Odds are Saquon Barkley will be long gone by the time the Chicago Bears are on the clock with the No. 8 pick in a few weeks. But because life is full of twists, turns, and “what-if” scenarios, the idea of the Bears somehow landing the draft’s top running back prospect is worth exploring.
In fact, Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun-Times wonders if the Bears would even consider taking the Penn State stud if he were to fall to No. 8. In short, the Bears would be unwise to look past Barkley if he was available when they were on the clock. Because even though the team has Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen, we’re only a few months removed from seeing how the Philadelphia Eagles used a loaded backfield to upend the New England Patriots and win a Super Bowl.
And, as we all know, running backs have short career spans. So being able to throw waves of talented backs at opposing defenses keeps those players fresh and keeps opposing defenders on their toes.
For obvious reasons though, Finley grades the Bears’ need at the position as low, citing the return of Howard, Cohen, and Benny Cunningham (Taquan Mizzell is the fourth back on the roster, but played two offensive snaps last season). The team also returns fullback Michael Burton, who appeared on just 18.1 percent of the team’s offensive plays.
I, on the other hand, would be hesitant to describe the Bears’ need at running back as low, because the team would be just one unfortunate injury away from Tarik Cohen being the lead back. Don’t get me wrong, Cohen was the Bears’ most entertaining player with the ball in his hands last year. Think Devin Hester, but with an actual role in an offense beyond running fly patterns and hoping Jay Cutler finds you open deep beyond the secondary. But Cohen has minimal experience as a ball carrier.
A vast majority of Cohen’s snaps (more than 73 percent) came on passing plays. He was used on just 21.6 percent of the team’s total running snaps and was given just 87 carries.
Much like last year, it’s a deep group to choose from should the Bears be looking to add depth to an already strong group. GM Ryan Pace has drafted a running back in each of his first three drafts, and a fourth would make for a training camp battle worth tuning in to follow this summer.
If Howard and Cohen represent the idea of having “thunder and lightning” in the backfield, there still remains a missing element that would round out the group. So while the Bears have other pressing needs, they would be wise to target a running back at some point later in the draft.