The Chicago Bears don’t have a lot of bright spots this season. That is typical of a team entering the first year of a complete rebuild. Justin Fields appears to be their future at quarterback. This is great news. However, they need more than that if they’re going to get back into the title picture. It will require good talent evaluation and a little bit of luck along the way. It appears the Chicago Bears got both regarding their 2022 rookie class. Nobody exemplifies this better than middle linebacker Jack Sanborn.
A Lake Zurich native, he made himself into a star at Wisconsin. While the program produced several good players on that defense in recent years, most pointed to Sanborn as the straw that stirred the drink. His production was excellent, and he seemed to have the size and tackling prowess every good linebacker requires. Yet he didn’t get drafted. The primary reason given was his pedestrian 4.73 time in the 40-yard dash. Teams were afraid he didn’t have the speed for the NFL. Now he’s gobbling up ball carriers as a starter. Cale Clinton of ESPN has now called him one of the year’s best bargains by a wide margin.
He can be a terrific building block for the future.
“While his impact comes from a small sample size, 2022 undrafted free agent linebacker Sanborn deserves mention on this list. Sanborn was exclusively a special teams player prior to the Bears’ game against the Cowboys. He was inserted into the starting lineup after Chicago traded away Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn and has shined ever since. Since earning the starting job in Week 9, Sanborn has 43 tackles, three tackles for loss, two sacks and a fumble recovery…
…In just four weeks, Sanborn has progressed enough in four weeks to play 100% of defensive snaps while still contributing as a special teamer. In addition, while Morrow has the 12-game sample size, Sanborn has out-played Morrow since becoming a starting defender. As the Bears rebuild their defense, they hope to continue to hit on players like Sanborn.”
Jack Sanborn doesn’t need to be a star.
The Bears should be content with him becoming a solid football player. Getting that from an undrafted free agent is a huge win for any team. Players like Sanborn have vital roles to play in this league. They may not always make the splash plays, but they’re notorious for doing the dirty work. Sanborn is precisely that type of player. He’s smart enough and quick enough to clean up whatever his teammates might do wrong on every snap. Nobody will accuse him of being the next Brian Urlacher, but that was never the expectation.
He is much closer to Barry Minter. Drafted in the 6th round by Dallas, he was cut as a rookie. Chicago scooped him up, and he developed into a solid middle linebacker for them in the mid-to-late 1990s. Jack Sanborn has a similar build, instincts, and playing style. Provided the coaching staff uses him in a similar way, he’s going to have success. If he is indeed the next Minter, then Chicago should be thrilled. The fact he’s a hometown boy makes it even better.