In a moment of honesty, I’ll admit that the Khalil Herbert pick was something of a head-scratcher when it flashed across my screen. The Bears already had David Montgomery, Damian Williams, and Tarik Cohen in the fold. And with Artavis Pierce and Ryan Nall angling for playing time, the fit didn’t make sense. But given some time to chew on it, Herbert makes sense on multiple levels.
For instance, there is no such thing as too much running back depth. The Bears saw first-hand how depth can quickly evaporate when David Montgomery and Tarik Cohen missed time due to injuries. Secondly, running backs like Herbert provide special teams value (which shouldn’t be overlooked). And finally, Herbert was a value pick. Some analysts and insiders had fourth-round grades on Herbert. PFF liked him as a top-100 prospect and the site’s RB5 in this class. Getting a top-5 prospect at an offensive skill position in the sixth round is a tremendous value
With that being said, let’s take some time to meet the newest running back to join the room.
THE PICK (ROUND 6, PICK 217)
• Name: Khalil Herbert (23)
• College: Virginia Tech (Kansas, 2016-19)
• Position: Running back, kick returner
• Measurements: 5-9, 210 pounds, 31 1/4-inch arms, 8 1/2-inch hands
STATS TO KNOW
• 2020 stats: 11 games, 155 carries, 1,183 yards, 8 TD; 10 catches, 179 yards, 1 TD; 16 kick returns, 430 yards
• Career stats: 46 games, 475 carries, 2,918 yards, 22 touchdowns; 34 catches, 297 yards, 1 TD; 18 kick returns 446 yards
• Accomplishments: Second-team All-ACC (2020)
• Position ranking: 15th (ESPN), 5th (Pro Football Focus), 11th (The Draft Network), 8th (Pro Football Network)
THREE STRENGTHS (FROM NFL.COM’s DRAFT PROFILE)
• “Ball security and kick return potential are both a plus..” … Two things coaches and football fans love are players who don’t turn it over and guys who can contribute in multiple facets of the game. Versatility is king.
• “Runs with easy tempo and good decisiveness. … Instant, clear processing of run lanes while on the move. … Runs behind his pads and falls forward as finisher.” … This is a three-for-one, but his trio of strengths ties together. How a running back runs matters as much as the numbers they post at the end of he day.
• “Received team’s Williams-Moss Award for highest quality of leadership and character.” … GM Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy have been complimentary about their team’s locker room culture (almost to the point where it’s tiresome). Herbert seems to check that box by being given this honor
THREE WEAKNESSES (FROM NFL.COM’S DRAFT PROFILE)
• “Labored and ineffective when forced to stop-start..” … There’s a reason Herbert fell to the sixth round.
• “Takes time to gather and cut. … Lacks short-area wiggle to elude sudden traffic.” … Maybe there is something here for new RBs Coach Michael Pitre can work on from a training point of view. Otherwise, knowing Herbert’s limitations could be key in proper deployment.
• “Doesn’t find his man consistently in pass pro. … Effort and technique might make him a non-option on passing downs.” … During Senior Bowl Week, Herbert showed an ability and willingness to get his nose dirty as a blocker. How Herbert develops in his area could determine his future role and how much playing time he receives.
NFL.COM COMPARISON: Mike Davis (Now, that is a name I’ve not heard in a long time…)
WHERE HERBERT FITS
Herbert joins a crowded running backs room which features David Montgomery at the top, Damian Williams as the back who figures to give him a breather, and Tarik Cohen in a multi-purpose role. The room also includes a pair of former Oregon State Beavers in Artavis Pierce and Ryan Nall. With Montgomery, Williams, and Cohen locked into roles, Herbert figures to battle Pierce and Nall as reserve backfield options. Should Herbert prevail, it could allow Matt Nagy to use Cohen more liberally as a pass-catcher. Perhaps line him up in the slot and get him some looks out of that spot on the field? Drafting a running back might’ve felt weird in the moment, but it only adds to the Bears’ versatility. That’s good.
In the short term, it doesn’t take much effort to envision Herbert’s immediate fit. With Cordarrelle Patterson leaving in free agency, Herbert could take the kick return gig immediately. The skills are legit:
Is Virginia Tech RB Khalil Herbert just a faster Devin Singletary with some return ability? His suddenness and running style reminds me of Motor pic.twitter.com/kiWqP0upZp
— Kendall Mirsky (@MirskyKendall) April 12, 2021
I do also think he's much more of a "one-cut, & go" type back than he is making a bunch of guys miss him in space. More slithery than anything from what I've watched. Able to change his direction and trajectory without much change in his speed. pic.twitter.com/kelye8ZAI0
— Danny Meehan (@DanMeehan90) May 3, 2021
Another screen play where he showcases more of that acceleration and ability to weave through some traffic. **He may also offer some kick return ability as added bonus that should potentially ensure his place on the roster. Thank you for attending my #ProspectTalk pic.twitter.com/0OcLhOYmQf
— Danny Meehan (@DanMeehan90) May 3, 2021
THEY SAID IT:
ESPN reaction to the Khalil Herbert pick by the Bears…
Kiper: All he’s done is produce solid results.
Riddick: Two career fumbles his entire career. … That’s a guy you’d like to work with.
McShay: He wore Frank Beamer’s No. 25 for his special teams ability.
— Kevin Fishbain (@kfishbain) May 1, 2021