Even if the Chicago Bears are able to clear up enough salary-cap space for a splashly addition this offseason, adding someone like Le’Veon Bell is mostly just a dream (a theoretically possible one, but a dream nonetheless). And if that’s how it does, indeed, play out, GM Ryan Pace will need to look elsewhere to fortify his team’s backfield.
Enter: NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.
Kiper recently shared the names of players who could fit the Bears’ needs in the upcoming draft, including Kentucky’s Benny Snell Jr. (whom we’ve previously discussed), Stanford’s Bryce Love, and Penn State running back Miles Sanders.
On Sanders, Kiper had this to say: “I was really impressed with the way he played in some games, in other games he didn’t get a lot of help from the line and that was a factor for him. But to me, he’s a talented football player. He came in highly regarded, he’s got an ability to make people miss in the hole, he runs with good body lean.” Dope.
Sanders racked up 1,274 rushing yards and scored nine touchdowns on the ground last season, adding another 24 catches and 139 receiving yards for the Nittany Lions. There isn’t much of a statistical profile on Sanders from his college days because he served as a backup to some guy named Saquon Barkley during his first two years on campus – you might’ve heard of him. Because Sanders has one impressive year under his belt and doesn’t have the normal wear-and-tear collegiate lead backs tend to have, he could attract a lot of eyes this summer.
The other two backs Kiper mentions are intriguing in their own right, too.
After playing in a backup role behind Christian McCaffrey at Stanford, Love had a break-through season for the Cardinals in 2017. There, he racked up 2,118 rushing yards, earned unanimous first-team All-American honors, and won the Doak Walker Award for being college football’s best running back. An ACL injury cut short Love’s senior season and it could cause him to miss some time in 2019, but he was a Heisman hopeful to start the year and could be a steal for a team that can stash him on their roster.
It took Snell just three seasons to become Kentucky’s all-time leading rusher, and he’s just one of four backs in SEC history to post three consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Any time you can join a list that also includes Herschel Walker, you’ve done something right.
Whether any of these running backs will be on the board when the Bears first go on the clock this April (Round 3, overall pick No. 87) is up in the air. Snell, like Sanders, is a top-10 running back according to Kiper and fellow draft insider Todd McShay, The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs, and WalterFootball.com, who actually ranked him third overall at the position. As for Love, he’s probably going to take a tumble down draft boards because injury and durability concerns. But still … there’s plenty of upside to be had when drafting someone from this position group.
Now, none of this is to say the Bears’ current group of running backs is a weakness. On the contrary – the depth chart features a lead rusher with two 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his belt and a do-it-all back who gained more than 1,100 yards from scrimmage last year while scoring eight total touchdowns. The Jordan Howard-Tarik Cohen tandem is as good. Full stop.
And yet, it’s not unfair to want more – or perhaps, a better fit for this offense. Everyone knows that particular position is historically punishing and unforgiving to load-carrying runners and under-sized backs. So with that in mind, it would only be right to open our eyes and ears to all sorts of options that could tie the room together.