There is an upside to a team like the Chicago Bears having so much uncertainty at wide receiver. It opens the door for unexpected names to make an impression. Dick Vermeil said that is the primary reason Kurt Warner got his foot in the door with the Rams. Sometimes all somebody needs is a chance. That is why it’s easy for fans to fall in love with training camp MVPs. It gives them hope their team may have found a hidden gem. Perhaps Chris Finke is that guy for the Bears.
Here is the ultimate underdog. Finke was a part-time target at Notre Dame that made the team as a walk-on. He carved out a role as a receiver and punt returner, providing some really nice plays over his final two years, including a highlight-reel catch against Michigan for a touchdown that proved the difference in the game. Finke was never the star, but it always seemed like he was making two or three nice catches per game.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t overcome his physical limitations.
Come draft season in 2020, teams saw his 5’9 size and 4.57 speed and immediately passed him over. After going undrafted, he signed with the San Francisco 49ers. That never amounted to much. Last season he joined the Kansas City Chiefs, where he came onto the radar of Bears GM Ryan Poles. As before, he never saw the field outside of the preseason. So few people knew about him when he arrived in Chicago.
It appears early off-season workouts have begun changing that. Multiple Bears beat writers who have attended practices have said Finke is standing out. Mark Carman of Fansided mentioned him last week. Then Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune brought him up as a name to watch going into training camp.
Justin Fields was on his game at #Bears minicamp Day 2. Bunch of impressive throws. Couple of drops for Velus Jones. I'm weirdly excited about Chris Finke.
— Mark Carman (@thecarm) June 15, 2022
“Maybe an unknown will step forward. I thought former Notre Dame wide receiver Chris Finke made some nice plays this spring. He’s undersized at 5-foot-9, 186 pounds, but maybe he can compete for a look in the slot. Finke entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent in 2020 with the San Francisco 49ers. We’ll see what he and the others look like when training camp gets rolling.”
Chris Finke might be in an offense that fits him well.
There is a reason the 49ers liked him in 2020. They run a system similar to what new Bears offensive coordinator Luke Getsy plans to install. The wide-zone system has an established history of solid receivers in the slot. Ed McCaffrey in Denver is one example. Kevin Walter in Houston is another. Then there is superstar Cooper Kupp in Los Angeles. All three guys are bigger than Finke, but size doesn’t always matter as much in the slot. It’s about quick feet, good route running, and strong hands.
He has those things. The NFL has proven many times being undersized and slow doesn’t deter success. If a receiver has enough quickness, smarts, and catching ability there is a role for him to play. Chris Finke fits that profile. Whether he can do anything with his newfound opportunity remains to be seen. Making plays in shorts is one thing. Doing so in pads when defenders are allowed to get physical is another.
It will be interesting to see where this goes.
Bears fans have seen guys like Finke come and go many times over the past decade. Dane Sanzenbacher. Tanner Gentry. The list is extensive. Finke will have to find a way to prove he’s different from them.