Heading into Chicago Bears 2014 Training Camp, few folks gave Shaun Draughn a legitimate shot to emerge as the club’s backup running back. Most assumed either Michael Ford, a UDFA holdover from last season, or fourth-round rookie Ka’Deem Carey would claim Chicago’s No. 2 gig.
Yet through 11 camp practices, Draughn has emerged as the likeliest candidate to backup Matt Forte this year.
Draughn (6-0, 205) is a three-year veteran who played his first two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2012, he played under Andy Reid, who runs a West Coast Offense similar to that of Bears coach Marc Trestman.
“The West Coast Offense is pretty much the same,” Draughn told Bear Report. “It’s just picking up protections and knowing what to do and when to do it and the different names.”
Due to his familiarity with Chicago’s offense, Draughn, who signed a one-year deal this offseason, was able to hit the ground running, literally.
“Learning and being in this West Coast Offense, it was a step up for me when I came in because I already knew what [the coaching staff] expected,” Draughn said.
Since OTAs, Draughn has methodically worked his way up the depth chart due to a hard-nosed, one-cut running style, good hands solid and awareness in protection.
“You play so many different positions as a running back,” said Draughn. “You’re an O-lineman, a tight end, a receiver and, most importantly, you’re a running back. So picking up pass protections is one of the most important things.”
As a result of his work this offseason, Draughn was listed as the No. 2 RB behind Forte in the team’s first official depth chart, although that’s not something in which Draughn takes comfort.
“Not right now. Camp is still going on,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of competition at every position. I actually didn’t even know that depth chart came out until somebody sent it to me. That doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean you get to let up. You’ve just got to keep going and keep stacking good practices and let the chips fall where they may.”
Draughn has 63 career carries for 233 rushing yards and two touchdowns, as well as 24 catches for 158 receiving yards. That may not seem like much until you consider no other back on the roster has a single carry or catch at the NFL level.
That experience has played in Draughn’s favor, as the zone-blocking system of coordinator Aaron Kromer is the same zone-blocking system run throughout the NFL. It’s a scheme that relies on movement to create creases on the fly. Ball carriers with the best field vision, something developed through repetition, are the ones who can hit those holes most effectively.
“The schemes aren’t totally different. It’s pretty much the same,” said Draughn. “People block it different, people call it different things, but one run is pretty much the same [as the next].”
Draughn’s performance in camp has elevated him in the eyes of Chicago’s coaching staff, although Trestman warned against anointing him Forte’s backup.
“I think he’s certainly in a position to be in the running for the second position,” Trestman said. “I would say that at this point. I think anything other that would be premature. We’re still going to move guys around throughout these games and throughout practice.”
While Draughn obviously has more to prove, Trestman did admit to being impressed with his performance to this point in camp.
“I think that he’s been consistent throughout the course of camp,” said Trestman. “He’s a veteran. He understands the game. He’s played in systems similar to ours. I think that’s helped him. And he’s been very effective in the mental part of his game and learning his assignments. He’s certainly one of those guys that we’re going to look hard at in these games and certainly he’s competing in practice so we’ll see how he does as we move through the next few weeks.”
Draughn has put himself in a position to be Chicago’s No. 2 runner but, in reality, he hasn’t accomplished anything yet. Decisions on who will emerge as Forte’s backup will be made due in large part to his performance in the upcoming preseason contests.
“Practice and games are two different things,” Draughn said. “When those lights come on, some people do better and some people get worse. You can only try to translate practice to the games.”
No one could have predicted Draughn’s rise up Chicago’s depth chart. In 2013, he played just three games for the Baltimore Ravens, carrying four times for 2 yards, before being cut. He then lasted just four days on the Indianapolis Colts’ roster before being waived.
Draughn said that experience humbled him and changed his mindset coming into Bourbonnais.
“I’ve been in positions where I’m the underdog. I came in and I wasn’t slated to be anywhere near the backup or a starter. So this camp is kind of different personally,” he said. "I always work hard. When I came in I just prayed for the opportunity to really show what I can do and not just get a few plays here and there. Not being slated as being able to be a starter or a backup, I think I just went in with a different mentality.”
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com 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.