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Positional Review - Running Backs

Hello my friends,

As I continue to try and pump out these Positional Reviews allow me to take a break and state the obvious... this season was kind of a disaster.  Obviously, nobody really expected us to run roughshod over our opponents and throw out a perfect season, but I think it's safe to say that we expected playoffs.  With that expectation in mind I want to let you all in on some of my interaction with family and friends during the season.  For instance, nobody has hated on the Bears running backs more than my dad.  Seriously, every time I called him I would hear Goodness Benson is horrible or This Peterson guy isn't that great... is he...  It was kind of crazy because he would always take a dump on whoever had the ball.  Then he started asking me about the college scene and who looked promising and started thinking ahead to the free agent market this year.  Then it happened... he discovered Michael "The Burner" Turner and things have never been the same since.  He watched the highlights and then let the Talking Head's inform him that Turner was a free agent and that he is the answer to all the Bears problems (or at least that's how he described it).  We will get to The Burner later, but my point was to illustrate that our RB performance as a whole left much to be desired and a lot of day dreaming about free agents.

From the beginning there was doubt about our RB situation.  I didn't meet many people who were completely stoked about losing Thomas Jones and relying 100% on Cedric Benson.  Everyone hoped he could be a premiere back and the fantasy nuts had him going in the first round.  I remember hearing rational that went like this "He's a power back running on a team that loves to run the ball; how can he fail?!?"  Even here on the site people went back and forth about their opinions of Benson.  Some blamed his performance on the O-Line and others dropped it squarely on Benson's shoulders.  In week 11 he seemed to turn the corner with that huge 43 yard romp, but he only finished with 89 yards for the game.  Week 12 when we were at home against Denver was the only week in the season when I really felt good about Benson and then he ended his season prematurely with that injury (I'm afraid to call it a leg injury because I thought Ruben Brown jacked his shoulder, but apparently it was his shoulder).  Peterson is a nice special team's player, but I really don't think anyone thought he was the long term answer at the RB position.  Garrett Wolfe never had a chance this year, and he is a couple years away from making a difference, if he does make a difference at all.

Obviously, this leaves us in a strange place leading up until next year.  I have a feeling that Angelo might stand pat and rely on Peterson and Benson again next year, but I just don't think we can take that chance.  Benson showed us some promise before he got injured, but not enough to give us any reason to put all our eggs in the Benson basket.

Let's look at our options from the draft and free agency.

With the Draft we have some options, but I fear that we can't justify taking someone in the first round.  In addition, I don't think many Running Backs of value will be available in later rounds.  In any case, here are our options for the draft.  The website has a great list of most of the potential Running Back draftees.  Here are what I believe to be our options; either we take someone in round one or we wait until the later rounds to take some other players. That is if we take anyone in the draft at all.  The draft is so fickle and so many times you see a guy like Ryan Grant on Green Bay pop up out of no where and succeed as a starter in the NFL.  Then there is the danger of taking someone with your fourth pick in the first round and he really doesn't pan out the way you hoped he would (wait, that situation sounds familiar...).  Here is my opinion on who we could take if we choose to take a running back at all.

First Round
Darren McFadden, Arkansas
Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois
Felix Jones, Arkansas

Later Rounds
Steve Slaton, West Virginia
Mike Hart, Michigan
Justin Forsett, California
Chauncey Washington, USC

In regards to the first round I think McFadden is obviously a pipe dream unless Angelo feels the need to pay through the nose to trade up and draft him.  In addition, D-Mac's running mate Felix Jones may be too big a reach to take in the first round where we are positioned.  That leaves us with Stewart and Mendenhall as options for our drafting position.  Both players would be a reach to take at 14 in the draft, but if we were to take anyone in the first round it would have to be one of them.

As for the second round, this is where things could get very, very interesting and lead to fighting and cursing by Chicago Bears fans across the country.  To me I really don't think it makes much sense to take a RB anywhere other than the late rounds.  In addition it seems like everyone is high on us signing a marquee free agent which will give us four RB's on our current Bears roster.  It seems that Garrett Wolfe would be the odd man out in that case, but that would be interesting considering we made a bit of a reach last year by making him a third round pick.  The staff still seems high on him and I don't know if we would takes someone anywhere other than a later round and bring him in to fight for a spot.  If that's the case, then the four gentlemen I listed above would be the preferred players I would like to see.  Please let me know if I am missing anyone who might also be of use to the team.

It seems like drafting a player wouldn't make sense, and you may think that is vague but please bear with me.  Let's look at the free agents.  Therein, I believe we may have a solid answer to our RB problems.  There are a lot of solid options and some grab bag players.  I am using two sources for looking at the options; KFFL's complete list of every possible, current, former, signed, unsigned, restricted, unrestricted, etc. it's a great write up and may have other names I will miss here. has another list of highlighted FA's with some brief analysis.  Taking from both of those lists I am going to put up a lot of possibilities and attack some bullet point style and ignore others; so for better or for worse here we go.

Marion Barber III, Dallas Cowboys - RFA: As much as I would love to see this meastly fellow on the Bears I don't think there is a snowballs chance (or this freaking blizzard in Chicago's chance) in hell that Double J lets him go.

Justin Fargas, Oakland Raiders - UFA: He has looked very, very, good this year.  Since Lamont Jordan was hurting with injuries Fargas rumbled to over 1,000 yards at a healthy clip of 4.5 per carry.  He is a bit of an underrated guy and has been flying under the radar. noted that Lane Kiffin wants to keep Fargas, but if you watch the news wire for the Raiders you can clearly see that Kiffin doesn't have a lot of control right now.  Al Davis is probably third behind Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder as the most out of control power hungry owner in the NFL.  Speaking of Al Davis, there is a lot of talk about Davis, being the lover of offensive players that he is, taking McFadden in the draft.  If he does take D-Mac Then this is the list of RB's on the raiders; McFadden, Fargas, Lamont Jordan, Dominic Rhodes, ReShard Lee, and I believe Michael Bush didn't play last year and will be coming back this year.  That's a lot of RB's and I wouldn't be surprised if Davis lets Fargas go.

Julius Jones, Dallas Cowboys - UFA: Haven't we been through this before?  I'm going to have to say pass.

Jamal Lewis, Cleveland Browns - UFA: Sure he's an old one, but he still is a good one.  He was still doing this last year, and looking rather spry while doing so.  Plus, he looks a lot like Tracy Morgan and that is a win win win in my book.

Derrick Ward, New York Giants - RFA: It's unlikely that the Giants will let him go, since Brandon Jacobs seems to be made of glass.  Seriously, I nabbed Jacobs in my fantasy league in like the 6th round and I was so excited.  My excitement was dashed on the preverbal rocks when he next to never played and then another guy picked up Derrick Ward.  In any case, Ward may be a nice addition.

Vernand Morency, Green Bay Packers - RFA:  Maybe the pack will keep him as a backup, and I hope they do because I am not a big fan.

Chris Brown, Tennessee Titans - UFA:  It's nice that he is available, but I am really not too big a fan of his and don't even know if I would want him as a backup.

T.J. Duckett, Detroit Lions - UFA: It may be a reach to think about this guy since he is a big back and we already have Benson who tends to be a pounder.

Earnest Graham, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - RFA: Here is a fellow I am fond of.  At 28 he only has 4 years of NFL playing on his Odometer and never really had to shoulder a full season load until this year.  He responded to the call of starting 10 games very loudly and amassed over 800 yards and 10 TD's.  The nice thing is that he probably will not start ahead of Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and wants a contract extension.  He wants to stay but may not get his money in Tampa, and the Bucs have some depth at RB with Michael Bennett and Michael Pittman so they may let Graham go.

Fred Taylor, Jacksonville Jaguars - UFA: Taylor's 10 years of playing at 32 make me very non committal about my desire to see him in a Bears uniform.  He played very well this year, but may be poised for a drop off.  However, maybe the Jags will decide to keep him and continue the Taylor Mojo tandem for a while longer and ease Mojo into the starting job.

Michael "The Burner" Turner, San Diego Chargers - UFA: Here is the crown jewel of the FA class.  Turner may be the best RB prospect out there and as a UFA on the same team as LaDainian Tomlinson and with Darren Sproles emergence as a big time back seems to be pushing Turner out the door.  However, there still is clamoring by SD fans to keep him around.  He seems like the perfect fit for the Bears.  He is originally from the Chicago land area and hails from Northern Illinois University (he and Garrett Wolfe can bond and be best of friends!).  He is 25 with four years on the Odometer and hasn't had to carry a full load for a season yet (blessing and a possible curse) so we could possibly get him long term and use him with Benson.  I really think that he is a big, big name in this year's market and landing him would be huge for the Bears.  However, please allow me to take off my Superfan hat and look at some negatives.  We really don't know how he would fare as a feature back on a team.  It could be a disaster and he may not be able to handle it, or we could use him with Benson and possibly have him transition into a situation that is not much different than his own right now in San Diego.  

In any situation I would like to get somebody to be our feature back.  BUT, I fear that Benson is going to cry until the end of his life if the Bears pick up somebody to split time with him.  Maybe he really didn't get along with Thomas Jones, but it really seems like he was just pouting because he wasn't the starter right away.  I also fear that the Graham or Turner (my favorites) will want a big contract and to be the number one on a team.  I just don't know if Angelo has the intestinal fortitude to go out and land someone like Graham or Turner as our starter.  Going out and getting Alan Fancea to play OG might be easy because Angelo isn't going to take a hit on his rep that way since he didn't make a big decision on Ruben Brown.  We all know that Brown is at the end of his career and nobody is going to look down on Angelo for picking a guard up in the FA market.  Signing Turner as our number one is a different story.  Angelo is going to have to admit Benson isn't the answer and swallow some pride.  I hope he gets him, but I fear he won't.

In the end I like to think of our options like this.  

  1. Michael Turner
  2. Earnest Graham
  3. Justin Fargas
  4. Jamal Lewis
That is just my opinion and I really feel that our answer to RB problems will be found in the FA market and not in the draft.  Turner is the obvious gem of the bunch, but I would also be happy with Graham as a starter or Fargas as a backup to Benson.  It is a hard place to be in because Benson seemed to be turning the corner before he got injured, but I just don't know what to think at this point.  The only thing I know is that I want to Running Back position to be addressed, I want Angelo to admit that Benson isn't the answer as our number one, I want Benson to shut up if we get a RB, and before we address the RB situation we have to get some stability on the O-Line.  Turner played for one of the best lines for a RB in football and I would hate to have him come here and deal with last year's old fart O-Line that we were putting out on the field.

Here's hoping that Angelo addresses this growing problem.