The 2018 NFL Draft marked the first year in which Chicago Bears GM Ryan Pace did not draft a running back.
But after watching the tandem of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen pack a 1-2 backfield punch for the Bears offense in 2017, you certainly couldn’t blame the Bears. Still, the physical demands of the position calls for teams to have players willing and able to step in at a moment’s notice. And to that end, undrafted free agent Ryan Nall wants to be that guy for the Bears in 2018.
“I wanted to ultimately play running back,” Nall said, via Chris Emma of 670 The Score. “Chicago was one of the main places that told me I’d be able to fit in that spot, as well as move around here and there. When it came down to it, I thought this was the best position for me to be able to play.”
If Howard and Cohen are thunder and lightning atop the Bears’ depth chart, what would that make Nall? At 6-2 and 232 pounds, Nall is a bigger, bulkier back than either of the Bears’ top two running backs. One thing that could help Nall stand out is his nose for the end zone. The Oregon State product scored 21 rushing touchdowns in his final two seasons on campus, and added four receiving scores for good measure. Nall caught 49 passes for 454 yards the last two seasons and picked up more than 1,000 scrimmage yards in both 2016 and 2017.
For what it’s worth, Nall ran the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and improved on that number by posting a 4.53-second time at his pro day. So if he is going to be a running back, that speed will need to show up on gameday, as well as the versatility to catch passes out of the backfield, and the ability to run through tackles.
The Bears met with Nall during the pre-draft visiting season and made him a priority UDFA signing, which suggests the team likes where he can fit in its offense. And that the Bears didn’t sign any major free agent running backs or notable undrafted free agents at the position could be seen as a sign of how much faith the Bears have in Nall carving a niche for himself in Chicago.
So while Nall might want to stick at his old position, his versatility could ultimately help him earn a spot on the season-opening 53-man roster.