On Feb. 4, the Chicago Bears inked Andy Fantuz to a reserve/future contract. Fantuz was a star wide receiver in the Canadian Football League (CFL) last year, leading the league with 1,380 receiving yards on 87 catches to go with six touchdowns. At 6' 4" and 220 pounds, he looks like a slightly faster version of former NFL receiver Joe Jurevicius.
Fantuz ran a 4.52 40 time coming out of Western Ontario -- not blinding speed by any means, but what he lacks in pace he often makes up for in other areas. After studying tape on the 27-year-old, it's clear Fantuz can catch any ball thrown his way. His hands are one of his best assets, as they are extremely large compared to the average human. In addition, he knows how to use his big frame to shield off defenders and has great body control while in the air and along the sidelines.
He has shown a willingness to work over the middle, often going up high to catch balls in traffic. Fantuz was outstanding working the seam against smaller safeties, and often was wide open on deep post and flag routes.
WR Andy Fantuz
Being that the CFL allows receivers a 10-yard running head start before the ball is snapped -- forcing defenders to play well off receivers -- it's hard to say whether or not he can handle the pressure NFL defensive backs often bring at the line. He'll need to show he can create separation in those first few yards if he's to be productive at the next level.
Also, while occasionally he showed good effort after the catch, he more often had very limited yards after catch, which is surprising for a player of his size. Fantuz dressed in all 18 games last season, yet missed five games due to injury in 2009, and 11 games in 2008 with a broken leg. Durability could be an issue.
He seems best suited to line up in the slot as a possession receiver, or as a big red zone target, where his height and tendency to catch the ball at its highest point would be to his benefit.Chicago has a shaky group of receivers in front of him, and odds are the coaches will want to save Devin Hester more for the return game by limiting his offensive snaps going forward, so there will be an opportunity for Fantuz to break onto the roster. That said, Bears brass could snag a pass catcher or two in the draft, making the road even harder for him.
While he's not the big-bodied No. 1 receiver the Bears need, Fantuz could perform well as a 3rd-down receiver given the opportunity. With some dedication and the right coaching, he could even develop into something more.
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