The NFL draft is more than just seven rounds.
The Bears have already signed eight undrafted free agents (that we know of) to round out their 2020 draft class. Most undrafted free agents won’t ever take a snap in the NFL and it is even less likely any ever becomes anything more than depth.
However, each year some undrafted free agents catch the league by surprise. Is there anyone in this class that can do the same?
LB Rashad Smith (Florida Atlantic)
Smith was a three-year starter for Florida Atlantic University at outside linebacker and accumulated 280 tackles, 29 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks and six interceptions in that time. He culminated his career by earning Boca Raton Bowl MVP honors by leading the Owls to a win over SMU with 11 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
Smith’s biggest weakness is his size. He is listed at only 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. He is a bit of a tweener and doesn’t have the coverage ability to play at safety. He’ll have to make his living as a nickel linebacker if he wants to see the field as a defender.
Given his athleticism and tenacious style of play, Smith should be able to carve a role for himself as a special teams ace.
If any undrafted free agent has a chance to stick on the final 53-man roster, it’s Smith. With the loss of Nick Kwiatkowski, the Bears do not have much behind incumbent starters Roquan Smith and Danny Trevathan. Rashad will have to compete with Josh Woods and Joel Iyiegbuniwe for a spot on the roster, which will most likely come down to their ability on special teams.
RB Artavis Pierce (Oregon State)
Pierce is a four-year contributor for Oregon State, playing a complementary role to bigger running backs Jermar Jefferson and current Bear Ryan Nall. For his career, Pierce averaged 5.8 yards per carry, and the last two seasons that number jumps all the way up to 6.4. More importantly, he proved he can be a reliable receiver in the passing game with 38 receptions for 318 yards over the last two seasons.
At 5-foot-10 and 210 pounds with 4.5 speed, Pierce can be a valuable asset for an offense.
He will compete with Nall for the final running back spot on the roster – although I fully expect a veteran to be brought in to compete.
Best case scenario for Pierce: practice squad.
DL Trevon McSwain (Duke)
McSwain is a prospect that has size, length and athleticism, but he still needs to hammer out the finer details of his game before he can contribute to an NFL team. At 6-foot-6, 292 pounds with over 35-inch arms, he has prototypical size for the 5-technique defensive line position.
His biggest issue, as is the issue with most tall defensive linemen, is maintaining his pad level. McSwain plays too high and loses leverage in the run game. He has the tools to work with but is a long way from where he needs to be making him a practice squad option at best.
DL LaCale London (WIU)
London is a hometown kid from Peoria, Illinois with good size for the five-technique position at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds. He originally enrolled at Iowa Central Community College before transferring to Western Illinois University for his junior and senior seasons.
In his first season at Western Illinois, he earned Missouri Valley Conference All-Newcomer team honors with 7.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He followed that up with 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks as a senior. London is most likely just a camp body and has an uphill battle to make the team at a loaded position.
OL Dieter Eiselen (Yale)
Eiselen is from South Africa and is a former rugby player and Olympic weightlifter who had no football experience just six years ago. At Yale, he started 34 straight games to close out his career at left guard. He has good size at 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds and has earned All-Ivy League honors each of the past three seasons.
Given the jump in competition – and his still relative newness to the sport – Eiselen seems like a prime candidate for the practice squad this year. He also seems to have more upside than a lot of other undrafted free agents and could potentially be a contributor down the road.
OL Badara Traore (LSU)
Traore served as the backup right tackle for the National Champion LSU Tigers. He was the top-rated junior college player before joining LSU. He has good size at 6-foot-6 and 333 pounds, but given the fact he was not a starter his last season of college, it is hard to envision the Bears expecting him to compete for a roster spot.
This seems like an instance of the Bears needing someone to be a camp body and nothing more.
TE Ahmad Wagner (Kentucky)
Wagner started his college career as a basketball player at Iowa before transferring to Kentucky to try his hand at football. His basketball background shows in his style of play as he doesn’t create much separation, but at 6-foot-5, 234 pounds, he does create matchup problems for smaller defenders.
He was a mismatch player for Kentucky, catching 15 passess for 254 yards and two touchdowns this season while also drawing 12 pass interference penalties on only 42 targets.
Given his rawness, Wagner likely has no shot of making the final 53-man roster, but he is a high-upside player you can stash on the practice squad for a few years while he learns the nuances of the game.
LB Ledarius Mack (Buffalo)
If the name and school sound familiar that’s because the Bears signed Khalil Mack’s brother. Ledarius played edge for Buffalo in college and was fairly successful as a senior, racking up 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks.
He is too undersized for the outside and will need to convert to an off-ball inside linebacker in the NFL. Given his position change and lack of elite production at a small school, it is fair to wonder if he would have been signed had he not been Khalil’s brother.