Bears Draft Options: RB (Rounds 2-4)

The Chicago Bears will surely be looking for a backup running back in this year's draft class. We break down the early- and mid-round ball carriers GM Phil Emery should be targeting.

The Chicago Bears are in the market for a backup running back. Behind Matt Forte, the club has just Michael Ford, an undrafted free agent who has yet to receive an NFL carry.

In addition, Forte's career workload could result in a drop off in production as early as this year, so GM Phil Emery will be scouring this year's draft class for a potential long-term ball carrier.

With that in mind, let's break down the early- and mid-round running backs in this year's draft class the Bears should be targeting.

Tre Mason, Auburn (5-9, 207)

Mason is considered one of the top backs in this year's crop. He broke Bo Jackson's school record last year with 1,816 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns. He played his best in Auburn's biggest game, including a 343-yard performance in the SEC Championship game. Mason is a one-cut runner with a low center of gravity. He has quick feet, allowing him to maneuver through tight holes, and he finishes plays with power. He's not much of a pass catcher but he does have experience as a kick returner – he led the SEC his sophomore year with 26.4 yards per return. Mason is a Day 1 starter who has workhorse potential at the next level.
Projected: 2nd round

Carlos Hyde, Ohio State (6-0, 230)

Hyde is a pure North-South runner who dominated the Big Ten last year, rushing for 1,527 yards despite missing the first three contests. He finished the season with nine straight 100-yard performances. Hyde is a throwback runner who is big, strong and powerful. He's a load between the tackles and he can carry the pile. He lacks elite speed and didn't help himself by tweaking his hamstring in his first 40-yard dash attempt at the combine. He was suspended three games to start the 2013 campaign after an altercation with a woman at a nightclub, so maturity is obviously an issue.
Projected: 2nd round

Bishop Sankey

Bishop Sankey, Washington (5-10, 209)

Sankey was a workhorse for the Huskies, rushing for 3,309 yards and 36 TDs the past two years combined. He was also a beast at the combine, showing good speed (4.49 40-yard dash), power (26 bench-press reps), explosion (10-6 broad jump) and quickness (6.75 three-cone drill). At his pro day, he reportedly showed extremely well as a pass catcher and displayed soft hands. Sankey is a quality athlete who has every-down potential, although he needs to become a better pass protector, an area in which he has struggled. Still, Sankey has pro starter written all over him.
Projected: 2nd round

Jeremy Hill, LSU (6-1, 233)

Hill is one of the more talented runners in this year's class, rushing for 1,401 and 16 TDs as a redshirt sophomore in 2013. His 6.9 yards per carry set an SEC record. He's a thickly built, powerful one-cut runner who has a knack for breaking tackles. Hill has the potential to be a 20-carry back in the NFL yet he's not an experienced pass catcher, an area in which he'll need to improve. Additionally, he has some major character issues, dating back to a statutory rape conviction in high school as well as a bar fight that violated his probation before the start of last year.
Projected: 2nd-3rd round

Andre Williams, Boston College (5-11, 230)

Williams led the nation with 2,177 rushing yards last year, earning him the Doak Walker Award, given to the nation's top running back. He's a thick, downhill runner with very good burst. He powers through arm tackles and has the speed to outrace defenders to the end zone. Williams is also a very smart, accomplished blocker in pass protection. He's borderline worthless as a receiver (10 career catches as a three-year starter). Williams isn't a dynamic runner but he's a workhorse first- and second-down back whose between-the-tackles game should translate very well to the pros.
Projected: 3rd round

Terrance West, Towson (5-11, 225)

West was absolutely dominant against lesser competition in college, rushing for 2,519 yards and 41 TDs last season. In his three-year collegiate career, he totaled 83 rushing touchdowns, so he'd immediately help cure the Bears' short-yardage woes. He's a strong runner who carries tacklers and finishes plays with authority. West has all the talent to be a workhorse, yet the tread on his tires is wearing thin. He carried 780 times for Towson, so it's tough to project him beyond a few good years in the NFL. He's also not an adept route runner and struggles in protection. Still, West would be a welcome addition in Chicago as a role player and potential every-down back once Forte wears down.
Projected: 3rd round

Lache Seastrunk, Baylor (5-9, 201)

Seastrunk is more of a speedster than a pounder, one who showed the ability to turn the corner and outrace the defense. He posted a disappointing 4.51 at the combine yet improved to 4.46 at his pro day. He did show extreme explosion in Indianapolis with a 41.5-inch vertical jump and an 11-2 broad jump, confirming the burst he shows on film. He's not a workhorse runner but Seastrunk has the ability to be very productive in a one-cut system like Chicago's. There are some character concerns due to the crowd he keeps but Seastrunk easily has enough ability to be a quality complementary back in the NFL.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

KaDeem Carey
Christian Petersen/Getty

KaDeem Carey, Arizona (5-9, 207)

No collegiate back was as productive as Carey the last two years combined, in which he piled up 3,814 rushing yards and 42 touchdowns. A two-time first-team All American, Carey is the complete package. He runs with power and burst, and is a quality pass catcher. He's an aggressive slasher who has great field vision and instincts. The two big concerns with Carey are his workload (he had nearly 850 touches in college, which has worn down his slim frame) and his lack of speed (his 4.70 40-yard dash at the combine was one of the worst at his position). He's not an outstanding athlete, so he could drop into the fourth round of this year's draft. If he does, the Bears could be in line to grab a productive, savvy, NFL-ready runner.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

Devonta Freeman, Florida State (5-8, 206)

Freeman isn't a bruiser or blazer but he does have a very good all-around skill set. He has good balance and agility, and knows how to fit through tight holes in the offensive line. He's also an accomplished pass catcher and is strong in pass protection. Freeman is as durable as they come and never missed a contest at FSU. He doesn't jump out at you on film but Freeman has a lot of potential at the next level, as he does everything well, is extremely competitive and is a student of the game who works hard at his craft. He'll be a great selection in the middle rounds.
Projected: 3rd-4th round

Charles Sims, West Virginia (6-0, 214)

Sims is the best pass-catching running back in this year's draft and has all the makings of a quality third-down back. During his four-year collegiate career (three at Houston, one at West Virginia) he finished with yearly catch totals of 70, 51, 34 and 45, and averaged more than 10 yards per grab. He showed good speed at the combine (4.48) as well. Sims isn't a bell-cow runner but his one-cut style and ability as a receiver will give him a lot of value in a zone system like Chicago's.
Projected: 4th round

Jerick McKinnon, Georgia Southern (5-9, 209)

Finally, we come to the workout warrior. McKinnon's combine performance was one for the ages, as he absolutely blew away the competition in nearly every test. He posted elite speed (4.41 40), strength (32 bench-press reps), explosion (40.5 vertical, 11-0 broad) and quickness (4.12 short shuttle). McKinnon is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in which he shuffled between option quarterback and tailback. He's a raw runner but he's arguably the most athletic ball carrier in this year's draft, one whose immense physical talents have him rising up draft boards. In the fourth round, the Bears would be crazy to pass on McKinnon, whose upside is through the roof.
Projected: 4th-5th round

The Pick: Jerick McKinnon

A running back doesn't have to be an amazing athlete to be productive at the pro level (Emmitt Smith ran in the 4.7-4.8 range) but is surely helps. McKinnon tested off the charts and has a very high ceiling. He's very raw and must learn how to become a pro running back but the Bears have time to groom him. He could serve as a short-yardage back in Chicago for the next few seasons and if he ever reaches his potential, McKinnon could turn into a dangerous workhorse down the line. In the fourth round, he would be well worth the risk.

Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his fourth season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.

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