Florida Atlantic running back Devin Singletary

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Gabriel: Who Will Replace Howard In Bears' Backfield?

The Bears are eyeing a running back prospects in the NFL Draft.

Greg Gabriel
April 01, 2019 - 4:38 pm
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(670 The Score) After trading running back Jordan Howard to the Eagles last Thursday, the Bears must now answer the question: Who will replace their leading rusher of the past three seasons?

Based on how coach Matt Nagy ran his offense in 2018, I don’t see the Bears relying on one bell-cow back. They'll probably have a running back-by-committee approach to utilize the different skill sets of all the players involved.

The versatile Tarik Cohen, the recently signed Mike Davis and part-time running back Cordarrelle Patterson are currently the backfield options.

The 5-foot-6 Cohen is great in space and as a receiver, but he can struggle to get the tough yards and is at his best when getting 12 to 15 touches a game total. At his size, the Bears have to be aware of not overusing him.

Davis, 26, posted career-best numbers with 514 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry while catching 34 passes for the Seahawks in 2018. He's a quick-footed slasher who can make the first man miss while also running for power. Combine that with his receiving capabilities, and he's an ideal fit for the Bears offense -- but his history suggests he's not a lead back.

The Bears signed Patterson for several reasons, among them that he's the best kickoff returner in the NFL, which addresses an area of weakness for the team. He also has some big-play skills as a receiver and showed he can be a natural fit working out of the backfield when he played for the Patriots in 2018. But much like Cohen, Patterson is a weapon to be utilized correctly and not in a full-time role.

That leaves room for one more running back to get work in the Bears' backfield, and that individual should arrive via the NFL Draft in late April. This running back class isn't strong at the top but is deep, which works out well for a Bears team that doesn't own a pick until the third round at No. 87 overall. There may not be a running back who gets drafted in the first round. The strength of the running back class is in the middle rounds. 

There are a number of them who could be good fits for the Bears. Let's take a look at them.

Miles Sanders, Penn State

I believe Sanders is the best runner in this class, but I doubt he'll be available at No. 87. Sanders is capable of being a lead back and is excellent as both a runner and a receiver. He didn’t start until 2018 because he was playing behind a guy named Saquon Barkley. I view at that as a positive, as Sanders doesn’t as much wear and tear on his body as many backs have coming out of college. The Bears hosted Sanders for one of their 30 prospect visits.

Darrell Henderson, Memphis

After Sanders, I feel Henderson is the best fit for the Bears. He's quick, fast and explosive while also having excellent receiving skills. At 5-foot-8, 208 pounds, he lacks great size but strong and has shown the ability to get the tough yards inside. Like Sanders, I doubt Henderson will be available when the Bears pick at No. 87.

David Montgomery, Iowa State

Montgomery was one of my favorite backs in this class entering the NFL Combine. He was highly productive as a runner and receiver in college, and he can block. Montgomery ran slower than anticipated (4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash) in Indianapolis, but he will have a chance to do better at the Iowa State pro day soon. Montgomery may have timed 4.63, but he plays 4.55 and has quick cutting ability, top instincts and power. He will be an NFL starter.

Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic

Singletary is a fan favorite because of his outstanding broken-field running ability. He can change direction on a dime and has excellent vision and decision making skills. Like Henderson, he isn’t the biggest guy at 5-foot-7 and 203 pounds, but he's quick and explosive. Singletary does come with a couple concerns. He didn’t time well in running a disappointing 4.66-second 40-yard dash. He also had only six receptions in 2018. If he doesn’t prove to have reliable hands, then he won't be a good fit for the Bears. Even so, the Bears' coaches and scouting department have done a lot of work on Singeltary, including bringing him in for a visit.

Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M

Williams is also is a bit undersized 5-foot-8 and 206 pounds. He's also quick, fast and explosive. He rushed for 1,760 yards and caught 27 passes in 2018. The Bears brought Williams in for a visit and have spent time with him at Texas A&M. Like the aforementioned four backs, he would be an upgrade over Howard and better fit want the Bears want from the position.

Devine Ozigbo, Nebraska

Ozigbo wasn't invited to the NFL Combine after he had a productive season for a poor Nebraska team. He rushed for 1,082 yards on 7.0 yards per carry and had 23 receptions. At 5-foot-11 and 218 pounds, Ozigbo is bigger than the other and has adequate speed (4.61). He plays faster than that, has top instincts and is tough as nails. Seeing as he wasn't invited to the combine, the Bears could perhaps nab him in the fourth or fifth round.

Greg Gabriel is a former NFL talent evaluator who's an on-air contributor for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter @greggabe.