With the Chicago Bears 2-7 and no chance at the 2016 playoffs, I’ve decided to start my NFL draft preview a little early. That way readers have a chance to watch some of these players before the college football season is over.
I’ll be breaking down possible draft targets at every position, since the Bears pretty much have holes everywhere. Check out my links below to see other positions.
Bears Draft Targets:
Bears Position Overview:
On paper, the Bears have three young running backs, each drafted early on day three of the last three drafts (2014-2016). Jordan Howard stands out among the group talent and production wise, with four 100 yard games and a 5.3 yards per carry average. Howard looks like the long-term future at running back for the Bears.
The other two backs have shown flashes of talent, but neither has proven much. Jeremy Langford, a 4th round pick in 2015, has the best speed of the three and is the only big play threat but has plenty of flaws as well. Langford hasn’t shown the ability to gain yards after contact or make people miss in traffic. Despite being a wide receiver in college, Langford has also dropped way too many passes.
Ka’Deem Carey has flashed impressive power with the ball in his hands and runs with a visible anger. The problem with Carey is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy for extended periods since the Bears selected him in the 4th round of the 2014 draft.
With Howard the probable starter in 2016 and two capable backups, the Bears could stand pat at the position in the 2017 draft. They could also look for an upgrade over Langford as a 3rd down back, or Carey, as a short-yardage back.
HC John Fox has preferred a committee approach to the position and the Bears could be looking for a more reliable backfield partner for Howard. Possibly a speed back to complement Howard’s power, like Fox had in Denver with C.J. Anderson (power) and Ronnie Hillman (speed).
Or they may not be satisfied with Howard as the main back, Fox certainly benches him often enough, and look for a new primary ball carrier. This would be the year to do it, as the draft is stocked with quality running backs to a historic degree.
Draft Position Overview:
The running back class in 2017 is absolutely loaded with top-tier talent. There are as many as twelve backs with a grade in the top three rounds (depending on which draft site you prefer). I’ve broken down a few players in each of the first three rounds and a couple late round players who could be targets for the Bears in next year’s draft.
Bears Draft Targets – Running Back
With the Bears likely picking in the top ten, they could have their choice of running back in this draft. That may seem early for the position, but with the success that Ezekiel Elliot, last years #4 overall pick, is having with the Cowboys teams could take a running back earlier than usual this year. It is a copycat league after all.
1.) Leonard Fournette, LSU (6’1, 230) – The best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson. Fournette has an insane power / speed combination. He can break away from defensive backs with speed timed as low as 4.36 and has the power to run through arm tackles from defensive linemen, run over linebackers, and absolutely destroy defensive backs.
For a big man, Fournette has great feet which allow him to evade defenders and avoid straight-on hits. At times he’ll decide to take a hit straight on and he usually gets the best of it when he does. I haven’t seen a running back inflict as much pain on defenders since Bears legend Walter Payton.
I’m not comparing Fournette (or anyone) to Payton, but he does have a similar punishing running style that brings back memories of Sweetness. Fournette also plays in an offense so inept that it’s reminiscent of Payton’s early years on the Bears. He faces eight men in the box on almost every play and still has managed to average 6.9 yards per carry this season.
Fournette is a freak of nature and has all the skills that teams would look for if they were creating a player in Madden. He’s not used much in the passing game (41 career catches) or in pass pro, but has looked like a natural in both when given a chance. He’s also a dynamic kick returner with a 100-yard return against Notre Dame in his freshman season.
He has all the tools to step into the NFL and be a dominant, franchise back. There is a chance Fournette could go #1 overall to the Browns but if he slips to the back half of the top ten, the Bears need to at least think about drafting him.
If the Bears were to select Fournette in the first round, it would make things easier on whatever QB they selected in the second. The Bears have the makings of an above-average offensive line for the 2017 season and a strong running game would lessen the pressure on a rookie QB. The Cowboys have shown the blueprint of how that combo works out and the Bears have enough pieces to make a similar strategy work in 2017.