After one of the more aggressive offseasons we had ever seen in Chicago last year, the Bears are left with just one NFL draft selection inside of the top 125 picks. However, they aren't in a bad spot heading into the 2019 season — not even in the slightest.
The Bears have one of the best rosters in the NFL with very few urgent needs. The biggest could be at running back after the team traded away Jordan Howard to the Eagles for a conditional 2020 pick. Chicago signed veteran Mike Davis this offseason, but he likely isn’t the long-term answer at the position.
Outside of running back, the Bears could also use some depth on defense, specifically on the edge or at cornerback. Other than that, Chicago should be able to select the best available player when they are on the clock. Let’s look at a handful of players who could be available late in the third round for the Bears and could contribute right away.
RB David Montgomery, Iowa State
With Howard now off to the Eagles, the Bears must find a way to replace his production. More specifically, they are going to need to find a workhorse back who can make plays between the tackle box and after contact. Enter Iowa State’s David Montgomery.
Over the past two years with the Cyclones, Montgomery put on a show, rushing for 2,362 yards and 24 touchdowns. However, the most impressive trait about Montgomery is his ability to break tackles and gain the extra yard or two, even if there doesn't seem to be any yards to be earned.
According to Pro Football Focus, Montgomery avoided the tackle on first contact on more than 41 percent of his carries. Considering just how bad Iowa State's offensive line was, he had to do this to be successful. He has outstanding lower-body strength and knows not only how to absorb contract, but how to make defenders miss as well. Outside of elite athleticism, Montgomery has everything you would want in a feature back.
In the NFL, Montgomery projects as an every-down back who makes his living as an inside runner. Pairing him with Tarik Cohen would give the Bears a fantastic one-two punch. His toughness and high character would be a perfect fit in Chicago. Expect Montgomery to be selected somewhere inside the top 100 picks.
RB Damien Harris, Alabama
Another devastating inside runner who would make a ton of sense for the Bears is Alabama’s Damien Harris. For whatever reason, Harris has been lost in the shuffle this pre-draft process, when his former teammate
Josh Jacobs has garnered the most attention at the RB position. However, it was Harris who was the more productive college back and could wind up being the better pro.
Over the past three years at Alabama, Harris tallied 2,913 rushing yards on just 431 carries (6.75 yards per attempt.) He’s improved as a receiver, but that’s certainly not his strength. He is at his best when he is making plays after contact, especially near the goal line. Harris is one of the smartest running backs in the class, consistently finding the right lane to hit. He's also reliable, never missing a game during his career. That in itself is a quality trait to have in a running back.
Harris could be there for the Bears with their third- or fourth-round pick, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he were able to replicate Howard’s success in Chicago. They are similar players, but one is cheaper and still has a lot of tread on the tires (477 career carries for Harris). Considering his ability to play on all three downs, Harris would be an excellent fit with the Bears. Expect him to be an instant-impact player in the NFL.
RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis
If the Bears are looking to get a little more explosive in the backfield, one back they could consider at the end of the third round is Memphis’ Darrell Henderson.
Henderson was arguably the best back in college football last season, when he was a first-team All American. As a junior, Henderson tallied 2,204 total yards from scrimmage and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt on the ground. He was unstoppable for the Tigers, scoring 25 touchdowns in 13 games.
While he is undersized (5’8, 208 pounds), Henderson plays big and can run between the tackles. But his game is built on speed and consistently creating chunk runs. If Chicago is looking to get away from the typical inside runner/workhorse back, Henderson would be a perfect fit in Matt Nagy’s offense. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him have a Devonta Freeman-type career.
EDGE Ben Banogu, TCU
If the Bears decide not to select a running back with their first pick, look for them to continue to stock their defense with talent. One position they could add some depth to would be on the edge.
Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd are one of the better pass-rushing duos in the league, but the team is in a good place and can afford to look for depth players with upside because of their already-entrenched starters. One name that would make a lot of sense for Chicago is TCU’s Ben Banogu.
Banogu played two years at TCU, racking up 34.5 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks. He was even more impressive at the NFL Combine, testing as the most explosive edge rusher in the class,
according to 3sigmaathlete.com. He ran a 4.62 40-yard dash, but more impressively, posted a 40-inch vertical and a 134-inch broad jump.
However, Banogu isn’t going to be for everyone, as he lacks great size and length. But in a 3-4, that might not be as big of a problem. He will need time to develop but is a world-class athlete who can make plays with his speed and explosiveness alone. Nearly every game, you see him use his athleticism to make a play on the backside or with sheer effort. At pick No.87, this would be a fantastic gamble for the Bears.
DL Charles Omenihu, Texas
One of the more intriguing defensive lineman in the entire 2019 draft class is Texas’ Charles Omenihu. At 6-foot-5, 280 pounds, Omenihu is a freak athlete with an incredible wingspan of 85.5 inches. In college, he was finally able to turn his athleticism and length into production, recording 18 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks as a senior.
However, there are questions about where to play him in the NFL. For the Bears, he could be the perfect depth player for Chuck Pagano, as he can play 3-4 outside linebacker, the five-technique or inside as a defensive tackle in nickel packages. He is fundamentally raw and needs to be coached up, but his upside is fantastic.
Putting Omenihu on an already-established defense where he wouldn’t be forced to start would be the ideal place for his development. If the Bears were able to snag him in the third round, that could prove to be one of the biggest steals in the entire draft. Expect Omenihu to be on the short list of names the Bears consider at pick No.87.
EDGE Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion
Another relatively unknown pass rusher who could intrigue general manager Ryan Pace is Oshane Ximines from Old Dominion University. Ximines was a force in Conference USA, recording 43.5 tackles for a loss and 27.5 sacks in his final 37 games.
According to Pro Football Focus, Ximines finished the 2018 season with a grade of 90.2, higher than Brian Burns, Clelin Ferrell, and Rashan Gary. Despite coming from a small school, he’s technically sound and knows how to win with his hands. That should help ease the transition to the NFL.
With his size and athleticism, Ximines has shown the potential to be a productive 3-4 outside linebacker. Expect him to be picked somewhere in the top 100 and contribute right away as a team’s third or fourth edge rusher.
CB Sean Bunting, Central Michigan
The Bears are fairly set in the secondary with Kyle Fuller, Prince Amukamara and Buster Skrine, but it's never a bad idea to continue to add to the position. One potential option for the Bears at the end of the third round is Central Michigan's Sean Bunting.
A physical press-cornerback who seems to be offended if the receiver gets off of the line of scrimmage, Bunting needs some work in zone coverage and could improve his tackling technique, but he’s one of the most physical corners to come into the NFL in some time.
Bunting is also a fantastic athlete, testing just below the 93
rd percentile, according to 3sigmaathlete.com. At 6-0, 195 pounds, Bunting ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine while jumping 41.5 inches in the vertical. He has the athletic profile to play on the outside and in the slot at a high level.
Given his size, athleticism and physicality, Bunting would be an excellent gamble for the Bears at pick No.87. Don’t be surprised if he turns into a starting cornerback in the NFL sooner rather than later.