CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position by position as the Bears approach the 2016 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need and what draft days and after could have in store.
Bears pre-draft situation
Matt Forte approached the Bears last offseason with an offer to rework the final year of his contract and its $9.2 million cap hit. The Bears passed, not only then, but also after the 2016 season when Forte made no secret of his desire to re-sign in Chicago after. The Bears instead informed the veteran running back that they wouldn’t be offering him a new contract.
Forte went on the open market and settled with the New York Jets on a three-year deal calling for $9 million guaranteed. The Bears were not going to be thinking anywhere in that range for a 30-year-old running back, even with his distinguished history with the franchise.
That left Jeremy Langford the presumptive starter and Ka’Deem Carey as first-alternate, representing a total of three NFL starts, plus Jacquizz Rodgers, re-signed after a season-ending elbow injury in Game 5.
Langford was the Bears’ fourth-round pick last draft, rushed for six touchdowns plus one on an 83-yard catch-and-run at St. Louis, and totaled 142 and 182 combined yards in the consecutive San Diego and St. Louis games.
“I saw great maturity and then I thought he had good production for us at a young age,” coach John Fox said.
“As you piece together your roster for the next season, we feel good about him. We feel good about him taking the next step next year.”
The obvious problem: pure production.
Langford, Carey and Rodgers rushed for a combined 737 yards; Forte gained 898 in his 13 starts. The three backups totaled 205 carries; Forte, 218. Pass receptions by the three: 26; Forte, 44.
More concerning, the three residents on the depth chart averaged 3.6 yards per carry; Forte, 4.1.
Fox and GM Ryan Pace have made “competition” akin to a mantra. The Bears don’t have enough at the proven level, a statement they made with the offer to C.J. Anderson last month.
Insiders tell CSNChicago.com that the Bears under new coordinator Dowell Loggains will run the ball even more than the 45.7 percent they did last year. Carey and Langford have a combined total of 227 NFL carries. Forte averaged 254 carries per season for eight years.
Bears draft priority: Moderate
That the Bears made a concerted run at Denver tailback Anderson - making an offer to the restricted free agent who’d played for Fox in Denver - was a succinct statement that the Bears may like what they have in Carey, Langford and Rodgers, but they are not satisfied enough to take down the Help Wanted sign from the position group.
Pace in New Orleans (Reggie Bush, Mark Ingram No. 1’s) and Fox in Carolina (DeShaun Foster, Eric Shelton, No. 2’s; DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, No. 1’s) were parts of organizations aggressive in drafting running backs. Denver with Fox used a 2012 No. 3 on Ronnie Hillman and 2013 No. 2 on Montee Ball.
Their histories point to the Pace procuring another running back for Fox and new O-coordinator Dowell Loggains. The Bears hold nine picks in this draft, including two each in the fourth and sixth rounds. Those are prime locales for finding backs: of the 23 running backs selected in the 2015 draft, 15 were picked in the fourth round or later.
Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott is the consensus top-rated running back in this draft, the only lock-first-rounder per Pro Football Weekly’s Draft Guide. The Bears had meetings with Elliott at the Combine in addition a private get-together, but Elliott is a very, very long-shot to be the name on the card sent to the Commissioner at No. 11 on the 28th. Expect at least one pick and some undrafted free agents (which Anderson was in 2013) to be Bears by Sunday night that weekend.
Keep an eye on ...
Marshaun Coprich, Illinois State: Undersized but ultra-productive in a smaller program and is on probation from marijuana incident, but ran 4.38 at the Combine and put up 5,201 yards and 60 rushing TDs.
Paul Perkins, UCLA: Had 28 starts for a top PAC-12 program with good production rushing and receiving (621 carries, 80 receptions over past 3 seasons).
Dan Vitale, Northwestern: Bears don’t roster a true fullback but two-back team may grab freakish Vitale, who ran 4.6 and bench’ed 225 lbs 30 times at Combine; can catch and play special teams.