Despite rumors that the Chicago Bears are very interested in Devin Singletary, they should look to pass on him for other options
With the buzz of Miles Sanders dying down due to his second round value, the smoke is starting to pick up around the Chicago Bears and Devin Singletary. The team has met with him multiple times and worked him out privately. Mel Kiper also mocked Singletary to the Bears at pick 87.
If it is later in the draft it could be one thing. However, at pick 87, there are likely going to be better options with less bust potential than Devin Singletary.
To start, it is worth noting Singletary is a fantastic college prospect. Nobody is going to discredit what he did at Florida Atlantic statistically. It is clear he is a smart runner, and his lateral agility is top of the line with his ability to string moves together without losing momentum. However, Singletary profiles similarly to a back that has excellent college success but is not as strong at a higher.
Is Singletary an outlier?
Despite strong college tape, his bust potential is higher than most options, even at pick 87. That is because there are not many players at his size, and athleticism that have had any sort of career in the NFL. Him making it would have a similar hit rate of a late-round pick. Take a look at his mockdraftable web. Any number at 50 or higher is just league average to participants at the combine. The only area he shows above average is his vertical jump, which shows in his jump cuts. He is below his peers is key categories, though.
Since 2000, the only running backs to stand 5’8″ and shorter as well as under 210 pounds to get 500 rushing yards in a season are Devonta Freeman, Justin Forsett, Maurice Jones-Drew, Dion Lewis, Kevin Faulk, Brandon Oliver, Leon Washington, Jacquizz Rodgers and, Phil Lindsey.
It is one thing to be small, as Maurice Jones-Drew showed. However, Jones-Drew ran a 4.39 in the 40-yard at 210 pounds. Singletary weighs 203 pounds and ran a 4.67. They are not in the same class. This reduces the group of successful backs significantly when factoring in a lack of deep speed.
Generously including Devonta Freeman, who ran a 4.58-yard dash at 206 pounds, the only backs who ran 4.6 or higher at his size and weight to have any significance in the past 20 years are Justin Forsett, Branden Oliver, and Jacquizz Rodgers.
Passing game questions
It is one thing that there are minimal backs that have been successful at his size. The deep speed questions add another major red flag. However, having minimal passing game value makes it really hard to say that he can avoid all of these hurdles.
Darren Sproles has never eclipsed 500 rushing yards at his size but is a key contributor in the passing game. Tarik Cohen has upside in this area as well. Singletary has a 40% drop rate which is worst in the class and caught six passes last year.
Florida Atlantic did not throw the ball often, but still, only 7% of their passing targets were for Singletary. To put that into perspective Jacquizz Rodgers, and Branden Oliver had 20% and 12% target shares respectively. These backs were small and slow but found a way because they could run between the tackles and catch out of the backfield. Singletary does not provide this.
Two comparable backs
After dwindling down all of the things that make Singletary an outlier, there are only two running backs to have serious NFL success despite rarely catching passes in college, being small, and having a lack of deep speed. That is Freeman, who ran a 4.58, compared to the 4.67 of Singletary. Still, he only weighed 206 pounds and saw minimal passing work at Florida State.
Justin Forsett is the other running back. He had the same target share as Singletary and weighed 190 pounds. Still, it is worth noting Freeman went round four and Forsett was a round seven pick who jumped around the league before finding his best season.
Do not draft the next Ka’Deem Carey
Could Devin Singletary be the one Devonta Freeman of the next decade? Sure. However, it is just as likely that he turns out to be the next Ka’Deem Carey. Carey was an insanely productive back in college but did not have great size, speed or passing game value.
Take a look at the athletic comparison between Carey and Singletary.
These two are more similar in athletic ability than Singletary and Freeman. Of course, nobody wants to make this comparison. To take this even further here is NFL.com listing the strength of Devin Singletary:
"High-end production seems to follow him. Touchdown monster with vision and power near goal line. Quick to process and respond to oncoming traffic. First responder rarely gets him down. Twitchy footwork for instant stop-starts. Limber for long, lateral jump-cuts. Instant acceleration after short-area cuts to avoid tacklers. Shrinks to sneak in and out of creases between the tackles. Access to steep, backside cuts. Eludes lurking angle tackles with plus peripheral vision. Good feel for bold cuts versus subtle ones in open field. Willful, determined demeanor of a much bigger back. Rare ability to absorb powerful shots and balance through contact. Runs frequently end with him still on his feet. Creates through power and shake to maximize each carry. Route separation to threaten out of backfield. Courageous pass protection with a highlight reel full of greatest hits"
Now here is what NFL.com wrote about Ka’Deem Carey
"Outstanding two-year production — piled up 3,814 yards and 42 touchdowns on the ground from 2012-13, ranking among the nation’s most prolific. Terrific compete level and determination — runs with energy, doesn?t go down easily and punctuates runs. Tries to punish tacklers and keeps his legs pumping — grinds out yards after contact. Good feet, acceleration and lateral agility. Spins off contact. Reliable shot receiver. Gets upfield with urgency after the catch and has enough shiftiness to create. Willing to throw a shoulder blow into rushers. Can handle a heavy workload — averaged 26 carries per game the last two seasons."
Both had outstanding production. Both ran with determination and were noted for quick feet. Carey gets upfield with urgency while Singletary maximized each carry.
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Sounds like they are similar prospects. They were crafty, smart and elusive and made the most of their college careers. In the NFL, they were not big enough, did not provide in the passing game and did not provide explosive runs.
Too many people are going to compare Singletary to Freeman without understanding that for every Freeman there are many more Justin Forsett’s and even more Ka’Deem Careys than that.
Singletary has a value and similarly to Freeman that starts in round four. The Chicago Bears likely brought in Singletary to throw balls at him consistently to see what he brings in that area. If he showed well and the Bears like him they may swing on him in round four. However. round three is too early, and if they do take him at round four, it is making a lower probability bet with a decently high bust rate compared to other options. We will see if Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace have the confidence to make that pick.