Much like the backup quarterback spot, the running back depth is lacking right now on the Bears’ roster.
Starting running back Matt Forte is entering his seventh season with the Bears. The 28-year-old Tulane product is coming off a sensational 2013 season, where he started all 16 games, rushing for a career-high 1,339 yards on 289 carries, his highest total since his rookie season (2008).
He added a career-high nine rushing touchdowns alongside some impressive receiving numbers. Forte posted career-highs in receptions (74) and receiving yards (594) to go along with three receiving touchdowns.
The 6-foot-1, 221 lb versatile back has missed only five games due to injury in his six NFL seasons, while making 91 starts.
But even with those numbers and impressive sustained health, the Bears have to be smart by making sure they have someone who can pace Forte.
Currently they have Michael Ford and Shaun Draughn listed behind Forte on the depth chart. Ford is a second-year player, who went undrafted out of LSU last season.
Ford appeared in 12 games a season ago, contributing exclusively on special teams. He is expected to get a fair shot at returning kicks, while fighting for the No. 2 spot behind Forte.
Draughn comes over from Baltimore, where he ran the ball four times for two yards in a Week Three blowout win over Houston last season.
In two seasons prior in Kansas City, the 26-year-old North Carolina product appeared in 17 games, rushing 59 times for 233 yards and two touchdowns, while reeling in 24 receptions for 128 yards.
Draughn flashed his ability in his time with the Chiefs, but Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster outperformed him making Draughn expendable.
The signing of Draughn made sense for the Bears because he’s a versatile back much like Forte and head coach Marc Trestman loves that type of back.
Over the past couple of seasons, the Bears have added goal-line type backs to give Forte a breather when needed.
Kevin Jones, Chester Taylor, Marion Barber, and most recently Michael Bush all were overpaid and underused.
Bush along with speed back La’Rod Stephens-Howling, former Cowboys star Felix Jones and Ronnie Brown are perhaps the best available options on the market right now.
The Bears would be smart to use one of their seven picks on a versatile back, who can give Forte some much needed rest down the stretch.
Here is a list of rookies who the Bears could look at in the draft and what round they could be selected in:
Tre Mason, Auburn, 2-3
Jeremy Hill, LSU, 2-3
Andre Williams, Boston College, 3
Charles Sims, West Virginia, 3-4
Storm Johnson, UCF, 5
Tyler Gaffney, Stanford, 5-6
Senorise Perry, Louisville, 6-7
There are many other backs in front of Mason and in between the rest of these rookies, but all of these prospects have one thing in common, a nice mix of power and speed.
The Bears want a guy who can pound the rock when asked much like Michael Bush did at times in his two seasons in the windy city. We’ve seen how the market for veteran backs has diminished as teams are now focused on finding a steal in the mid to late part of the draft.
Alfred Morris is a perfect example of that strategy as he was selected in the seventh round out of FAU two years ago.
Phil Emery and Co. have a draft board ready right now and I promise you that the running back position will be looked at in this draft. I could see the Bears selecting a back anywhere from round three to round seven.
Stanford’s Tyler Gaffney could be an absolute steal in the fifth or sixth round. Same with UCF’s Storm Johnson. The Bears will likely have their options in this draft.
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