The Chicago Bears may not have felt comfortable with their running back options if they did not trade up
The Chicago Bears decision to trade up for running back David Montgomery will be remembered by fans for a variety of reasons. Bears fans will always compare Montgomery to Jordan Howard, and will always question the price, and the idea that the Patriots would trade down and take a different running back.
However, when the Chicago Bears started their search for a running back, it started to become clear that this was not exactly the best class. The team noted that the back they wanted needed to have three-down capability, pass catching qualities, and elusiveness that extends into the third level. That is a lot to ask of a running back in a weak class.
Through a variety of series that we have posted in the lead up to the draft not many of these backs fit the bill. On top of that, when judging by the consensus of the draft board by NFL evaluators, and the way that the board played out the team likely had these backs as their favorites in the class:
Josh Jacobs, Miles Sanders, Darrell Henderson, David Montgomery
These were four backs that we noted would likely not fall to 87, but needed to be drafted if they did.
Devine Ozigbo, Alexander Mattison and Dexter Williams were intriguing options as well but were not checking as many boxes as the other four. Two of those three went much later in the draft, and Mattison went 103rd. In between the top four backs above, and Ozigbo, Mattison and Williams was Devin Singletary, who is a polarizing prospect. The Bears and the consensus likely had Singletary as their number five back behind Jacobs, Sanders, Henderson, and Montgomery.
However, there is a gap between Montgomery and Singletary. Singletary is a flashy prospect who made highlight plays but had serious questions in his NFL application. Montgomery is a bigger back with similar speed and better hands. If the options came down to these two, it was clear the Bears needed Montgomery.
As the draft went the Chicago Bears sat tight. First, we saw Josh Jacobs, no shocker he was not anticipated to fall. Then, Miles Sanders went to Philadelphia. We were prepared for that as well, as Sanders dominated the combine and interviews. However, as the picks started coming so came the countdown to Henderson.
Henderson checked every single box, and by the analytic perspective had to be the best fit in Chicago of the class. Still, with Henderson and Montgomery on board, and checking boxes, there was no need to rush. Let the board fall to you.
Then, Darrell Henderson got drafted. Once Henderson got drafted the Bears picked up the phone. They were not going to risk the downside of Singletary and were looking for the safe pick in Montgomery.
Had they not traded up, they would have missed out on Singletary and Montgomery. They likely would have had to wait until round four to find someone who fit at the value. There, they would have missed Damien Harris and Alexander Mattison as well.
That would have had them waiting until round six and looking at Dexter Williams, Trayveon Williams or the UDFA Devine Ozigbo. Those players were drafted in round six and undrafted for a reason.
In terms of value, there became no option close to Montgomery. Not trading up would have opened a slippery slope of missing out on backs or reaching to avoid the miss. The Bears stayed patient, and then when the only back they felt comfortable with was the last back on the board, they made their move.
It may have come at a cost, but it was a smart decision in a football sense.