Hoffman Estates grad impresses at NFL Combine

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Eric Saubert played for Hoffman Estates in 2011, was a four-year starter at Drake, and could impress NFL teams come draft time this year.

    Eric Saubert played for Hoffman Estates in 2011, was a four-year starter at Drake, and could impress NFL teams come draft time this year. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 3/6/2017 7:01 PM

Players like Drake tight end Eric Saubert, who compete at smaller FCS schools, always face skepticism as NFL prospects because of the lower level of competition they face.

Combine that with the lack of success Saubert's teams had at Hoffman Estates High School -- one win in his four years -- and the deck would appear to be stacked heavily against him.

 

But he caught 183 passes for 2,179 yards as a four-year starter at Drake, averaging 11.9 yards per catch with 20 touchdowns, including 10 last season.

And there's an old saying among scouts: "If you can play, they'll find you."

Saubert can play.

He left high school as a skinny 185-pounder, but he weighed in at 253 at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he benched 225 pounds 22 times -- more reps than all but two of the tight ends.

By now, the 6-foot-5 Saubert has heard more than enough chatter about his level of competition, so he ignores it.

"It doesn't matter who I'm playing," he said. "I'm playing football, I'm going to play how I play. Yes, it was a knock on me (lower competition), but at the end of the day, you're playing football, so I don't care who I'm playing, I'm going to play 110 percent."

Scouts are all over the board on Saubert, who is expected to be a third-day (Rounds 4-7) pick. They're impressed by his long arms (33½ inches), which give him a large catching radius, and his big hands (10⅜ inches).

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His strongest attribute is as a pass-catcher who can stretch the middle of the field, outrun linebackers and outsize defensive backs. Saubert needs to improve as a blocker, but so do a lot of tight ends already in the NFL.

In Pro Football Weekly's 2017 Draft Guide, veteran NFL scout Greg Gabriel said Saubert, "Will cause mismatch problems because of his speed. He is an eventual starter in the league and has upside."

One vote for Watson:

The debate on which of the top three quarterbacks is the best pro prospect may rage on until draft day among the Bears' decision-makers and elsewhere, but there's no doubt whom Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Allen prefers.

When he was asked what impressed him about Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Allen said: "Just his composure. We hit him, God, I can't even count how many times (in the national championship game).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We were trying to put him out, we were trying to crush him. And every time he just came back tougher. (He's) the best player I've played in college by far."

Allen and his teammates often were able to diminish an opponent's will to win, but not against Watson.

"It's just the mental aspect," Allen said. "A lot of guys we played at the quarterback position, by the end of the game, they're not really going through the progressions the way they were in the first half because they're worried about the rush.

"Deshaun Watson played exactly the same in the first quarter as he did in the fourth quarter."

Quote to note:

Marmion Academy's Ryan Glasgow spent his final two years as a Michigan defensive tackle playing for Jim Harbaugh.

He has some fond recollections.

"He throws out some great sound bites," Glasgow said. "He says he takes a vitamin every day -- it's called a steak.

"When politics were heating up in our country with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, he just said, 'We support no cause foreign or domestic except for the advancement of Michigan football.'

"That was a personal favorite of mine."

• Follow Bob's Bears reports on Twitter at @BobLeGere.

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