Chicago Bears Rookie Grades (Part 2)

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

I covered the Chicago Bears drafted rookies in part 1 of my rookie grades which also included an overview of the rookies season and an overall grade of the Bears draft. In part 2 below I’ll be covering the Bears undrafted rookies, who actually played a significant part in the Bears improvement on defense this season.

The Bears were one of the most aggressive teams on the NFL wavier wire this season, constantly churning the bottom 5-10 roster spots. There were quite a few misfires, but the Bears did find some valuable players throughout the season like DE Bruce Gaston, S Harold Jones-Quartey, WR/KR Deonte Thompson. The Bears were also willing/forced to give the waiver wire players significant playing time due to all of the injuries this season.

Most undrafted free agents end up on the practice squad or at best the special teams unit, but the Bears relied on undrafted rookies in key defensive positions for most of the season. There were some players banished to the bench or given their outright release due to mistakes on the field, but the Bears did find some useful players from the undrafted player pool and a couple of them have the chance to become core pieces of the Bears future.

I’ll be breaking down the performance of the the Bears undrafted rookies and giving them an overall season grade below.

Bears Rookie Grades (undrafted)

CB Bryce Callahan – I’m wrong on my fair share of lightly-regarded prospects, but my Callahan love was right on. He was a borderline dominant corner in college (Rice) leading all FBS freshmen with 6 picks and 15 pass deflections and finishing his college career with 13 interceptions overall. Callahan’s numbers would have been more impressive, but he was rarely targeted his last two years at Rice despite covering the other teams best receiver and only being barely 5’9.

Most draft sites projected Callahan as a mid-to-late day 3 pick, but luckily for the Bears he went undrafted. His lack of height was the most likely reason that Callahan went undrafted, but his 43-inch vertical and 40 time as low as 4.37 allow him to make up for his lack of size.

Callahan made the Bears opening day roster and started the season as part of the special teams coverage unit. After missing a tackle on a Cardinals kick return TD, Callahan was released and banished to the practice squad until week 8. When he returned to the active roster, Callahan was moved to the slot corner position to replace the struggling Sherrick McManis.

Callahan had never played the slot corner position in college, but showed a natural knack for it right away. He gave the Bears a physical presence at the position that they didn’t get from McManis. Callahan was aggressive against both the run and the short passing game and was a sure tackler despite his small stature. For the season Callahan had 21 tackles, 3 pass breakups, and a sack.

More importantly I can only think of one big play Callahan allowed, a 37-yard slant play against the Rams. I’m sure there were others, but for an undrafted rookie who had never played the slot before, Callahan was a pleasant surprise for the Bears. He played well enough that he should be the favorite for the starting slot corner position in 2015.

Grade: B+