Should Chicago Bears draft Illinois RB Chase Brown?

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The Chicago Bears may have the running back room complete, but if the right player falls at the right time, they could certainly upgrade. One name that fans would not mind seeing is Illinois running back Chase Brown. What does he bring to the NFL, and when would the Chicago Bears have to consider him in the 2023 NFL Draft?

Chicago Bears NFL Draft Profile: Chase Brown

Chase Brown started his journey to the NFL at Western Michigan. He had 345 yards as a true freshman, which caused him to transfer to Illinois. In 2019 he was not involved during his first year in the Big 10, then 2020 was shortened due to COVID.

However, he took off in 2021 with 1,005 yards rushing and 142 yards receiving. Then, he followed that up with 1,632 yards rushing and 242 rushing yards. His work over the past two seasons caused him to get an invite to the Senior Bowl and NFL combine. Below you can see his athletic profile at the event.

He is not overly big, but he sure is explosive. He has big hands, and ran a fast 40, with strong jumps, and a good bench press to put it all together.

How Chase Brown fits in the NFL

Chase Brown was a workhorse at Illinois and had 329 attempts last season. However, when you look at his size, he is probably going to be viewed as more of a change of pace back in the NFL. That is fair because he also ran zone 74% of the time in college. He would not fit in a gap scheme, and it would take him time to adjust. Brown is good when he has a runway, and he knows how to juke defenders and get outside to the hole. However, his decision-making inside the tackles is up and down, and he relies too much on his athletic traits to break runs between the tackles.

Beyond that, he does not really have the size to grind between the tackles in the NFL. He has five fumbles already, and cannot effectively bounce off of bigger tacklers and continue to push the pile forward.

Brown was able to hit a 15-yard run on 35% of his rushing attempts in college. He also was in the 66th percentile as a pass catcher per PlayerProfiler. He can be a factor as a pass catcher, especially when he gets the ball in the flats in space. However, he also does not have route running wiggle, or the ability to be a legitimate threat down the field.

In an outside zone scheme, he can be trusted to get big plays, and he can add a pass-catching element, but he is not a back who can consistently win between the tackles.

NFL Comparison for Chase Brown

When you describe Chase Brown, he sounds an awful lot like Travis Homer, who the Chicago Bears just signed in free agency. Below, you can see how the two compare, and it is a fair comparison.

One big difference is that Chase Brown was a workhorse the past two seasons, and Travis Homer split time even at Miami. Still, Brown is not a between-the-tackles runner in the NFL, and he is best when he can use his speed, and burst to break zone runs to the outside. That is exactly what Travis Homer brings.

Chase Brown has to refine his pass protection but is violent and willing in that area, and he is as good, or better as a pass catcher already. Brown has more experience and may be a better runner between the tackles, but both run with the same erratic nature that can hit big runs, but also lead to runs for losses.

Should Chicago Bears draft Chase Brown?

If the Chicago Bears did want to find an upgrade from their current top running backs, the name on the chopping block would be Travis Homer. Brown could be cheaper, younger, and on a longer-term contract if the Chicago Bears draft him. He brings a similar skill set with the potential to handle more work as a runner.

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Still, the question is the cost. The Chicago Bears have so many needs, and recent signings pushed running back far down the list. If he starts to fall into the later stages of day three, he may be worth a shot to compete with Travis Homer in training camp.