While it’s easy to dismiss as training camp fodder the 26 undrafted college players whom the Bears signed on Tuesday, there are at least a few who could be worth watching once practices begin Saturday afternoon.
Oregon State center Alex Linnenkohl and Ohio State wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher are two players who most draft analysts expected to be drafted.
Sanzenbacher will remind Bears fans old enough to remember Tom Waddle of the undersized, glue-fingered Boston College product who spent six seasons in Chicago.
In his three best seasons (1991-93), Waddle led the Bears with a combined 145 receptions for 1,825 yards, despite lacking ideal size or speed for the NFL. But Waddle knew how to get open, and he had the toughness to work the middle against bigger, faster defenders.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound Sanzenbacher started 26 games in the slot over the past two seasons and was the Buckeyes team captain and MVP last season, when he caught 55 passes for 948 yards and a 14.7-yard average.
In Pro Football Weekly’s 2011 Draft Preview, Nolan Nawrocki writes that Sanzenbacher is “Tough – works the middle of the field and is effective running slants. Has a healthy disregard for his body and will take a hit to make a play.”
Nawrocki ranked Linnenkohl as the third-best center in the draft and had him pegged as a fourth-to-fifth-round pick, although he lacks some strength and athleticism. But the 6-foot-2, 304-pounder started all 38 games in his final three seasons.
Nawrocki said of Linnenkohl: “Very savvy and has a good feel for the game – knows how to work angles and is effective on the move. Respected team leader. Very smart and makes all the line calls.”