Thanks to our being a part of the SB Nation network, we have access to a lot of neat things, one of which is our ability to talk with the college sites that covered the newest members of the Chicago Bears.
In this series of Five Questions With..., we'll try learn a little more about the 2016 rookie class, both the draft picks and also some of the undrafted free agents.
Today we're talking with Haisten Willis (@HaistenWillis), the Georgia Southern Senior Editor for Underdog Dynasty (@underdogdynasty) the SB Nation site that covers The American, Conference USA, the Sun Belt and Army. We asked Haisten some questions about Bears' undrafted free agent, wide receiver / return specialist Derek Keaton from Georgia Southern.
Windy City Gridiron - At 5'10", 188 pounds, if Keaton plays offense, he'll probably need to find a home working out of the slot in the NFL. I know he wasn't used much on offense, but how much of his time was spent working from the slot at Georgia Southern?
Underdog Dynasty - Keep in mind the offense Georgia Southern runs is a far cry from what teams run in the NFL. His stats are underwhelming, but Keaton was on the field for 579 offensive snaps and 118 special teams plays, so he saw a lot of action despite only catching one touchdown pass.
The Eagles are a run first, run second and run third option offense that passes only as a change of pace, so his receiving yardage is a little deceptive. Our last coach did his best to incorporate more throwing with very limited success. I'd say the Bears are interested in Keaton's potential in an NFL offense, which is why they're giving him a shot in the league.
WCG - No return touchdowns for a return specialist doesn't seem to bode well for his chances to make it as an UDFA. Was there an issue in him finding the end zone? Bad blocking, lack of breakaway speed, something else?
UD - Honestly that stat surprises me as well, and I'm not sure exactly why. Keaton did average close to 30 yards per kickoff return and more than 15 per punt return, so he definitely produced. He was also named first-team All-Sun Belt as a return specialist. One punt return last season went for 72 yards but not a touchdown, so maybe some blocking issues and a bit of bad luck contributed. Keaton's official 40-yard-dash time is 4.55 seconds though I've heard he's actually a little faster.
WCG - The Bears had some fumbling issues last year from one of their punt returners, any ball security issues from Keaton?
UD - Funny you mention that. Keaton did have one high-profile fumble late in the season. It was a muffed punt late in a game against Georgia where Georgia Southern led for most of the second half. That one stuck with fans because had it not happened the Eagles may have pulled off one of the most high-profile wins in program history.
That said, it was just one play, and one of only two fumbles for the entire season (he had one fumble during the 2014 season). Keaton was named all-conference as both a junior or senior so on the whole he performed well.
WCG - Besides returning kicks and punts, did he play on the kick coverage units?
UD - I don't believe so.
WCG - Bottom line, do you think he has the talent to make an NFL roster?
UD - I was a little surprised he was signed as an UDFA just because he wasn't a super high-profile player in Statesboro. The Bears clearly see some potential for Keaton and he'll have a chance to showcase what he can do outside Georgia Southern's highly stylized offense.
Thanks to Haisten for helping us out with our Five Questions With... series.