In Emanuel Hall and Dax Raymond, Bears snag two potential UDFA gems

Emanuel Hall is one of the best undrafted free agents in the 2019 class.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Offense was the priority for the Bears in the 2019 NFL Draft.

Three of the team’s five selections—including their first two picks—were dedicated to surrounding Mitchell Trubisky with weapons. Their third-round pick, Iowa State running back David Montgomery, joins the offense as a perfect fit in their scheme and a potential long-term starter. With his size, vision, elusiveness and versatility, he likely has a handful of 1,000-yard seasons in his future. Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley, who was chosen in the fourth round, is a polished Z receiver with great body control and route-running abilities. Both players are expected to be effective pieces in Chicago’s offense for years to come.

Even seventh-round pick Kerrith Whyte Jr., a running back from Florida Atlantic, could make a noticeable impact on the roster. An electric athlete with blazing speed and impressive contact balance, his physical tools could carve him a role in the offense, despite projecting as a fourth-string back. He could be in line for a role similar to that of Taquan Mizzell last year, though, Whyte has more upside as a kick returner.

While the aforementioned three prospects are welcome additions to their Bears’ offense, they aren’t the only rookies who could be intriguing weapons for the team—they Bears also made two intriguing signings after the draft in Missouri wide receiver Emanuel Hall and Utah State tight end Dax Raymond.

Believed by many draft analysts as potential early Day 3 picks, it was surprising that both Hall and Raymond fell into undrafted free agency. It was even more surprising that the Bears managed to sign both of them, considering their recent inability to sign big-name undrafted rookies. Though the likes of Cameron Meredith and Bryce Callahan developed into quality players for the team, Chicago has never signed players who were as highly touted coming out of the draft as Hall and Raymond.

Combine those signings with the additions of players like Notre Dame offensive lineman Alex Bars—who himself was a surprising draft day snub—and Appalachian State cornerback Clifton Duck, and the Bears did a fantastic job of securing some of the top talent available on the market.

Even on a team so stacked in terms of offensive depth like the Bears, the two skill players have the potential to stick around as valuable pieces for their offense.

Hall, a six-foot-two, 201-pound weapon, is a lengthy and athletic weapon with room to grow into an NFL starter. After averaging 20.8 yards per catch and scoring 16 touchdowns in 32 games at Missouri, he tore up the Combine, putting up such numbers as a 4.39 40-yard dash, a 43.5-inch vertical jump and a 141-inch broad jump: the second-best jump in the event’s history. While those numbers are incredible, they are reflective of the athleticism he shows off on tape.

Hall may just be the best vertical threat in this year’s class based off of just pure speed. His acceleration off the snap is impressive, and he has the straight-line speed to outrun almost any cornerback at a collegiate or professional level. This play is evidence of that, as he uses a simple speed release to beat the squat press coverage, which is really not a good coverage to use against him. His quickness of the snap allows him to carry a lot of momentum before a squatting cornerback can come within range of pressing him. That was the case here, as he simply outruns the Georgia cornerback on the go route on his way to the end zone.

Hall has flashed the hand usage to break free from press coverage, as well as the raw athleticism. Here, he swims with his outside arm to get up over his defender, who is set up in a quick-jam press situation. While using his inside arm to swipe and complete an ideal swipe-swim-clear sequence, Hall manages to separate enough at the line of scrimmage by planting his left foot on his single move. This opens up space for him to accelerate, and his raw speed again allows for separation on the go route.

The former Tiger has proven that he can be more than just a one-trick pony, even if that one trick is clearly the best asset in his game. He has also flashed good hip fluidity and impressive body control. On this play, he beats his man with an out route. He flips his hips pretty quickly, and while his cut could have been a bit sharper, he changes direction quickly enough to get past his man, who is playing in bail coverage. With his hips turned inside and facing towards the quarterback, the cornerback is prone to allowing a cut towards the sidelines, and he simply doesn’t have the acceleration coming out of his break to catch up with Hall, as is the case with a lot of cornerbacks. Hall finishes off the play by getting both feet in bounds.

Hall’s route running abilities are inconsistent, as while he has shown that he can flip his hips and sink into his cuts, he does not do so on every play. He also doesn’t have a very physical edge to his game, and his durability can be put in question—he only played in 18 games in his last two seasons at Missouri. However, with his blazing speed, his length and his potential as a dangerous deep threat, the fact that he went undrafted is nothing short of surprising. Though he will have to compete with Ridley, as well as the likes of Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims and Marvin Hall to make it onto the 53-man roster, his upside makes him a potential candidate to make the team.

While Hall faces stiff competition to make the team, the depth at tight end is not nearly as strong as it is at wide receiver, which makes Dax Raymond an intriguing signing. He spent three years at Utah State, catching 72 passes for 873 yards and three touchdowns. The six-foot-five, 255-pound Provo, Utah native ran a 4.73 40-yard dash and turned in a 7.15 three-cone drill, a mark that placed fifth among tight ends.

Raymond is one of the more natural receiving tight ends in this year’s class. He is fluid athlete who accelerates well off the snap and can move smoothly in space. He has good body control, as well, as he can make adjustments to his body in order to secure grabs. On this touchdown, he is lined up as an H-back and runs a seam route. He shows the athleticism to make the grab in stride, even turning his hips towards the ball to adjust to a ball thrown slightly behind him.

An underrated aspect of Raymond’s game is his ability to pick up yards after the catch. While not a speed demon like a Noah Fant in this class, he has enough speed to accelerate in the open field, and he has the contact balance and motor to fight hard for extra yards. On this play, he’s lined up as an H-back on the far side. Quick to accelerate out of his stance, he runs a flat route behind the offensive line and, once he makes the grab, shows the body control to turn on the jets along the sideline and stay in bounds. He makes a subtle cut to the inside to avoid an engaged defensive back, and he manages to pick up an additional three to four yards after contact by spinning away from a tackler and falling forward.

He’s not a polished blocker yet, but Raymond has shown some promise in that aspect. He blocks with a high motor, and though he doesn’t play with great anchor strength or block with his weight underneath him, he has the upper-body strength to deal with defensive backs and off-ball linebackers. On this play, he accelerates as though he’s running a route. He breaks down to prepare for the block and delivers a solid punch upon contact. He only gets his right arm inside the shoulder pads, but he uses his left arm to seal off the defensive back and create a running lane for his teammate on the screen.

Raymond will already be 24 in December, as he served a two-year church mission to Russia before enrolling at Utah State. He also broke his hand in 2018, and needs some work in terms of hand placement and leverage as a blocker. However, he is a versatile tight end who can play in pretty much any alignment, which makes him a valuable backup in his rookie season.

He isn’t going to be shoehorned into a role like Trey Burton—the athletic receiver of a tight end who can’t really block, or Adam Shaheen—the big-bodied, clunky tight end who can block but not run routes. No, Raymond is a do-it-all tight end who can back up either veteran as a U or Y tight end, respectively, as well as take snaps as an H-back. Given the lack of depth that is currently at the tight end position, his odds of making the 53-man roster is solid.

With big names like Cody Whitehair, Eddie Jackson, Tarik Cohen and Allen Robinson on track to have their contracts expire in the next two offseasons, the Bears wil have to rely on cheap, young talent to step in and perform so they can afford to pay their veterans. While neither Hall nor Raymond have stepped foot onto an NFL field yet, they have the potential to develop into quality players for the Bears.

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