The 2015 NFL Draft will most likely be remembered for the quarterbacks at the top – Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were the first and second picks, respectively – however, you really shouldn’t sleep on the class’ workhorse ball carriers.
Gregg Rosenthal (NFL.com) recently reranked that talented 2015 running back draft class, and while the Bears’ fourth round pick, Jeremy Langford, didn’t crack the top ten (to be fair, this is a group that includes some really strong names) he was featured in the “Other 2015 Favorites” section. But what lies ahead for Langford, what does Rosenthal have to say about him, and how did his 2016 injuries along with the emergence of Jordan Howard impact his future? Let’s discuss.
If you recall, Langford was an interesting player coming out of Michigan State in 2015 and was the fastest running back at the NFL Scouting Combine (40-yard dash in 4.42 seconds). Unfortunately, as Rosenthal points out, Langford has quickly turned into an example of the important distinction between combine speed and game speed. In other words, while he recorded solid times during drills, that speed isn’t showing up in game situations when it matters most.
Even still, Langford was in line to carry a starter’s load on the Bears last season, with Ka’Deem Carey falling in as a backup and Jordan Howard (a fifth-round pick in 2016) settling in as the third-stringer. But an injury to Langford paved the way for Howard to come in and put together a Pro Bowl season with 1,313 rushing yards.
Howard, then, provides the main competition for Langford in 2017, but he’s not the only one in his way. Recent fourth round draft pick Tarik Cohen – who matched Langford’s 4.42 second 40-yard dash, while showing high-end pass catching ability – will also be in the conversation, as will free-agent Benny Cunningham. So whether or not there’s any room in the backfield for a player who gained 816 yards from scrimmage and scored seven total touchdowns as a rookie remains a legitimate question. So again, where does Langford fit in?
As of right now, it’s not clear. And maybe it shouldn’t be, we’re still in May after all. As it stands now, Howard is currently installed as the feature back. But we learned last year that things can change in a hurry. In the end, it all adds up to a potential camp battle that will play out on the practice field and in the preseason games to come.