season in the rotation, playing 83 snaps in the first three games. Finke had three catches in the loss to Georgia, but his fourth-quarter drop of a crucial third-down pass proved costly. He faded from the rotation for much of the rest of the season, but he had made a clutch diving fourth quarter catch against LSU that set up Miles Boykin game-winning touchdown.
Finke had a breakout campaign in 2018, making his presence felt immediately.
Finke was a favorite target for quarterback Ian Book that season, especially on third down. The former walk-on had a number of quality performances, hauling in 49 passes for 571 yards, but his best was during Notre Dame’s late-season win at USC. The offense was sputtering in the first half, but Finke took over in the first half, hauling in seven passes for 86 yards and a touchdown to help the Irish stay in the game.
Finke had a disappointing senior season. His numbers were respectable - 41 catches, 456 yards, four touchdowns - but his overall play was subpar. Finke had some crucial early-season mistakes that included running a third-down route short of the sticks against Georgia, dropping a pass that got picked off against the Bulldogs and fumbling a punt return against Virginia that gave the Cavaliers excellent field position.
A strong route runner throughout his career, Finke wasn’t as crisp as a senior, struggled to get separation and he didn’t come down with the clutch grabs he did the previous season.
Finke did play better in November, hauling in 26 of his 41 catches and three of his four touchdowns in the final six games, but by then the Irish had already dropped two games and the pressure was off Finke and the rest of the team.
Despite two huge key drops against Georgia, Finke was otherwise a reliable pass catcher. According to Pro Football Focus, Finke was credited with just seven drops on 148 career targets, which gives him a better drop rate (4.7%) than Chase Claypool (7.7%) or Miles Boykin (5.1%). The player Finke is most compared to - former Clemson standout Hunter Renfrow - had a 4.0% drop rate.
What’s At Stake: Finke is likely to check in quite small at the combine, lacking height and length, but so did Renfrow, who measured in at just 5-10 and 184 pounds with 29 1/8” arms and 7 7/8” hands. Another player Finke will likely draw comparisons from a size and stature standpoint is 2019 second round draft pick Andy Isabella, who measured in at 5-9 and 188 pounds with 29 3/4” arms and 8 3/8” hands.
Finke will likely test better than Renfrow, and he’ll need to because Renfrow was far more productive and proven. Renfrow caught 80 more passes for 882 yards with seven more touchdowns. Isabella was even more productive, having caught 126 more passes than Finke for 2,296 more yards and 23 more touchdowns.
Finke had good production the last two seasons, but his dip in play and production in 2019 likely hurts his stock. If he can have a strong testing performance it would certainly help raise his draft status and likely get him on the board for some teams. Renfrow was a fifth round pick and Isabella was a second round pick, but his production doesn’t match either, which means his testing performance will be very important. If Finke doesn’t have a dominant combine the odds of him getting drafted will diminish.
I expect Finke to run faster than Renfrow (4.59), but I’ll be shocked if he comes close to the 4.31 that Isabella ran. But if Finke can get into the 4.4s that will certainly help his cause. I’m curious to see the other numbers Finke posts. Renfrow had an excellent 3-cone number (6.8), which was better than Isabella’s (6.95). Getting somewhere between those two would be good for Finke. Renfrow ran a 4.19 in the pro shuttle and Isabella posted a 4.15. Finke needs to be in that range, if not quicker.
Bench press reps aren’t overly important for wide receivers in most instances, but for Finke it’s a bit more important than it is for others. Finke lacks playing strength, or at least that’s what his film shows. If he can post good strength numbers it would help his case.