Comparing Chicago Bears RB Khalil Herbert to his draft class

Chicago Bears - Credit: Eileen T. Meslar-USA TODAY Sports
Chicago Bears - Credit: Eileen T. Meslar-USA TODAY Sports /

If there is one thing that the Chicago Bears’ former General Manager Ryan Pace needs credit for, it is hitting on late-round picks.

In 2021, there were 19 running backs drafted, and Khalil Herbert was the 15th running back selected. Travis Etienne missed the season with an injury, Gerrid Doaks was let go by the team that drafted him, and James Funk only played special teams. The other 16 running backs at least got some work. Of the running backs who played last year, Herbert was the 14th selected.

Where does Khalil Herbert rank in his draft class?

In rushing yards, he was seventh last season, and that was entering the year behind David Montgomery and Damien Williams on the depth chart. Najee Harris, Elijah Mitchell, Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Chuba Hubbard, and Rhaomdre Stevenson were ahead of Herbert in their rookie seasons.

Chris Evans and Kenneth Gainwell had more receiving yards out of the backfield. The other six backs did as well, so Herbert ranked ninth here. Still, he did finish 7th in overall yards.

Of those seven he finished sixth in yards after contact per attempt. He also was sixth in missed tackles forced per attempt, finishing ahead of Hubbard in both areas. Unfortunately, he had the worst yards per route run rate of the group.

He did finish 3rd in breakaway run rate, behind just Williams and Carter. Still, whichever way you order them, in most areas Harris, Mitchell, Carter, Williams, and Stevenson are the top five backs from this class.

Khalil Herbert has been more efficient than Hubbard, although Hubbard got more work. You can easily rank Herbert as the sixth-best back after his rookie season.

Jermar Jefferson and Kylin Hill were drafted after Herbert, so there were no high expectations for them. Still, Herbert was more productive as a rookie than Demetric Felton, Chris Evans, Larry Rountree, Gary Brightwell, Kenneth Gainwell, Kene Nwangwu, and Trey Sermon, and all of these backs went ahead of him in the draft.

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For most of these backs, it is hard to see them showing much in the coming years either. Considering five of the most productive backs were drafted as the top seven, Mitchell, and Herbert deserves respect for getting into the top seven while Sermon and Nwangwu are the two drafted in the top seven not to currently be top seven runners from their own draft class.