Bears NFL Draft preview: Jordan Howard dials running back need way, way down

Bears NFL Draft preview: Jordan Howard dials running back need way, way down

CSNChicago.com Bears Insider John "Moon" Mullin goes position-by-position as the Bears approach the 2017 Draft, taking a look at what the Bears have, what they might need, and what draft day and after could have in store. Third in a series.

Bears pre-draft situation

Drafting running backs in three straight mid rounds gave the Bears Ka’Deem Carey, Jeremy Langford and finally Jordan Howard, who surprised coaches who admitted not fully knowing what they had and started Langford the first three games. Langford went down with a high-ankle injury against Dallas, Howard started and established himself as the featured back of the offense, with 1,313 rushing yards and a 5.2 ypc average, second in the NFL only to Ezekiel Elliott.

Langford, expected to be a speed upgrade from released veteran Matt Forte, failed to take a second-year step up, averaging just 3.2 yards on 62 carries with no run longer than 13 yards over his final nine games and 31 carries. Carey slid virtually out of the rotation and was deactivated for the final two games after getting no more than 2 carries in any of the previous seven games.

The addition of Benny Cunningham added firepower to the return game but also in the backfield. Cunningham has averaged more than 13 yards per pass reception in four seasons, plus 27 yards per kickoff return.

Pre-draft depth-chart’ing starters

RB: Jordan Howard
Third down: Benny Cunningham
Reserves: Bralon Addison, Ka’Deem Carey, David Cobb, Jeremy Langford

Bears draft priority: Low

Ryan Pace has added running backs on the third day of his first two Bears drafts and late-round upgrade from Carey and Langford who can contribute on special teams would interest him. Redrafting a position in multiple years is generally a course heading for problems elsewhere on the roster, so special teams would be a significant consideration even for a mid- or late-round pick.

If the Bears are satisfied that Langford is a viable backup for Howard, plus Cunningham, the Bears are well set at the position with youth as well as quality.

Keep an eye on ...

I'Tavius Mathers, RB, Middle Tennessee: Exploded as a senior with 1,5651 yards and 17 TD’s. Sat out ’15 after transferring from Mississippi.

Elijah McGuire, RB, La.-Lafayette: From the same program that gave the Bears CB Charles Tillman. Set back by a foot injury but showed receiving skills and was three-time 1,000-yard rusher.

Jamaal Williams, RB, Brigham Young: Ideal size (6-0, 212 pounds) and excellent production without top-end speed. Suspended for ’15 for rules violation but worked to finish his degree and return for strong ’16. “You have to abide by the rules,” Williams said. “I learned to be disciplined while I was [at BYU].”

BearsTalk Podcast: Analyzing Mitch Trubisky's contract as rookies arrive for camp

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BearsTalk Podcast: Analyzing Mitch Trubisky's contract as rookies arrive for camp

On Ep. 56 of our BearsTalk Podcast, Chris and JJ discuss Mitch Trubisky’s contract, question marks about the final 53, go over the Vikings off-season with Dawn Mitchell from Fox-9 Minneapolis, and go “Off the Grid” on  JJ’s recent engagement.

The wait is over: Bears sign Mitch Trubisky

The wait is over: Bears sign Mitch Trubisky

Mitch Trubisky said all along he wasn't worried about signing a contract and that he would have something completed before training camp. On Wednesday, the No. 2 overall pick officially stuck to his word. 

The Bears announced Wednesday -- the day Bears rookies report to Halas Hall -- that Trubisky signed a contract. Trubisky had to be signed to a contract to participate in training camp, which begins next week in Bourbonnais. 

"That's not really for me to worry about," Trubisky said in early June. "I'm going to be out here at practice everyday. My agent and the Bears organization is going to handle that. But I'm not really sure how that stuff works. I'm here to play football, I'm not worried about contracts."

A Trubisky holdout was always unlikely given both sides' desire to get the North Carolina alum into training camp from Day 1. With his contract signed, Trubisky will have an opportunity to develop in the month and a half separating the start of training camp from the Bears' season opener Sept. 10 against the Atlanta Falcons. 

Trubisky wasn't the last first-round quarterback to sign, too. Patrick Mahomes, the 10th overall pick, has yet to sign with Kansas City. And Mahomes is one of six first-round picks who have yet to sign along with Solomon Thomas (No. 3, San Francisco), Corey Davis (No. 5, Tennessee), Jamal Adams (No. 6, New York Jets), Gareon Conley (No. 24, Oakland) and Jabril Peppers (No. 25, Cleveland).