Backs Packed

Some say the Bears are backed into a corner. Do they draft a running back with the No. 4 pick in today's NFL draft, go after a wide receiver or trade the pick to move down and stockpile more?

Nothing will be answered until this afternoon when commissioner Paul Tagliabue heads to the podium in New York to announce the Bears' intentions.

Most draft experts have the Bears going running back, and three names keep sticking together: Auburn's duo of Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown, and Texas' Cedric Benson. Most believe the Bears are thinking running back, it's just which guy the Bears covet more.

"The backs, they're different," Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said. "Their styles are different, but they're all very, very good."

Williams and Brown were the premier running back in the tandem in college last season. Williams, a 5-foot-11, 217-pounder, is considered the best natural runner of the bunch, but some question whether he can handle the pounding in the NFL.

In 42 college games, Williams rushed for 3,831 yards on 741 carries (5.2 avg.) and 45 touchdowns. He set school records for rushing attempts and scoring. Only Bo Jackson's 4,303 rushing yards rank higher than Williams.

Williams, who started ahead of Brown, scored a rushing touchdown in 29 of 42 games, including two or more in 12 of them. He was named the Southeastern Conference's Player of the Week nine times, the most in the league's history.

"In this class, there's a lot of great backs," Williams said. "But I feel like I have that want-to. I mean, there's not too many athletes that want to be the best like I want to be the best. I want to be the best in everything. I also want to be one of the best to ever play this game. I just feel I'm the total package, I bring everything to the game."

Brown, 6-foot, 233 pounds, had 2,707 yards rushing and 28 TDs in only 21 starts and 47 games at Auburn. He's jumped ahead of Williams on some draft boards and some say he's the best pass catcher out of the three. Brown was in Williams' shadow for most of his career at Auburn, but some feel this could be his time to shine since he has far less miles on him.

"With these three guys, you have special runners that have done it," Angelo said. "Ronnie Brown doesn't have the accolades or the numbers that the other two have, but it's only because he's been a little bit of a victim of circumstance. But when he has played, he's played very, very well, and I think that's why people have him up there with Williams and Benson."

Benson is considered a Ricky Williams clone. They played at the same college, were both drafted in baseball, had some off-the-field issues and have the patented dreadlocks. Benson, a 5-11, 222-pounder, did cut off his "locks" before the NFL combine and is out to prove he's the best back in the draft.

The workhorse rushed for over 1,000 yards all four years in college. He's considered the best blocker of the three, and has another thing going for him: it's rumored Angelo loves him.

Soon enough the Bears will be on the clock, and we'll have an answer.


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