Should Chicago Bears Draft Ezekiel Elliott if Available at No. 11?
The signings of free agents at this point in the offseason has died down dramatically, and everyone’s focus is pointed towards the 2016 NFL Draft, which is less than three weeks away. The Chicago Bears have had one of the best offseasons thus far, and things should only get better once April 28 arrives. After adding a number of new talent to the roster, the Bears are fortunate enough to have numerous players to pick from in this year’s draft—especially in the first round.
Chicago will have the 11th overall selection at their disposal, and who they choose to invest that pick in is up in the air. Adding another pass rusher is definitely a top priority, as well as strengthening the offensive line with a left tackle. After losing Jarvis Jenkins in free agency, adding another defensive end to go along with the newly acquired Akiem Hicks could be a good move, as well as upgrading the cornerback position. But what if once the Bears are on the clock in the first round, Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott is still on the board?
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Looking at the draft needs for Chicago, running back is not on the list. Even though Matt Forte, the Bears’ second-most productive running back in franchise history, is no longer in the Windy City, there still is hope in the backfield with Jeremy Langford. Langford did prove that he is good enough to step in as the feature back during his rookie campaign, and the Bears’ brass showed their faith in him by cutting ties with Forte. But penciling in Langford as the starting running back for 2016 doesn’t mean that general manager Ryan Pace is willing to settle for what he has on their depth chart.
Not that long ago, the Bears expressed interest in Denver Broncos running back C.J. Anderson, reportedly offering him a four-year, $19 million contract after Forte signed with the New York Jets. Eventually, Anderson opted to sign an offer sheet with former Bears offensive coordinator and now current head coach Adam Gase and the Miami Dolphins, only to have the Broncos match Miami’s offer. So adding another running back via the draft isn’t a farfetched idea. However, seeing Elliott drop in the lap of Chicago at No. 11 may be a bit more unbelievable, but at the same time still possible.
In the last mock draft produced by Charles Davis of NFL.com, he actually has the Bears selecting Elliott in the first round. This would be a miracle from my point of view, considering that teams like the Dallas Cowboys and the Philadelphia Eagles are picking fourth and eighth in the first round respectively. Elliott should be able to flourish behind Dallas’ massive offensive line, but the Cowboys are also predicted to select Elliott’s Buckeye teammate defensive end Joey Bosa. And with the Eagles trading DeMarco Murray to the Tennessee Titans, Elliott could be a perfect fit to fill the void in Philly.
But let’s concentrate on the possibility of Elliott slipping past the top 10. I know prospects like Ronnie Stanley, Shaq Lawson, and Vernon Hargreaves III are hard to pass up, but if Elliott is still available, I think that it’s a no-brainer for Pace to draft him.
This situation has me thinking back to a somewhat similar situation the Minnesota Vikings had after the 2006 season. At that time, running back Chester Taylor had rushed for over 1,200 yards on the season, and everyone thought that he would be the Vikings’ feature back going into 2007. Fast forward to the draft, Minnesota is on the clock with the seventh overall pick, and someone by the name of Adrian Peterson is staring them in the face. The Vikings decide to draft the best available player rather than strictly drafting for need, and the rest is history.
I’m not saying that Elliott is the next Adrian Peterson, but there were a few scout comparing him to Peterson, and as you know that is very high praise. Drafting Elliott, if available, would be a smart move simply because he’s a game-changer in the running game. Along with Langford, Chicago could potentially have the best two-headed backfield in the NFL. And let’s not forget that last year’s first-round pick wide receiver Kevin White will be on the field as well.
In addition, Elliott would have some familiarity on the sideline if drafted by the Bears. Chicago’s running back coach Stan Drayton held the same position at Ohio State while Elliott wore the scarlet and gray. In 2014, Elliott finished third in the nation in rushing with 1,878 yards, while the Buckeyes won the National Championship.
The odds may be slim, but not as slim as you may think. If Elliott is there at No. 11, it might be safe to say that the Windy City will have another great running back in-the-making on their hands.