Chicago Bears NFL Combine Preview: Running Back

Parker Hurley
STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 10: Miles Sanders #24 of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 10, 2018 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 10: Miles Sanders #24 of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 10, 2018 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /
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STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 10: Miles Sanders #24 of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 10, 2018 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) chicago bears
STATE COLLEGE, PA – NOVEMBER 10: Miles Sanders #24 of the Penn State Nittany Lions looks on against the Wisconsin Badgers during the second half at Beaver Stadium on November 10, 2018 in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images) /

With the NFL combine coming up, which running backs should Chicago Bears fans keep their eyes on?

Whether the Chicago Bears bring back Jordan Howard or trade him, it appears as though the team is going to look into drafting a running back this offseason. Benny Cunningham is a free agent as well, and Taquan Mizzell has not worked as a depth back. Howard is a free agent at the end of next season so whether they keep Howard or not, they can draft for depth and with eyes on the future. Who should you be watching at the combine, and what would a meeting with the Bears or a strong combine performance mean? Here is the Chicago Bears viewing guide for running backs at the combine.

Will not be there: Josh Jacobs (Alabama), David Montgomery (Iowa State), Damien Harris (Aabama)

These are going to be the three running backs you will hear the most about during the NFL combine. They also are the three least likely to land on the Bears. Why? Because they do not pick until 87th overall, and with so much talk around these players they are sure to be gone.

In most scenarios, more than just these three are going to be drafted by the time the Bears pick. However, there seems to be a consensus thought that these three would undoubtedly be gone, while the rest comes to preference.

Related Story. David Montgomery Draft Profile. light

Potential Jordan Howard Replacements

This tier will be broken into multiple tiers

Are the Chicago Bears trading Howard?

Elijah Holyfield, Georgia:

Elijah Holyfield profiles similarly to Jordan Howard. Holyfield is a power back who features strong vision behind the line of scrimmage. He lacks breakaway speed and was hardly used in the passing game but brings short-area burst and a limited workload thanks to tailing Nick Chubb and Sony Michel most of his career.

Holyfield is a middle round NFL ready runner who could step in and carry a workload similar to Howard next year.

At the combine, how he looks in the receiving drills and how much breakaway speed he features will be worth monitoring.

Related Story. Elijah Holyfield draft profile. light

Miles Sanders, Penn State:

Sanders may be the most intriguing of this bunch. Similar to Holyfield, Sanders sat behind Saquon Barkley for most of his career. However, unlike Holyfield, he was featured heavily in the passing game. If the Bears wanted more versatility, they would be looking at Sanders, who Mel Kiper profiled as a player for Bears fans to watch.

Sanders caught out of the backfield and the slot and showed elusiveness and the physicality to hang in the between the tackles. The biggest question with Sanders comes in fumbling. He has one of the worst rates of any back in the draft. Is this due to inexperience and could be coached up, or will this issue follow him and limit his on-field production?

Like Holyfield, Sanders can step in fresh next season and can provide more in the passing game. His fumbles push him into a tier similar to Holyfield where both could be available for the Bears in round three or four.

At the combine, Sanders weight will be worth monitoring as you would like to see him around 220 pounds. From there, any signs of fumbling in drills could hurt his stock severely.

Miles Sanders Draft Profile. light. Related Story

Alex Mattison, Bosie State

Similarly to Miles Sanders, Mattison is going to bring more passing game value that Howard or even potentially Holyfield cannot deliver. While Mattison does hold onto the football more than Sanders and has shown the ability to handle a heavy workload, he does bring his fair share of questions as well.

Mattison is not very elusive laterally. His running style is beneficial between the tackles because he runs at a frantic pace downhill with decisiveness and power. However, he does not break many runs into the open field and does not typically put multiple moves together.

Mattison may go later than Sanders or Holyfield, into the fifth round, which makes him intriguing to invest in late. Questions with him will be how close he weighs to 220 pounds, how much functional strength he has, and how well he can perform in the agility drills.

Rodney Anderson, Oklahoma

Rodney Anderson is a name who could become a value for the Chicago Bears. Anderson brings value in the passing game with the ball in his hands but runs with a similarly frantic pace between the tackles to Mattison. He is not quite as elusive as Sanders but has more big-play potential than Mattison.

Anderson is an upright runner, and his power, breakaway speed, and pass protection qualities can all be questioned heading into the combine. Unfortunately, a leg injury ended Anderson’s season early and Bears fans will just have to read into his medical checkups this week.

Had Anderson been healthy and put together a strong combine he likely would have landed in the “Will not be there” category. With his injury and not having the chance to answer his on-field questions, he becomes an option in the fourth round.

Bennie Snell, Kentucky

Snell is a high-volume power back who can surprise with well-timed elusiveness and better than expected passing game impact. Snell displays a lot of patience behind the line and relies on his power to keep the chains moving. Questions will lie in just how elusive he can be and how quickly he can gear up his breakaway speed.

Gauging how athletic Snell is in comparison to Holyfield will tell which player has a higher ceiling. Snell has shown more in the passing game and with an impressive combine could be a player who shoots into the “Will not be there” tier. If he does not test well in the agility drills, the Chicago Bears may lean towards Sanders or Holyfield more.

Dexter Williams, Notre Dame

Williams only had one season with 100 carries but scored 12 touchdowns last season. Williams has strong vision, and when he can get going downhill, his speed becomes impressive.

The questions with him are why it takes so long to get his speed geared up, as he is hit and miss with tackles behind the line. Some of these issues caused him to lose carries to Josh Adams, who was a UDFA and rotational back for the Eagles last season. A role like Adams had last year in a committee may be a ceiling for Dexter Williams.

Ryquell Armstead, Temple

Armstead brings similar value to Williams. Both should come in at the 210-220 range, bring little passing game value and only have one year starting, albeit with production. Williams can hit the big play more often while Armstead is more of a slasher who can get downhill and pick up quick yards while Williams has more of the big play ability. Both payers will be looking to show enough passing game value for the Bears to take a chance in the fourth or fifth round.

Later round options with Howard replacement ceilings

EAST LANSING, MI – OCTOBER 20: Karan Higdon #22 of the Michigan Wolverines escapes the tackle of Andrew Dowell #5 of the Michigan State Spartans during a second quarter run at Spartan Stadium on October 20, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
EAST LANSING, MI – OCTOBER 20: Karan Higdon #22 of the Michigan Wolverines escapes the tackle of Andrew Dowell #5 of the Michigan State Spartans during a second quarter run at Spartan Stadium on October 20, 2018 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Karan Higdon, Michigan

Higdon is smaller and does not possess elite athleticism, but he took high volume carries and showed underrated power and vision. His 40-yard dash and weight would be worth watching at the combine, as he is a potential sixth-round pick who could sit behind Howard for a season, or fill in for Howard if an injury occurred.

L.J. Scott, Michigan State

It is a lazy comparison for a Michigan State back but L.J. Scott has some Le’Veon Bell in him. Remember, at MSU Bell was overweight and was not very explosive. However, he excelled as a pass protector and for his size contributed in the passing game. And of course the patience. Scott has more injury questions but if he lost weight similar to his predecessor at Michigan State he would be a late-round value.

Scott is coming off of a season-ending injury, and his medicals will be worth noting as the Bears could draft him late and trust him to backup Howard next season.

Qadree Ollison, Pitt

Ollison is one of the bigger backs in the class and would be an intriguing option for the Bears in the later rounds. Despite being bigger, Ollison can put his foot in the ground and burst in the second level. He also provides as a pass protector and pass catcher.

Ollison is not the shiftiest back, and while he can break a run or two, he is not going to blow away the 40. He did not even hold down his backfield every down at Pitt. However, his size, power, and passing game value compare him similarly to Spencer Ware, a back the Chiefs signed and used as a starter and depth player.

If the Bears see him run fast enough or see enough in the agility drills, they may wait to take Ollison in the sixth or seventh round.

Jacques Patrick, Florida State

Jacques Patrick is a downhill, power runner. A ceiling that he could potentially hit would be similar to LeGarrette Blount. The Bears may be intrigued by his size, and power combination. Patrick was no slouch in the passing game last year either, although he does not project as a reliable option in the NFL.

Seeing Patrick do receiving drills would help boost his stock and Chicago, and have them give the back a chance in the sixth or seventh round.

Mike Weber, Ohio State

Weber is a downhill back who will take what is given. His combination of vision and power would put him in line to back up Howard, but his inability to add breakaway speed or the fluidity to put multiple moves together limits his upside. His combine would go a long way in changing minds about how high his ceiling could be, and his improvement in the passing game in 2018 has the Bears potentially eyeing him in round seven.

Tarik Cohen compliments

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 28: Darrell Henderson #8 of the Memphis Tigers runs with the ball for a touchdown during the first half against the Tulane Green Wave at Yulman Stadium on September 28, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA – SEPTEMBER 28: Darrell Henderson #8 of the Memphis Tigers runs with the ball for a touchdown during the first half against the Tulane Green Wave at Yulman Stadium on September 28, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

These running backs may not be able to consistently handle between the tackle duties, forcing Cohen to add more to carries to his total. However, their passing game value could compliment Cohen and help aid a 50-50 backfield.

Darrell Henderson, Memphis

Henderson has the potential to be a three-down runner in the style of Howard, How much he weighs and how much he can put up on the bench would go a long way in bumping him into the Howard replacement tier. Henderson is a bit undersized, and at times can be washed between the tackles.

However, he can also explode runs into the second level and averaged over eight yards per attempt. His speed and between the tackles running could be deadly next to Cohen. The Bears would have to make a move in round three for Henderson, because if he runs a low 40-yard dash, he may be in the tier that will not get to 87.

Related Story. Darrell Henderson draft profile. light

Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic

Devin Singletary is another player who many do not expect to see him get to 87. However, there are questions as to whether or not he could compliment Cohen or be redundant in style compared to Cohen. Singletary has elite elusiveness and ability to string moves together.

He has underrated power but does not have the size to be a long term workhorse back in the NFL. What will cause Singletary to rise outside of the Bears draft range would be an impressive receiving display at the combine. For a small, shifty back, he caught six passes last season.

Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

Williams is going to come in around 200 pounds as well and with that many will question his ability between the tackles. The biggest advantage Williams has on his size to call the Bears attention is his pass protection abilities. For his size, he would bring an added dimension that Cohen does not have.

On top of that, Williams is an explosive runner who stylistically would be similar to Cohen, with a bit more value between the tackles. If Williams comes in and shows the proper weight and playing strength at the combine, the Chicago Bears could take a chance in round four.

Too similar to Cohen

STILLWATER, OK – SEPTEMBER 15: Running back Justice Hill #5 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys struggles to stay in bounds on a break away run against the Boise State Broncos at Boone Pickens Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Broncos 44-21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images)
STILLWATER, OK – SEPTEMBER 15: Running back Justice Hill #5 of the Oklahoma State Cowboys struggles to stay in bounds on a break away run against the Boise State Broncos at Boone Pickens Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Cowboys defeated the Broncos 44-21. (Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images) /

These backs will likely go in the third or fourth round and present too similar of a skill set to Cohen to compliment him. None of the three are expected to come in at 200 pounds, none bring strong pass protection, and all three are better bursting runs to the outside and catching passes than playing between the tackles.

Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
James Williams, RB, Washington State
Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

Benny Cunningham/Taquan Mizzell replacements

The main reason to draft these backs are the immediate upgrade they present over Cunningham at his cost or Mizzell. They may not have the upside to replace Howard but will serve a role in year one and moving forward.

FORT WORTH, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 03: Alex Barnes #34 of the Kansas State Wildcats runs the ball against Vernon Scott #26 of the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 03, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
FORT WORTH, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 03: Alex Barnes #34 of the Kansas State Wildcats runs the ball against Vernon Scott #26 of the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium on November 03, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /

Alex Barnes, Kansas State

Barnes brings more size to the table than Cunningham or Mizzell but brings similar passing game value. He could compare to Ryan Nall as a runner, and it would be interesting to see the two compete in camp. He could be a seventh-round add in Chicago.

Tony Pollard, Memphis

Pollard is a chess piece who can be used in the slot, as a move tight end or a runner between the tackles. He could compare to Jaylen Samuels, who was drafted on the Steelers last year. While he is more of a project behind the line, and better in the passing game, he is a better pass protector than Mizzell, and is more explosive than Cunningham.

Heck, if needed he could be a Trey Burton backup. That could get him round five or later consideration in Chicago.

Bryce Love, Stanford

Bryce Love went from a potential first round pick to a poor season, a torn ACL and a drop into the fifth or sixth round. The Bears having Howard and Cohen could allow them to add Love in the middle rounds, have him replace Mizzell and see what his upside is from there.

Travis Homer, Miami

Homer is a perfect replacement for Cunningham. Cunningham brought special teams value and was a strong pass protector which are two of the bigger draws to Homer as a prospect. Homer has strong balance, and while he could not consistently play between the tackles, he would bring third down value.

Nick Brossette, LSU

One of the better attributes Brossette brings is his pass protection value. He is a smart runner and plays with good vision but does not have adequate burst or breakaway speed. He is a ready-made back who can step into the Cunningham role as a pass protector and special teams asset next season.

Jordan Scarlett, Florida

Scarlett has a combination of size and burst but does not bring much passing game value. If he showed well in the passing game at the combine, they could consider him in the seventh round.

Jalin Moore, Appalachian State

Moore is a very elusive back who can put multiple moves together. The issue is he had ankle surgery in October and will have a medical evaluation at the combine. He brings excellent pass protection abilities, but without ankle flexibility may lose a key factor of his game.

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