No more flying under radar for NFL draft prospect Saubert
(Fifth in a series)
Eric Saubert has played most of his football career in relative obscurity, but all that is expected to change after he's selected in the NFL draft later this month.
Even though Saubert was a Daily Herald all-area player as a senior at Hoffman Estates, he didn't get much attention in a program that produced one victory in his varsity career.
"We didn't win a whole lot at high school; not a whole lot of scouts coming through," Saubert recalled. "I was a late bloomer."
And, as with most players in lower-level FCS college football, Saubert stayed under the radar for most of his time at Drake, even though he was a four-year starter.
But he caught 56 passes for 776 yards (13.9-yard average) and 10 touchdowns as a senior and earned an invitation to the East-West Shrine game, the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine.
It was there, on a much bigger stage, that Saubert showed he could play with the big boys. At a fraction under 6-foot-5 and 253 pounds, Saubert already looked like an NFL tight end.
And after impressing in the all-star games, Saubert pumped out 22 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press and leaped 10-foot-1 in the broad jump at the Combine. Only two tight ends did more reps.
He followed that up with a 4.65 40-yard dash at Iowa State's pro day, a time which would have been in the top 10 among tight ends at the Combine. He had a 35-inch vertical jump (only five tight ends did better) and ran 7.29 seconds in the 3-cone drill.
Saubert is no longer under the radar.
His impressive postseason performances have piqued the interest of NFL scouts and of NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock.
"He played so well (in Shrine practices) that I went back and looked at Drake tape ... and came away even more impressed with how athletic he is," Mayock wrote. "He's 247 pounds and runs like a wide receiver.
"The questions on him are two-fold: Will he block? And can he be a consistent pass-catcher? I watched five tapes on him and he dropped five passes. How consistent will his hands be? But this week, he's really looked good and has helped himself."
Saubert knows NFL teams will still question his ability to compete at a much higher level than what he faced in college. And he's never been asked to do much in-line blocking, but neither have many of the NFL's top tight ends.
For now, it's enough that Saubert has gotten to the point where he's being considered. Now he'll at least get an opportunity to prove he belongs, and that's fine with him.
"It doesn't matter who I'm playing - I'm playing football," he said. "I'm going to play how I play. Yes, it was a knock on me (lower competition). I don't care who I'm playing, I'm going to play 110 percent."
At the Combine, Saubert was asked about playing for the Bears.
"That would be a dream come true playing for the hometown (team)," he said. "But anyone that gives me a job, that's who I want to play for."
No matter what team drafts Saubert, there would still be a Bears connection. No Drake player has been drafted since 1983, when the Bears, in the fourth round, selected Pat Dunsmore - a tight end.
Next up: Cornerbacks
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