Earlier this week our very own Sam Householder asked you guys to pick which 2015 Chicago Bears' draft pick would improve the most in 2016. For the purposes of his exercise he took wide receiver Kevin White out of the equation, because with zero stats in 2015, "he has no bar to clear." White will obviously improve as a 2nd year pro, the only question is how much of an impact will he have on the Bears' offense.
Five of the Bears' six 2015 draft picks are still on their roster, as well as a handful of other UDFA-type sophomores. In order for the Bears to improve from their 6 win 2015, they'll need their young players to step up.
ESPN Insider recently looked at 10 NFL sophomores primed to break out in 2016 and the Bears were well represented. Their criteria for break out status was that the player couldn't have already broken out, so they limited their 10 to players that started five or fewer games as rookies in 2015.
They are expecting two break out players to emerge from the Bears. Number three on their list is running back Jeremy Langford.
Langford didn't flash much big-play ability as a rookie, averaging only 3.6 yards on 148 carries. But the fourth-round pick out of Michigan State was consistent, getting hit for no gain or a loss only 16 percent of the time. (The NFL average for running backs last year was more than 20 percent.) He had a great nose for the end zone, with six touchdowns in 17 red zone carries. And he was nearly perfect in short-yardage runs, converting seven of eight carries with 1 or 2 yards to go. He also had 22 receptions, despite coming off the bench behind Matt Forte. With Forte now in New York with the Jets, Langford will be the unquestioned workhorse in Chicago.
I really hope Langford makes a step in play this year. He has to improve his catching, but I think some of his drops last year could be attributed to rookie nerves. An offseason with the Jugs Machine will help him become a viable threat out of the backfield.
Number seven on their list is the aforementioned Kevin White.
2015 was a bad year to be a first-round draft pick. White, like Perriman and Fowler, missed his entire rookie season due to injury. At West Virginia, White led the Big 12 in receptions in 2014, then he ran a 4.35-second 40-yard dash at the combine. The Bears made him the seventh pick in the draft, but sadly, a stress fracture in his shin kept him on the bench. We're listing him lower than Perriman because he had a lower projection in our Playmaker Score system. His collegiate numbers were somewhat inflated by the Mountaineers' pass-heavy scheme, and first-round receivers who played through their senior year of college, as White did, have a spotty track record of living up to expectations.
I wouldn't be overly concerned with White struggling a bit during OTAs. This is really the first time he and Jay Cutler have had some extensive work together. He'll have to fight through some rookie jitters and build some rapport with his QB.
Big years from these two sophomores will go a long way in getting Chicago's offense to jump up from last season's 21st ranking in total yards.
Do you guys predict break out years from these two Bears?