Prospecting for Gold: Running Backs

The Bears have seemingly ended their free agency splashes and while their might be some small moves, such as re-signing guys or more depth guys, I feel confident in saying that free agency is more or less over for the Bears, so let's turn our attention back to the draft.

Running back; A position that has been talked about with the Bears a lot this offseason. We all know Matt Forte's situation, we all know about the depth behind him, as well as historic traits of the position regarding longevity and turnover. WCG seems to have been divided a lot along the line of whether or not Forte is replaceable and/or elite. So if you've been on the "Forte isn't elite and is replaceable" then let's see you put your money where your mouth is and agree with this statement; the Chicago Bears should draft a running back in the second round of the draft this year.

I have a feeling not many of you will feel this way, but there is some value there. As I research for this "Prospecting for Gold" series, I've been looking at running backs, since it's been rumored the Bears want to add a "speed back" and they met with Michael Bush last week. Well this year's draft class isn't super deep and there doesn't seem to be a lot of "speed" type guys who will be around in the later rounds on day three, however, there are some good prospects with second round grades. Is that too early for the Bears to look at the position? You decide.

Here are the three that intrigue me the most (In no order):

1) Isaiah Pead; Cincinnati

Pead might be considered a poor man's Forte; he can run and catch, but isn't quite the blocker but from the scouting reports it sounds like he's got similar speed and a one-cut running style like Forte. He is also smaller than Forte (5'10"). He was a top performer at the Combine in the three-cone drill.

From NFL.com

Pead is an explosive, electrifying running back from Cincinnati who has produced in all areas. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, make a guy miss and turn upfield for a score, or do all that from running inside the tackles. He uses his vision and athletic ability to find a hole and once there has the long speed to take it the distance. There are few question marks around the skill set of Pead's game; some may worry about his play transferring to the next level, as he has shown the tendency to disappear at times. But with Pead's natural athletic ability and production at the position, he should be one of the first three backs taken in the draft, with second-round value.

Here is a link to his CBSsports.com report for more reading.

2) Chris Polk; Washington

Polk seems to have seen his stock drop, back during the college football season it sounded like a lot of scouts had Polk right behind Trent Richardson but now he's falling down into the second or even third round. Whether it was a slow 40 or what but Polk is still a top five back in this draft class.

Here is CBSsports' breakdown of his running style:

Inside: Strong interior runner. Quickly presses the line of scrimmage and has the burst to get through the line of scrimmage and into the second level quickly. A classic North/South runner who doesn't waste time moving laterally. Good vision to set up cutback lanes as he gets to the open field. Doesn't possess elite breakaway speed, but is fast enough to gain yardage in chunks when he finds a seam. Fights for extra yardage and is a reliable short-yardage runner. Good forward lean. Keeps his legs churning on contact. Protects the ball with both hands.

Outside: Not truly explosive, but possesses enough speed to beat the linebacker to the edge. Looks to get upfield. Won't rely on his speed to run around defenders. Looks for the hole and can stick his foot in the ground and cut upfield quickly. Does not possess top breakaway speed, though he's rarely caught from behind.

Breaking tackles: Unquestionably his best attribute. Very physical runner who keeps his legs churning on contact. Rarely goes down with the first hit. Lowers his shoulder into defenders and shows a variety of natural running skills to break free, including a stiff-arm, spin move and pure determination. Runs low to the ground and with good forward lean to generate the tough yards. Keeps his arms wrapped securely around the ball.

Here is the buzzkill from NFL.com

Weaknesses

Polk displayed elite ability only in his last year at Washington and was a slow developer up to that point. He is a decent blocker in pass protection but can struggle with his technique at times. He has the anchor and thigh strength to leverage under bigger rushers, but he still needs to work on squaring up defenders as a blocker instead of chipping them as they run by. Polk doesn't have elite speed in the open field to run away from defensive backs, and although he is explosive in short area movements he won't be able to accelerate past safeties who have an angle on him in pursuit downfield.

3) Lamar Miller; Miami (Fla.)

He, along with Polk, Boise's Doug Martin and Viginia Tech's David Wilson, is vying to be the second RB taken in the NFL draft next month. Miller definitely fits the bill as a speed back and I have seen some comments around here that people would be very excited to see him as a Bear, if he's even on the board when the Bears get on the clock in round two.

From NFL.com:

Strengths: Miller has track speed and actually ran a few anchor legs for the Miami track team prior to his junior year. Once in the open field, he is a threat to take it the distance and is not only a straight-line, long-speed runner; Miller has even more impressive quickness off the snap and in tight areas to avoid and stay productive. He is very smooth and impressive off the snap as he gets to top speed quickly and is able to pick his spots at full speed in a very effective way. He hardly ever gets stuck in the backfield and is reliable to get positive yardage on each carry. He is a very efficient runner who has a natural feel for maneuvering his way through the box.

Weaknesses: Miller has only one full season of tape and was rather ineffective as a runner prior to this year. He relies on speed and leg drive to gain yards. He won't be able to juke linebackers at the next level or bail himself out of bad spots with his feet. He runs like a power back at times, which could be a liability in the NFL at his size.

CBSsports.com overview:

Miller isn't overly explosive to and through the hole, but has very good speed with a second gear to run away from defenders -- accelerates quickly once he finds room to run. He offers some versatility, lining up outside as a receiver and also contributing as a returner on special teams -- tough through contact, but won't break a lot of tackles. Miller is a smooth, one-cut runner, but is more fast than quick and doesn't have the short-area explosion to create in tight areas -- an upright runner and talented athlete who runs like a poor man's Jamaal Charles and has big-play ability, but he has questionable run instincts and some durability concerns.

There are plenty of other backs, even some intriguing guys with third round grades such as Bernard Pierce, Robert Turbin and Ronnie Hillman. So should the Bears consider a running back with a second-day pick even if it's not a position of need?

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