Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Running back

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Mullin's 2011 draft capsules: Running back

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 10:58 p.m.

By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com

Second in a series

The Bears rededicated themselves to running the ball around mid-2010, with the effect of aiding their offensive line and forcing defensive lines to pay attention to someone other than Jay Cutler. That commitment is expected to remain in place.

The Bears

Over the past decade the Bears scored with second-round picks at running back. Anthony Thomas (2001) was the offensive rookie of the year; Matt Forte (2007) was arguably the Bears offensive player of the year last season, accounting for nine touchdowns and more than 1,600 yards, tying for team high with 51 receptions.

Forte is entering a contract year but as one of the franchise-position players (along with quarterback and a pass-rushing defensive lineman) chances of Forte finishing 2011 without a new contract are slim at best.

The variable, however, is behind Forte on the depth chart. A source told CSNChicago.com that the Bears were expected to release Chester Taylor closer to the season.

However, loss of training camp and preseason due to labor troubles would dramatically reduce the opportunity for Harvey Unga to establish himself as a replacement for Taylor, whose production dropped for a third straight season to a career-low 2.4 yards per carry. And the Bears paid Taylor the majority of his money in year one of his four-year deal, so there is no economic pressure to make a move.

Need: Marginal; the depth chart may do some shuffling, and Taylor, Unga and Garrett Wolfe will not all make a roster that does not hold a spot open for a fullback anyway.

The 2011 draft

Gems can be uncovered in any draft, even the drafts lacking in apparent elite talent. That would be the situation in this years draft, in which Alabama Heisman Trophy winner (2009) Mark Ingram is rated far, far above most other prospects at the position.

Despite 11 underclassmen declaring for the draft, there is only one bona fide first-round talent among the group, says Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki. Although its a smaller class of backs this year, there are some mid-round talents worth considering.

Indeed, rounds 2 and 3 are expected to see as many as a half-dozen backs drafted. Illinois Mikel LeShoure is viewed as a potential second-to-third rounder but too few of the backs, including LeShoure, have displayed the kind of size-speed mix coveted by the NFL, at least in early rounds.

Of course, Arian Foster was a free-agent pickup in 2009 and he led the NFL in rushing and total yards in 2010.

The Best Bets:

1. Mark Ingram, Alabama With 30 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons playing in the SEC, Hes one guy that really belongs in the first round, said ESPNs Todd McShay. He is so instinctive. And the three things that really jump out, the instincts, the lateral quickness -- he just feels a hole opening and is able to get in and out of it so quickly. And then, finally, the yards after contact, just the way he runs with his pad level and anticipating contact, he is so good in that area.

2. Mikel LeShoure, Illinois Could even slip into the first round, being the kind of productive player that quality franchises like Indianapolis and New England gravitate toward.

3. Daniel Thomas, Kansas State Did not run with the speed of Oklahoma States Kendall Hunter or Va. Techs Ryan Williams but this former QB got progressively better every year and is 6-0, 225 pounds, which the others arent.

John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider, and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.

Eddie Jackson healthy, ready to bring center fielder range to Bears' secondary

Eddie Jackson healthy, ready to bring center fielder range to Bears' secondary

Eddie Jackson’s senior year at Alabama was cut short by a broken leg, but the Bears’ fourth-round pick doesn’t expect that injury to affect him in 2017. 

Jackson suffered his injury Oct. 22 returning a punt against Tennessee and missed the rest of Alabama’s season. 

“I’m just ready to get there and work with the training staff at the Bears,” Jackson said. “I know I’m gonna be ready for training camp 100 percent, no limitations.”

When healthy, Jackson was an electric playmaker — nine interceptions, 12 pass breakups and five total touchdowns — who worked initially as a cornerback and later as a safety at Alabama. Two of those scores came in 2016 as a punt returner, a position where he could make an immediate impact for the Bears.

“(The Bears) told me they liked me as a returner,” Jackson, who averaged 23 yards per punt return, said. “That’s one of the things they want to try me at, or see how well I do. All I’ve got to say is I’m just ready to come in and compete and work. You know, take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me right now.”

Jackson moreso fits a Bears need as a rangy free safety, though he wasn’t a sure tackler with 16 missed tackles in 122 attempts from 2014-2016, according to Pro Football Focus. In addition to those nine interceptions (six of which came in his junior year), Jackson broke up 12 passes in four years, and in 2016, he limited opposing quarterbacks to a 38.3 passer rating when they threw his way. 

And Jackson turned three of his interceptions into touchdowns. For some context: Malik Hooker, the Colts’ 15th overall pick who was regarded as the best “center fielder” safety prospect this year, had three touchdowns on seven college interceptions. 

“When I get the ball, I feel like I turn into a receiver,” Jackson said. “It’s my mindset. I don’t think about going out of bounds, or think about going down, I think about touchdowns.”

The Bears only intercepted eight passes as a team last year, a void the team began to address with the signing of Quintin Demps (six interceptions in 2016) in March. Jackson will push Adrian Amos, who doesn’t have an interception in over 1,800 career plays. 

“I just feel like wherever I’m needed I can do it all,” Jackson said. “I’ll have good coaching they can teach me what I need to be taught and they talked to me about playing safety and special teams. I’m just looking forward to come out there and earn a spot and hopefully take us to a Super Bowl. It’s possible.”

Is Bears' fourth-round pick Tarik Cohen a smaller Tyreek Hill or a Darren Sproles comp?

Is Bears' fourth-round pick Tarik Cohen a smaller Tyreek Hill or a Darren Sproles comp?

"The Human Joystick" nickname came from game action YouTube videos. But Tarik Cohen really got on the map for those who weren't aware of his on-field exploits through his acrobatic Instagram videos, including catching footballs simultaneously with each hand as he completes a backflip.

"It started because I had seen someone else do it. And we were bored after summer conditioning and decided to go out and try it," Cohen told reporters at Halas Hall Saturday afternoon. "The first two times (with one football, one hand) I failed, but the third time I got it pretty naturally. Then I was competing with someone else at a different school and he had done it too. So then I had to one up myself because everyone was asking what was next. So then I did it with two. Social media got ahold of that and things went crazy." 

As for the nickname?

"I really prefer ... Someone on ESPN had called me "Chicken Salad" and I really liked that," Cohen said. "I don't think it's bad. "Human Joystick," I like it too."

Chicken Salad?

"I don't know, I've never heard anybody called that, I wanted to be the one of one," Cohen said.

[MORE: Bears select Alabama safety Eddie Jackson in the fourth round]

Cohen became Ryan Pace's second fourth-round pick on Saturday (No. 119) with a vision of becoming the running game's change of pace to last year's Pro Bowl fifth-round surprise Jordan Howard. In four years at North Carolina A&T, the 5-foot-6, 179 lb. waterbug piled up a MEAC-record 5,619 rushing yards and 61 touchdowns. Cohen notched 18 of those scores as a senior, including four of 83 yards or more. He had the fastest 10-yard split as part of his 4.42, 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine.

"I was really disappointed with my 40 time because I wanted to run a sub 4.40 and I stumbled on the first one and it seems the second is always slower than the first," Cohen said.

Last season, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill became the all-purpose headache for Chiefs opponents, especially in space, with six receiving touchdowns, three rushing and three more on returns. Cohen is four inches shorter than Hill and doesn't return kicks, but size wise is a comp for Darren Sproles, who was also a fourth-round pick by the Chargers in 2005, but all three of his Pro Bowl appearances have come in the last three seasons.  The physical stature in Sproles has seemed to be a bigger issue for opponents than the player himself, missing only eight games in his career.

"I think it'll play a key role and benefit me," Cohen told us. "The linemen are going to be bigger and it'll be really hard for defenders to see behind my linemen.

"I didn't want to necessarily be bigger (growing up), but I wanted to beat the bigger kids."

Did he?

"Oh yeah, definitely. I've got that chip on my shoulder and when I went against the bigger kids I felt I had something to prove so I always go harder."

Now he'll face the biggest of them all with the Bears.