The Chicago Bears selected former Western Michigan WR Daniel Braverman in the seventh round of this year's draft.
A diminutive player (5-10, 177), Braverman was exceptionally productive in 2015, finishing second in the nation with 109 receptions for 1,367 yards and 13 TDs. Based on his numbers alone, Braverman should've been drafted much higher but his size and lack of of top-tier competition resulted in his fall to the seventh round.
Yet two of Braverman's best games last season came against elite Big Ten competition, which demonstrated his potential against the nation's best.
With that in mind, I broke down game film from both of those contests to find out what the Bears have in their rookie receiver.
vs. Michigan State
-0:14, bubble screen, good block out in front, Braverman needs to make one defender miss, uses a spin move but he’s dropped at the LOS. No YAC.
-1:04, Braverman in the slot against zone coverage, LB flares out to cover him, Braverman uses two quick cuts and a head fake, he makes his cut and the LB doesn’t even move. Easy separation for the wide open catch.
-1:33, in the slot, fake bubble screen, Braverman then turns up the sideline on a go route, creates separation, pass is perfect but he drops what might have been a TD.
-2:06, bubble screen, two defenders approach, Braverman uses a head fake that freezes both defenders and he runs right past them, picks up first down, uses another juke move for an extra five yards at the end of the play. Solid run after the catch.
-3:01, punt return, catches punt on the 10-yard line, finds small seam and hits it hard, has open room in front of him but instead tries to cut behind a trailing defender, stopped in his tracks. Good burst and quickness but tried to get too fancy on this 15-yard return, which could’ve gone for 20 yards if he’d just put his head down at the end of the run.
-3:18, in the slot, zone coverage, Braverman stops short and sits in the open underneath zone, pass bounces off his hands. Good job finding the open area, horrible concentration on the catch attempt, was worried too much about what he was going to do after the catch.
-3:24, in the left slot, stems to the defender and then uses a quick juke move to get around him, QB finds Braverman up the seam just past the underneath zone. Good route and zone recognition.
-3:50, right slot, Braverman runs an intermediate out route against zone coverage, finds open area and makes the catch for a 1st down. Notice his catch here: uses his hands to make the grab and then immediately tucks it into his belly, as he’s preparing for contact. Good ball security.
-4:48, left slot, Braverman runs a 12-yard out route against zone coverage, wide open for the first down. Notice the spin move after the catch, he nearly breaks free from two defenders. Solid move.
-5:40, Braverman runs a flag route to the near sideline, QB scrambles and fires to Braverman, who makes a great snag and is able to tap his toe in bounds. Outstanding catch and body control.
vs. Ohio State
-0:15, bubble screen, good block out in front, Braverman leans inside of the block, which forces the defender inside, he then cuts back outside and up the sideline. Good job using the block to set up a cut for extra yards.
-0:22, flat route right, QB rolls out and hits Braverman near the sideline. Notice the sticky hands and body control to keep a foot in bounds.
-0:37, drag route from right side, QB scrambles and finds Braverman open near the left hash, uses a quick juke to make a defender miss and pick up a few extra yards.
-0:52, bubble screen, makes one defender miss and picks up positive yards.
-1:00, intermediate crossing route, pass thrown to Braverman who is outmuscled by the bigger defender, no chance to make the catch.
-1:17, Braverman runs off the deep corner before breaking outside at 12 yards, wide open, he then makes a series of shifty cuts to make three defenders miss before going down. 7 yards of YAC.
-1:27, right slot against press coverage, Braverman uses a stutter step and then bursts up field, nickel back is unable to chuck him, Bravereman creates separation and makes the over-the-shoulder grab, he then breaks the arm tackle attempt and scores a touchdown. The key here was Braverman’s ability to get a clean release at the LOS, which allowed him to create the separation he needed.
-2:30, Braverman runs up the left seam and fades toward the sideline, QB puts a perfect pass right on his fingertips and Braverman hauls it in, he then stays in stride and nearly takes it to the house. Impressive concentration on this catch in traffic.
Braverman's quickness is by far his biggest asset. His ability to get in and out of his cuts in a hurry allows him to easily create separation, particularly against defenders who don't possess good burst. After creating that separation, he has the speed to pull away and build even more open space.
After the catch, Braverman's jump-stops and cuts make him very elusive. He can stop on a dime and redirect in a moment's notice, which often makes defenders look silly trying to tackle him in the open field. He also does a great job of setting up those cuts by showing the defender where he's going, thus forcing him into an advantageous angle of attack, before cutting in the opposite direction and leaving the cornerback or safety in his wake. He's quick but he's also intelligent when using his elusiveness, which makes him very dangerous after the catch.
Braverman's hands are top-tier. You don't catch 109 passes if you can't snag the football. If it's within his reach, he can make the reception. There is no pass he can't handle. That said, lapses in concentration can lead to some ugly drops.
He's a willing blocker and gives good effort trying to lock up defenders at the second level but Braverman's size makes it difficult for him to sustain those blocks.
In the pros, he's going to have a hard time against bigger, physical defenders. It's not hard to imagine him getting swallowed up at the line of scrimmage and pushed off his route, or getting knocked off the ball on 50/50 passes. He just doesn't have the size to match up physically against the larger secondary players in the NFL.
As a result, his best use will be out of the slot, where he won't be dealing with 6-2 cornerbacks. Working out of the slot will also allow him to make the most of his quickness, particularly on underneath routes.
In the screen game, Braverman's extreme quickness can be a weapon but I don't see him breaking too many tackles at the next level. He can work around guys but once he's hit, he's down.
His elusiveness will have value as a punt returner as well, where he should be able to slip through small cracks and make defenders miss in the open field.
Overall, Braverman has a limited skill set, due almost exclusively to his lack of size. If he were three inches taller and 30 pounds heavier, he would've been a second-round pick this year.
That said, he still has the all-around skill set to be a weapon as a part-time player on offense and on special teams. If he shows in training camp and the preseason what he showed in these two games against Ohio State and Michigan State, Braverman will be a lock to make the Bears' 53-man roster this season.