When the Bears signed Emanuel Hall as an undrafted free agent, I was thrilled, to say the least. I came away from my initial viewing of Hall pre-draft thinking very highly of him and expecting him to be drafted in the third or fourth round.
I even went as far to say on The Chicago Audible Podcast that I preferred him to Bears fourth-round pick Riley Ridley.
When I watched more of his tape after the draft, I came away slightly disappointed. He clearly has the athleticism for the position and is a threat to score a touchdown as soon as he steps on the field, but the subtle nuances of the position are where he needs to improve.
So let’s look into the reasons he went undrafted.
Hall really only ran three routes in college: go, slant and curl. He would occasionally run other routes but they were few and far between.
His game is predicated on his 4.39 40-yard speed. His slant and curl route successes are a result of defenders having to provide a huge cushion in off-man coverage out of respect for that speed.
While his linear speed is great and will be an asset in the NFL, Hall needs to develop more refined routes in order to become the receiver some think he can be.
Below is a great example. He gets out of his comfort zone and runs a post route. His break at the stem is extremely rounded instead of a sharp, quick 45-degree angle to the goal posts. But what is more concerning is what Hall does when the ball is in the air. He starts to drift upfield instead of running through the ball, allowing the cornerback to make a play.
It is the little things that I missed in my first viewing that separate the good receivers from the great ones.
Hall has the ability to get open. No questions there. But he isn’t always a natural hands catcher. Choosing instead to pin the ball against his body as seen below, which leads to more drops than what teams felt comfortable drafting.
In 2018, Hall had a drop rate of 9.8 percent (four drops on 41 catchable targets), which was 119th best amongst draft-eligible wide receivers according to Pro Football Focus. In 2017, he had eight drops (PFF did not list catchable targets for 2017).
I have hopes he can continue improving in this regard. On slants and hitches, he usually does use his hands more. It is on posts and go routes where he chooses to pin the ball against his body.
This leads us into another thing that stood out on tape …
He isn’t great in contested catch situations. Most of Hall’s big plays come when he has a step, or five, on the cornerback and he can catch it in stride. He has a 43.5-inch vertical leap but doesn’t use it to make leaping grabs. He also struggles on slants and hitches if the corner is able to stay with him.
Effort and Injuries
When Hall isn’t involved in the play, he can be very lackadaisical in his effort. As the play-side receiver, at times, he does not put in the effort to be an effective blocker. It is little things like this that can have coaches and general managers sour on a prospect.
Then there is the issue of his injuries. Hall had multiple soft tissue injuries in his career and many believed he could have played through some of them. That being said, I can see why a player with NFL aspirations, who is playing for free, wouldn’t want to risk further injury and potentially millions of dollars.
Still, Hall Can Make an Impact in 2019
Currently, the Bears do not have a true speed and deep threat on the roster. Yes, Gabriel is fast, and he did catch some deep balls in 2018, but I would not classify him as a “deep threat.”
Hall has game-changing speed that needs to be accounted for with safety help over the top whenever he is on the field. This will open up the intermediate passing game where guys like Allen Robinson, Trey Burton and Anthony Miller can shine.
The ball is overthrown here, but you can see how deadly his speed is. He gets up to his top speed so quickly that he instantly eats into the cushion provided by defenders.
If teams choose not to have safety help over the top, then Hall can make them pay:
And that is with his speed. Yes, Hall is a one-trick pony, but if you’re only going to have one trick, speed isn’t a bad one to have.
Hall will probably never be a high volume receiver. Even if he doesn’t improve as a route runner, he can still have a role in the NFL. You can live with a few drops if he also is hitting on big plays.
Which is what he has proven he can do.
First step is making the final 53-man roster. If Hall can do that, he should be good for a couple long touchdowns and be a guy teams have to gameplan against.