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2019 NFL draft: 6 running backs the Bears should keep an eye on

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What the Bears will do at the running back position this offseason is anyone’s guess at this point, but one can assume that drafting one is likely.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Kansas
Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill would be an intriguing fit for the Bears’ offense.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in years, the Chicago Bears don’t figure to make many big moves in the offseason.

After an incredibly active 2018 offseason which saw them fill nearly every hole on their roster with impact players, the Bears enter this offseason with minimal cap space and no picks within the first two rounds of the draft. Despite their lack of capital to lure in star free agents or elite draft prospects, they will be active as they can be this year.

One of the possible positions that could undergo a facelift is the running back position. Tarik Cohen is a valuable part of Chicago’s offense and special teams unit, but he is the only lock to remain on the roster heading into next year. After an underwhelming season from Jordan Howard, trade talks have picked up as rumors circulate that the Bears could target a running back that better fits their offensive scheme.

Now that Kareem Hunt has signed with the Cleveland Browns, the Bears could still go after another high-profile free agent like Tevin Coleman or Mark Ingram, but it would be wise to draft a running back at some point this April. West Coast and other spread-inspired offenses work efficiently when the offense has several talented and versatile weapons, so the possibility of having another playmaker in the backfield would be intriguing. Here are six running back prospects the Bears would be wise to target in two months.

Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic

Looking for running backs with eye-popping production? You’ll have a tough time finding a back in this class who put up more impressive numbers than Devin Singletary, who ran for 4,287 yards with 66 touchdowns in three seasons, including a video game-esque 32 touchdowns on the ground in 2017.

Singletary has all of the makings of a potential starter at the next level. He has an impressive blend of speed and strength, as he can run around defenders just as well as he can run through them. He covers a lot of his ground on his cuts and is slippery in the open field, and he has fantastic contact balance, to boot; the five-foot-nine, 200-pound back can absorb hits and dish them out, as well. Singletary only had six catches in 2018, and his hands aren’t incredible, but he is a solid route runner out of the backfield who will almost certainly outdo his collegiate receiving production in the NFL. A patient and intelligent runner, he is good at identifying holes in defenses and can bounce outside of the tackles on broken plays if necessary.

Singletary is a well-rounded runner with vision, athleticism and power. The Bears would surely have to target him in Round 3 to get a chance to pick him, but he would be a fantastic addition to their offense if selected.

James Williams, Washington State

The Bears’ offensive scheme prefers running backs with value in the passing game, and there are arguably no players in this class who fit that mold quite as well as James Williams.

In three seasons at Washington State, Williams tallied a whopping 202 receptions, 1,437 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns. He is a fluid route runner with great body control, smooth hands and good hip-sinking ability when he cuts. The Air Raid nature of Washington State’s offense strongly emphasizes the passing game, and Williams was an incredibly valuable asset for their system. As a runner, the five-foot-eleven, 190-pound back is elusive in the open field and can make defenders miss consistently in space. He also has very good contact balance and a low center of gravity, which allows him to run right over weak tacklers. Though not a burner by any means, Williams is a quick back with decent breakaway speed.

Williams could use some work in terms of consistently hitting open holes and not being so jumpy in the backfield, but his versatility makes him a player worth watching going forward. Chicago could likely land him in the fifth round.

Tony Pollard, Memphis

If you’re looking for versatility, you’ll certainly find that in spades when watching Tony Pollard.

Pollard was my fifth-round pick for the Bears in my first mock draft of the offseason, so I won’t go incredibly in-depth with him since I’ve already talked about him at length. He is an elusive runner with great lateral quickness and very good breakaway speed who has ample experience as a receiver both out of the backfield and lined up wide. He’s also in a four-way tie for the most kick return touchdowns in FBS history, giving him some additional value as a special teams ace.

Pollard isn’t a bruiser of a back who can run through defenders with ease, but he is an explosive weapon who can also catch the ball and return kicks at a high level. Regardless of whether or not the Bears make a splashy free agent signing at the running back position, they would be wise to consider drafting him.

Darrell Henderson, Memphis

Pollard wasn’t even the lead back in Memphis’ offense this year. That title goes to Darrell Henderson, who finished the 2018 season with 1,909 yards, 22 touchdowns and an insane 8.9 yards per carry.

Much like his aforementioned teammate, Henderson is an explosive back who is a burner in space and can evade would-be tacklers with impressive agility. He is a smart runner, as he consistently finds open holes in the defense and exploits them. Where Henderson stands out more, though, is in his contact balance. He may be just five-foot-nine and 200 pounds, but he is great at running through defenders and bouncing off of tacklers to pick up big gains. He has the strength in his frame to absorb hits and run with a relentless edge. Henderson is still fairly unproven as a receiver, but his athleticism indicates that he could develop into a decent pass-catcher if he works on his hands a bit.

Henderson currently projects as a third-round pick, so the Bears would have to use their first pick of the draft on him if they want to secure him on their roster. He is an athletic and surprisingly powerful runner with the potential to be a solid starter at the next level.

Justice Hill, Oklahoma State

Justice Hill entered the 2018 season as one of the most highly-touted running back prospects in the nation. Though his junior year was somewhat disappointing, he is still an athletic back with a high ceiling at the next level.

Hill is on the smaller side for a running back at five-foot-ten and 185 pounds. Though he doesn’t have much power to his game, he makes up for it with athleticism and ball-carrier vision. He is a patient and intelligent runner who consistently makes well-timed cuts and can bounce outside of the tackles on broken plays. He has flashed the ability to squeeze through tight gaps as a downhill runner, and he consistently fights hard to pick up extra yards. Hill’s speed in the open field is impressive, as he accelerates quickly and has the stamina to continually outrun defenders on long runs. Though his production as a receiver isn’t stellar, he has flashed potential as a pass-catcher due to his route-running abilities and solid hands.

Hill is currently grading out as a late fourth-round pick, which would make him a perfect target for the Bears early on Day 3. His running style would make him fit right in in Chicago’s scheme.

Myles Gaskin, Washington

Myles Gaskin was the definition of consistency during his tenure at Washington. He managed to top 1,250 rushing yards and score double-digit touchdowns in all four years, a testament to how reliable he was throughout his collegiate career.

One of the best aspects of Gaskin’s game is his electricity as a runner. He has great lateral quickness and can change direction and makes cuts seamlessly. His breakaway speed in the open field is impressive, and he accelerates quickly when he finds a hole. He’s typically good at doing just that, as he is a patient runner who has good ball-carrier vision and knows when to exploit an opening in the defense. Gaskin is also more violent than the average five-foot-ten, 193-pound back, as he has a pretty strong lower body and can run through defenders fairly well. This running style could be cause for concern, especially considering his 945 carries at the collegiate level. He also runs a bit too upright, and his upper-body strength could use some work. However, he would be a very good fit as a situational back, as opposed to the workhorse he was in college.

Gaskin will likely end up coming off the board early on Day 3, so the Bears would probably have to use a fourth-round pick to add him. With his athleticism and determination as a runner, he could be a valuable rotational back in the NFL.