Jamaal Charles – TexasThe skinny: After starting only four games his first two years in Austin, Charles broke out his junior season with 258 carries for 1,610 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also ran track for the Longhorns in `06 and `07, so his speed is his best asset – he clocked an impressive 40-yard dash time of 4.38 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. He lacks elite size at 5-11 and about 200 pounds, but he turns the corner in a hurry and is explosive enough to take it the distance should he find a little daylight.
RB Jamaal Charles
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
The pros: He shows good patience at the line of scrimmage, picks up extra yards after initial contact, and caught the ball beautifully out of the backfield Mar. 18 at Texas' pro day.
The cons: He runs with a high center of gravity that subjects him to big hits, isn't particularly effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and has a history of putting the ball on the ground.
The projection: He's not considered one of the elite prospects in what is a very deep class of running backs this year, but he should be selected somewhere in the late-second or early-third round.
The fit: If the Monsters of the Midway are committed to fixing the offensive line and keeping Cedric Benson as their featured back, then Charles could be a great second option for 10-12 touches per game. While Benson likes to run between the tackles and doesn't have a lot of shimmy in the open field, Charles can make defenders miss East and West in order to find a seam and break a long one. Charles will have to prove that he can take the down-to-down punishment of life in the NFL, but he does bring some traits to the table that Benson doesn't – namely big-play ability and better hands as a receiver.
Matt Forte – TulaneThe skinny: Bigger and stronger than Charles at 6-1 3/8 and 217 pounds, Forte is still awfully fast at 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash and adds a degree of power with his style. Incredibly productive for the Green Wave this past season, Forte ran for a ridiculous 2,127 yards on 361 carries and scored 23 touchdowns as a senior. He's also done a good job in the passing game, catching the ball well out of the backfield and showing some attitude as a blocker.
RB Matt Forte
Pat Sullivan/AP Images
The pros: He is strong enough to push the pile for extra yards, fast enough to take it to the house when he reaches the second level, and versatile enough to be an every-down back in the NFL.
The cons: He's not the most explosive runner, doesn't have a deep repertoire of moves in the open field, and did the majority of his damage against second-tier collegiate competition.
The projection: He's behind Charles on most of the experts' draft boards, but he will most certainly be gone by Round 3 and might even sneak into Round 2.
The fit: While Charles might be looked at as just a complementary weapon to Benson, Forte makes more sense if general manager Jerry Angelo is seeking a replacement. Offensive coordinator Ron Turner loves to be physical on the ground and needs a sturdy back in order to do it, something Benson has not been able to provide more often than not during his lackluster three-year career. Right now, Forte has better straight-line speed and is much more capable in passing situations – plus, Benson is still somewhat of a question mark because last season's fractured ankle is far from healed.
ConclusionIf head coach Lovie Smith still wants to "get off the bus running the football," as has been his mantra from Day 1, then there needs to be a major shakeup on offense for this team. Not only does the line need to be overhauled with youth and athleticism, but the Bears simply have to find a ball-carrier that can be dynamic on the ground. Three years of unspectacular performances and frequent injuries prove that Benson is officially a bust, which means drafting a workhorse like Forte over a change-up like Charles is the right choice to make.
John Crist is the Publisher of Bear Report and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.