Potential Training Camp Surprises on Bears Roster

Players rise from obscurity or even failure to become starters or even stars all the time and the Bears have several potential candidates for the 2020 season
Publish date:

For three years, tight end Darren Waller toiled in total obscurity.

Waller played in 22 games, made four starts and 18 receptions while with Baltimore and the Raiders.

Now he's a star after a 90-catch season for Jon Gruden.

There are players out there, plenty of these secret stars waiting to happen.

Often they're stashed on the roster off of other practice squads or rosters with hopes the other team missed something while they focused in on another player.

Each NFL roster has obscure players capable of far more if given the opportunity.

The Bears are no different. 

Last year the Bears' training camp surprises were more injuries. Perhaps this year their surprises will be a few players no one expected much from who rise to a new level.

Here are a few potential surprises from their roster:

Tight End Eric Saubert

This is a former Drake player talked about in the run up to the draft much like Dayton's Adam Trautman was this year. He was his school's first drafted player since former Bear Pat Dunsmore in 1983 much like Trautman was the first drafted Flyer since 1977.

Saubert had some excellent measures with a 4.69-second 40, .01 faster than Cole Kmet ran, and he had a 7.29 three-cone drill with a 35 1/2-inch vertical leap. He also did 22 reps on the bench. Then he went on to wow scouts at the East-West Shrine Game.

Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network called him "...far and away the most athletic player at his position," during practices that week and Mike Mayock said he was "highly impressive."

The former Hoffman Estates player didn't go quite as high as Trautman, who was a third-rounder. Saubert was a fifth-round pick by Atlanta and came into a situation where he was trying to compete with Austin Hooper for playing time. That wasn't happening.

Then he was traded for a seventh-round pick to New England, which needed tight ends after Gronk retired. They quickly cut him. This was already at the end of preseason when the trade occurred and he didn't have time to figure out the offense or his situation. The Raiders brought him in for their practice squad before the Bears plucked him off of it at as November ended. Saubert actually got into two Bears games in December to make two receptions despite unfamiliarity with the playbook.

One key attribute GM Ryan Pace always looks at when he weighs players from lesser football schools is whether they were able to dominate their level.

Considering he had 56 receptions for 776 yards and 10 touchdowns in his final season, it's safe to say Saubert dominated.

Xavier Crawford

He's a cornerback who has played in five NFL games with the Texans and Dolphins after being a 2019 sixth-round Houston draft pick. Coming out of Central Michigan, Crawford did only a partial workout at the combine and impressed with a 4.48-second 40 and a 37 1/2-inch vertical. Later, he put up a pro day number largely unnoticed but it was a 6.6 in the three-cone drill. Although it didn't carry the punch of a workout at the actual combine, a 6.6 in Indianapolis would have netted him the third-best time regardless of position.

Crawford actually played most of his college career at Oregon State, but transferred for a final year when his position coach went to Central Michigan and made All-MAC his one year there with 12 pass breakups.

He's another player the Bears added in December, this time to the practice squad, after four games in Houston and one in Miami.

Reggie Davis

It's obvious Pace has great respect for the Georgia program because he drafted Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd, Riley Ridley and Javon Wims. Here's another Bulldogs wide receiver, but from before Ridley and Wims entered the league.

Unlike Wims and Ridley, Davis is a speed receiver. He wasn't at the combine but did run a 4.31-second 40 at Georgia's pro day.

The problem with Davis is he's been more a sprinter than a receiver. He never had more than 300 yards receiving in a college season and caught only two touchdown passes.

He's already been through the grinder with Dallas, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Cleveland.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder is in a position with a team needing more speed at receiver. The Bears are counting on a 35-year-old to be their fastest receiver, or a rookie draft pick.

There is a window of opportunity open for a player who other teams found no use for earlier in his career.

Devante Bond

This is a player who could have been miscast elsewhere and the Bears might find he can fit what they do better.

Bond is hardly an unknown quantity as a player who was at Tampa Bay and made six starts since 2017. He played 31 defensive snaps for the Bears last December after being cut by the Bucs, including 31 defensive snaps. Bond was a strong-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in Tampa Bay but has the perfect opportunity in Chicago's 3-4 inside with with Nick Kwiatkoski and Kevin Pierre-Louis gone in free agency and Joel Iyiegbuniwe yet to fulfill his fourth-round draft status. Bond also is ideal size for a Bears inside linebacker at 6-foot-1, 236 pounds. They have too many inside linebacker candidates in the 220-to 225-pound class and need some to add weight. Josh Woods, who is Bond's chief competition, is about the same size now but had to put on 20 pounds to get there.

Twitter: BearDigest@BearsOnMaven