The Unwanted - NFL Draft Leftovers

The NFL Draft is over, but we also wanted to take a look at a few of our Bears who are headed to training camps somewhere as undrafted free agents.  This doesn't mean that they won't make a NFL roster though, because you never know what might happen when these guys get to camp.

Mike Tepper

Tepper hasn't played like we all hoped he would, but the fact is that anyone in a position to secure even an undrafted free agent contract had one hell of a career, all things considered.  First, the positives:

Shows good recognition and discipline to stay at home against defensive line stunts, games, twists etc. However needs to show more awareness for pressures from the second level of defense. Can be a step late reacting as a result.

Has shown the mental toughness to fight through two major injuries throughout career and come back for season campaign this upcoming fall.

Inexplicably, that comment there earned him a rating of 3/5 in Intangibles, for Average.  It's like these guys don't even read what they're writing.

Strong, small area blocker who works hard. Stays square, displays ability as a position blocker and seals defenders from the action. Very good with his hands, stout at the point and keeps his feet moving throughout the action. Works well with linemates and displays good awareness. Jolts opponents with good hand punch.

And then of course, the negatives.

Takes good initial angles as an inline blocker. Has the strength to sustain and get movement on defenders when engaged in phone booth situations. Lacks athleticism and body control in space. Struggles to adjust to moving targets when pulling around edge. Also take questionable angles when climbing to the second level to cover up LBs.

Broke right fibula in a car accident in the summer of 2005. Missed the entire 2008 season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle prior to fall camp.

While technically true, that seems to miss the point entirely of exactly what it was that happened.  But I digress.

Lacks top footwork and struggles against edge rushers. Stiff, cannot adjust and lack of agility prevents him from finishing blocks.

He signed over the weekend with the Cowboys.  The consensus is that he might have a future as a practice squad player who could develop with some further coaching.  He seems to be a bit better as a run blocker than as a pass blocker, so he may fit in better as a RT than a LT at least initially (or even slide inside to G), which may make sense given that the Cowboys moved Doug Free to LT to fill the gap left by Flozell Adams, but it's not as if he's in a position to get groomed to start at each position - he's strictly a camp body for now.

Verran Tucker

Let's just say no one's entirely sure how good he is because of Riley's erratic arm.

Durability does not appear to be a major concern. Fought through a nagging calf injury this past fall but did not miss playing time. Also had to leave Orlando early at the East/West Shrine game after tweaking hamstring during practice.

Hands are consistent bringing in routine catches. However, can lose focus in traffic and needs to a better job of securing ball while absorbing hit. Displays good body control and long arms providing quarterback with big strike zone. Can open up and adjust to poorly thrown ball. Easy track of ball over the shoulder down the field.

Needs to gear up to reach top-end speed. However, possesses long strides that give him deceiving long speed to get behind defenders and stretch the field.

Release: Still developing his technique in this area, but has enough lateral agility and suddenness to defeat press coverage. Eats up the cushion against zone coverage and has a second gear to get behind the defense.

Hands: Better than expected. Shows soft hands to pluck the ball out of air, as well as the long arms to extend outside of his framework. Good body control to adjust to the poorly throw pass behind or low. A natural leaper who times his jump well and catches the ball at its highest point. May be able to make an immediate impact in the NFL as a red-zone target on fade routes due to this ability.

Underrated pass catcher with solid size/speed numbers. Fluid releasing off the line, uses good hand technique to get off jams, and fights hard to make the reception. Nicely adjusts to the errant throw, reaching back to make the difficult reception in stride. Good eye/hand coordination, keeps the play in bounds, and gives effort trying to pick up yardage after the catch.

Negatives?

Straight-line receiver at this point. Easy-mover when running go, fade, post and crossing routes. However, not effective working underneath coverage. He is tight in the hips and struggles to drop weight transitioning into breaks running in and out routes. Takes too long to gather at the top of stem with hitch, stop and comeback routes. Struggles getting off the line against press and questions to his ability to consistently separate from man coverage underneath at the next level. Shows adequate awareness working against zone coverage.

No off-the-field issues to our knowledge. Mental capacity is a minor concern at this point.

Route running: Quicker feet than you'd expect for a long, skinny-legged athlete, but remains quite raw in this area. Flashes the ability to plant his foot and drive for the slant route, but too often rounds off his longer routes, including the deep out and post, which will lead to NFL defensive backs easily recognizing the play. More sudden acceleration than most receivers his size, but is still learning how to use this to his advantage.

After the catch: Relies on his burst to slip by tacklers, rather than showing the strength his size would indicate to break free. Some lateral agility to elude, but isn't going to make a lot of plays on his own when he isn't hit in stride. Too often goes down to the first defender. Does have the burst to get free and into the open field, but lacks the elite speed to pull away.

Blocking: Doesn't offer much in this area. Possesses a long, lanky build with little overall muscle definition. Gets in the way of the defender, but doesn't have enough strength or the toughness yet to sustain blocks for long.

Intangibles: Isn't yet a finished product, as he only began playing football as a high school senior and has only five years experience, overall. Has the athleticism teams are looking for, but may struggle with a complicated playbook. Originally signed with a junior college due to his inability to score high enough on placement tests for a D-I school. Struggled academically during his time at Cal.

Has a thin build and may lose out in battles. Not polished and drops some catchable throws. Lacks the deep speed or second gear.

Tucker has been effective receiver for Cal the past two seasons and offers the underlying skills to be a fifth wide out at the next level. He needs to polish his game and pick up the tempo of his productivity yet a solid developmental prospect.

SI.com thought Tucker would go in the 6th, while ESPN.com had him ranked as the 29th best WR prospect in this year's draft.  To say that he has the underlying skills of a fifth wideout is really damning with faint praise because hardly anyone ever actually goes to five wide, and no team does so on a regular basis.  (Though Mike Martz always wants to, I'm sure.)

He's expected to sign with the Cowboys as well.  His future looks like it's that of a developmental receiver who will have to contribute on special teams if he wants to be active on game days.  While it's not the worst gig in the world, it's also a hazy enough job description where he'll have to be quite the special teams ace given the impressive depth in front of him, with Miles Austin, first round pick Dez Bryant, Roy E. Williams, Patrick Crayton, and Sam Hurd all ahead of him going into camp.

Nyan Boateng

He hasn't had the career that we all hoped for when he transferred from Florida, and we all recognize that.  Is he a player who could be a better pro than college player?

A shifty runner that flashes ability to make first defender. Determined runner that shows good fight to pick up extra yardage. Does not have elite play making ability and won't turn many short throws into long gains.

Gives consistent effort play in and play out. Competes and does not shy away from contact. Displays willingness to attack the middle of the field. Works hard to sustain blocks and is an effective cut blocker on the perimeter.

Nice-sized pass catcher who's flashed skill in the past. Uses his frame to shield away defenders, extends his hands and offers the quarterback a nice target. Easily adjusts to the errant throw and makes the reception in stride. Solid blocker downfield.

Not very informative, but let's see what else there is out there.

Still developing in this area. Shows good initial pop off the line of scrimmage. However, still needs work on attacking defenders technique to gain initial leverage. A bit tight in the hips and struggles get in and out of cuts in one fluid motion. Does a nice job of getting vertical and rolling it inside on intermediate dig route. Avoids traffic well running crossing routes attacking the middle of the field. Does not appear to have great field awareness in terms of quickly seeking out and sitting down in soft spots working against zone coverage.

Does not appear to have natural hands. Lets the ball into his frame too often and will double catch on occasion. Body control is average and struggles at times to open up hips and make catch outside frame. Flashes ability to catch the ball on the move without breaking stride.

Does not display naturally soft hands and all too often unnecessarily lets the pass get inside him. One-speed receiver and not a vertical threat.

It's always fun to read scouting parlance.  Does not appear to have natural hands.  What is he, Frankenstein?  But you get the idea.  A receiver who fights the ball and doesn't have great hands to make difficult catches isn't much of a receiver.  Or he's Brandon Lloyd, one of the two.

SI.com thinks Boateng has the measurables that could make him a good developmental receiver, though one who wouldn't be able to contribute right away.  The draft does seem to heavy on bigger receivers who might not be able to have a large role as every-down players, but could help in specific situations, like a red zone targets.  Boateng hasn't signed yet with anyone (that we know of) but given that teams are always looking to improve their red zone efficiency, he should go to camp somewhere.  Still, like Tucker, he's going to have to get his hands dirty on special teams if he wants to be active on game days.

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