Not that long ago the Bears made an annual dip into free agency for a veteran backup to running back Matt Forte. Now the search for Forte understudies appears to be settling into the draft.
For the second straight year the Bears used a fourth-round pick on a running back, selecting Jeremy Langford from Michigan State with the 106th-overall pick.
Last year it was Ka’Deem Carey out of Arizona. Carey got just 36 carries in his rookie season, had difficulty mastering the offense, according to sources, and now faces a very stiff battle for a roster spot. Carey did nothing on special teams last season while Langford was a proven contributor on special teams before taking over as Michigan State’s No. 1 tailback.
Langford, 6-1, 208 pounds, succeeded Le’Veon Bell as the Spartans’ featured back in 2013 and 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first year as a starter. He followed that with 1,522 yards and 22 touchdowns last season.
He and Bell became and still are friends. Langford made a specific point of studying how Bell did what he did.
“When he left, I watched his previous games,” Langford said. “I learned a lot. How he ran the ball, his patience…that’s what he does a good job of, not being worried about people’s criticism of him being a big back and being too patient. He runs the same way all the time; he’s very patient.”
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Notably in the roster competition he’ll have with Carey, Langford, who played some wide receiver and cornerback early in his time at East Lansing, lettered on special teams as a freshman and sophomore.
As he did from Bell, Langford will apprentice under one of the NFL’s elite backs in Forte, who is someone Langford already has done homework on.
“I watched Matt Forte a lot,” Langford said. “I feel like he does it all — catches the ball out of the backfield very well, blocks linebackers very well… . I feel like he’s the whole package.”