Thanks to us being part of SB Nation, 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 Brandon Fitzsimons (@broncofitz), the Western Michigan University Team Manager for Hustle Belt, the SB Nation site that covers the Mid-American Conference. Follow them on Twitter @HustleBelt if you love #MACtion. We asked Brandon some questions about Bears' 7th round draft pick, wide receiver Daniel Braverman.
Windy City Gridiron - Braverman isn't the biggest guy at 5'10", 177 pounds, and the smaller guys that stick around the NFL seem to have a knack for avoiding the big hit. Is Braverman able to sense impending doom and contort his body away from the big hits?
Hustle Belt - For the most part, Braverman has avoided big hits the past two years. Obviously, he has been blindsided on some catches, but really there's nothing you can do on those. My one concern is that his "dancing" could possibly lead to bigger athletes pounding him mid-juke. But all things considered, since his injury in 2013, he has been able to avoid re-aggravating it in any way, in large part due to his ability to avoid tackles, and go down on his own terms.
WCG - Speaking of that, he missed all of the 2013 season with a knee injury, was that the only injury he had while at Western Michigan, and do you think he's all the way back from that injury or is there still a little quickness he has to regain? I ask this because his bio lists him as having ran a 4.3 forty?
HB - So in his freshman year, we saw some quickness although Braverman was widely unused. Then the injury happened and you wondered if he'd ever be a contributor. However, when he came back against Purdue in 2014 with a solid game, you saw the potential that he had from his freshman year, and then some. Post-injury Braverman has seen very few, if any, side effects from the ACL. He has seemingly been faster and shiftier from his freshman year, and that's a real testament to his rehab and work ethic to not only get back, but to improve.
As for that 40 time, I'd believe it. The man can jet, and that was his m.o. from the time he set foot on campus.
WCG - You can beat defensive backs with speed and quickness in college, but in the NFL you need to run crisp routes. How is Braverman's route running and did WMU have their wide outs run a lot of option routes?
HB - I feel like Braverman's route running was really solid. Obviously, he's not that tall, but his shiftiness was complemented by his route running to get open. Braverman was often used in underneath routes and bubble screens, but he can still run a deep route pretty well. His double move really got a good amount of DBs the past two years, with the Ohio State game really showing his skills, and we saw how the Buckeyes did in this year's draft.
As for option routes, it's tough to say. At times, Braverman hits the open space and it looks like it's his choice. Other times, he gets a great timed ball. With Corey Davis (a 6'2" junior and an All MAC Conference 1st Team wide out along with Braverman) on the other side, I feel like Braverman's routes were more scripted than not, but his ability to run them really opened up the entire pass game for both of them.
WCG - During his college career he had 25 punt returns and 15 kick returns, but only managed a 4.6 and 20.8 average respectively. Was that more due to lack of returner vision on his part, or were the returns teams just not doing their job blocking?
HB - I don't think it's returner vision as much as just trying to make something out of nothing (he didn't like to take fair catches if I remember correctly). Honestly, special teams had been an issue the past few seasons as well, and his kick return duties were taken over by Darius Phillips this past season. He has the ability to break out on a return, but his tendency to dance too much backfires on the return game. If there's one knock to his game, it's that.
WCG - A lot of draft pundits are calling Braverman one of the steal's of the draft, do you share that optimism?
HB - I do, especially for a team like the Bears who seem in need of a solid slot man. Braverman was often compared to Wes Welker and Julian Edelman (or [insert Patriots slot man here]), and it's easy to see why. He has good hands, his route running is fairly solid, and he has wheels. The question now becomes; Can he turn that into a career in the NFL? For a 7th rounder, you either get a good slot receiver, or someone who can help out on returns or on the scout team. He has a lot of upside, and with no apparent set-backs following the ACL injury in 2013, the Bears took a flier on a guy who could blossom into a solid 2nd or 3rd option for Jay Cutler if Kevin White and Alshon Jeffery are split out wide.
Thanks again to Brandon Fitzsimons for giving us the skinny on Braverman!