Chicago Bears tight end/h-back Daniel Brown is a player to keep an eye on during training camp. With the oft-injured Zach Miller ahead of him on the depth chart, Brown will have to make a strong impression to unseat the veteran.
Brown was originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of James Madison by the Baltimore Raven in 2015. As a rookie wide receiver, he had six catches for 64 yards but failed to score a touchdown.
The Ravens placed Brown on waivers on October 22, 2016 after trying him at tight end. He was subsequently claimed by the Bears just two days later as injuries at the position started to mount.
Given his size, speed and wide receiver background, Brown fits nicely into the same mold that Miller does. He can split out wide, line up in the backfield (h-back or full back) and also play in a 3-point stance as an in-line blocker.
I was very impressed watching Brown play last year. He showed enough toughness to develop into an adequate-to-good blocker. Like most young players, his technique could use a bit of refinement but his heart is in it and that is just as important.
While he didn’t light up the stat sheet in 2016, you got a sense that there was a tremendous amount of talent, just waiting to be tapped into. Brown has really soft hands which were on display as he caught 16 of 20 balls thrown his way, and he was credited with one dropped pass.
His route-running ability was above average, as he seemed to get open frequently, and he presented his quarterback with an large target to throw to. Brown also had a little wiggle once he had the ball in his hands.
Obviously 16 catches is a small sample size, but the fact that he became the main receiving threat from the tight end position after Miller was injured, tells me that the coaching staff trusts him. That bodes well for his future with the team.
All of this makes me wonder if Miller has become expendable given his contract and injury history. While I don’t see it happening this season, I do believe that Brown is an important piece of the offensive puzzle moving forward. He has a similar skill-set to Miller, and at 25-years-old, he fits the timeline for the current re-build.
Experience: 3rd-year pro
Weight: 243 pounds
Contract and salary cap:
According to Spotrac, Brown’s deal with the Bears is for one year and worth $615,00, with no guaranteed money. His base salary in 2017 is $615,000.
Reason for improvement in 2017
With Miller, Dion Sims and Adam Shaheen ahead of him on the depth chart, Brown is going to have an uphill climb. If he gets an opportunity, however, he should be able to play that hybrid tight end role that Miller currently plays. We expect the Bears to play more 2 tight end sets, but I believe we are going to see a third tight end lineup in the backfield and in the slot. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets, but I could see him taking over for Miller should he be injured yet again.
Reason for regression in 2017
There is a distinct possibility that Brown gets buried on the depth chart and simply doesn’t get a chance. If that happens, they may view their tight end position as set for 2018 with Sims and Shaheen. It can wear on a player that has fought his way to the NFL as an undrafted free agent and if he is not getting an opportunity, it could affect his confidence.
Final roster odds
Personally, I am a fan of Daniel Brown. I think he has a solid chance of being the fourth tight end and the main special teams contributor. He seems to be ahead of players like Ben Braunecker and MyCole Pruitt. If the Bears forego keeping a fullback, I think it is very likely that Brown makes the roster. I am going to give this a 70% chance of coming to fruition. I believe that Brown makes the team come September.
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