Daniel Braverman has an NFL role model of sorts, and it’s an ambitious one to set as a standard.
The rookie wide receiver was the Bears’ seventh-round pick in this year’s draft, the 230th pick overall. This despite ranking No. 2 in DI with 108 receptions.
Maybe it was his size (5-foot-10). Maybe it was his school pedigree (Western Michigan). Whatever the reason, Braverman knows that Pittsburgh wideout Antonio Brown is 5-foor-10, was a sixth-round pick, played at Central Michigan, has gone to four Pro Bowls and been All-Pro the last three years — and didn’t make a splash in his first year, either.
“Even Antonio Brown, he had only  catches his first year,” Braverman noted. “He wasn’t ‘Antonio Brown’ that first year. But he was just as good the next year (69 catches, 1,108 yards) as he was that first year, just got more opportunities.”
Now Braverman, who was cut and then re-signed to the Bears’ practice squad after preseason, is getting his first opportunity on the big stage. His chance to follow fellow Floridian and fellow MAC standout Brown into becoming a lot more than people ever expected.
The Bears moved Braverman from the practice squad onto the regular roster this week after a dismal game for receivers in the loss to Tennessee, and slot receiver Eddie Royal continuing to be hampered by a toe injury.
And Braverman arrives on the roster with some built-in familiarity with his quarterback, since the two of them have worked this season on the scout team. And familiarity is a starting point in any quarterback-receiver relationship.
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“In and out of breaks he’s really quick getting separation,” said quarterback Matt Barkley. “He’s a little smaller target but I think he plays big. And how he’s able to catch the ball. He’s got solid hands. But I think especially coming from the slot, whether it’s working at nickel or even against some of the base ‘backers that we’ll get this week, he can make guys miss.”
The Bears were done in by misses by receivers against Tennessee, with 10 passes dropped. Braverman established during training camp that he has excellent hands and route-running skills, repeatedly making plays against aggressive coverage.
But when the games came, Braverman disappeared, finishing the preseason with just 6 catches for 40 total yards. “I had to learn about new coverages, coverages I hadn’t seen in college,” Braverman said. “In camp it was more just go ‘ball but in the games it was more strategy, and you have to learn.”
Nothing is assured yet for Braverman, who may be able to bring some special-teams help to the game in case Royal is out. Braverman returned kickoffs and punts at Western Michigan and punts in preseason, but did not flash in the latter opportunities. He has had to work his way back into position for the move to the game-day roster.
“We evaluated our practice squad to bring up a guy and he was the guy we thought most ready,” said coach John Fox, who cited reasons for Braverman’s improvement as, “I think familiarity with what we’re asking him to do. He primarily plays in the slot and basically his mastering of that. We were able to see when he was in practice and when he was in practice squad.”
Motivation won’t be a problem for Braverman, who was a high-school star in Florida but was passed over by the state’s bigger star programs.
“I grew up with a chip on my shoulder I think just from being from South Florida and always having to prove myself on the field,” Braverman said. “So it's just been with me and that's just who I am really as a person.”