The Chicago Bears have had some good luck finding quality contributors in the pool of undrafted free agents in recent years – as names such as Cameron Meredith, Bryce Callahan, and Cre’von LeBlanc immediately come to mind.
If I was forced to wager on one of the 15 players the Bears signed as undrafted free agents hitting this season, I would probably guess that Kevin Toliver is the most likely to join that group. At minimum, Toliver is the most intriguing player among the group.
Toliver arrived at LSU as a five-star recruit and was a top-rated defensive back prospect when he was coming out of high school. Things didn’t go well for him in Baton Rouge, where he struggled through knee injuries and was buried on a depth chart loaded with talent. As a freshman, Toliver started eight of the Tigers’ 12 games and came up with an interception.
It’s something of a surprise that Toliver didn’t get drafted. Despite his battles with injuries and a lack of high-end production in college, he was still projected to be picked in the fourth or fifth rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. At 6-2 and 192 pounds, Toliver has the ideal size for a cornerback. Couple that with his prospect pedigree, and we’re looking at a player who could be a breakout star at training camp.
Of course, Tolliver isn’t the only undrafted free agent worth keeping a closer eye on as we ramp up toward training camp. Here is a look at the other 14 players vying for a roster spot:
- OL Dejon Allen: The only offensive lineman to sign as an undrafted free agent, Allen was a four-year starter at Hawaii with experience at guard and tackle. Allen played two years as Hawaii’s left tackle and did not allow a sack in either of those seasons. That’s one way to earn first-team All-Mountain West honors as a senior.
- DL Abudllah Anderson: Was a four-year starter at Bucknell and three-time first-team All-Patriot League selection. How’s that for production? Anderson has the size (6-4, 295 pounds) to slide into the middle of the Bears’ defensive line, and I’ll be curious to see if he can stand out at the next level.
- DB Rashard Fant: A fun fact about Fant is that he left Indiana as the school’s all-time leader with 53 pass break-ups. Fant, who led the Big Ten with 22 pass break-ups in 2017, started 36 of 49 games he appeared in for the Hoosiers and was a second-team All-Big Ten performer as a senior.
- WR Garrett Johnson: Kentucky’s leader in receptions in each of the lat two years, Johnson was a four-year player for the Wildcats who came away with 46 catches, 500 receiving yards, and two touchdowns last season. His best season came in 2015 when he picked up a career-best 694 receiving yards.
- CB Michael Joseph: A popular cornerback prospect for his efforts at the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Joseph was a first-team all-conference player in each of his final three years at Dubuque. He seems to have a knack for the football, as he came away with eight interceptions in a season in which he was the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.
- LB Nyles Morgan: One of two Notre Dame products who signed as undrafted free agents, Morgan was a two-year starter for the Fighting Irish who came up with 92 tackles last season. In fact, Morgan has posted back-to-back seasons with at least 90 tackles.
- RB Ryan Nall: Scored 24 touchdowns in 32 games at Oregon State, and had nine 100-yard rushing games for the Beavers. Even though he rushed for 2,216 yards for OSU, he’ll probably slot in as a fullback at the next level.
- LB Elijah Norris: Started his career at UConn in 2012, but transferred to Shepherd University. Norris has the reputation of being a disruptive pass-rusher who was a second-team All-MEC performer after coming up with six sacks, one interception, a forced fumble, and 11 tackles for loss as a senior.
- S Nick Orr: The Bears’ secondary might be the strength of the defense, but you could always use more help. Orr could find his way into the mix after being a first-team All-Big 12 performer as a senior at TCU last season. Orr came away with seven interceptions in his final two years, and the Bears could use someone who can come away with some takeaways.
- WR Shaq Roland: Once a high-profile recruit for the South Carolina Gamecoks, Roland ended up at Division II West Georgia. Last season, Roland caught 55 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns. Roland has some prospect pedigree, as ESPN ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in South Carolina and the No. 52 overall player when he was a high school senior in 2012.
- DE Bumi Rotimi: Following in the footsteps of former teammate Rashaad Coward, Rotimi signed with the Bears after being a three-year starter at Old Dominion. I’m not sure the Bears will be looking to move Rotimi to the other side of the line, though. Rotimi was a two-time honorable mention All-Conference USA performer who pulled down 5.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss as a senior.
- LB Andrew Trumbetti: The other Notre Dame defender to sign with the Bears as a UDFA, Trumbetti racked up 90 tackles in his 43-game career for the Fighting Irish.
- DL Cavon Walker: If you’re looking for an underdog story, Walker might be it. He didn’t get an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, even after a quality senior season where he came up with six tackles-for-loss. Walker has experience at all three spots along the defensive line in a 3-4 front, and the Bears could stand to add depth at those positions.
- P Ryan Winslow: After it was announced that the Bears re-signed Pat O’Donnell to a one-year deal in free agency, we figured the team was going to bring in some competition to square off against the incumbent punter. Winslow averaged 42.1 yards on his 226 punts at Pittsburgh and was a first-team All-ACC member.