Devon Achane

2023 NFL Draft: Devon Achane should rank high on Chicago Bears’ wish list

The Chicago Bears running backs room has undergone some significant changes this offseason. Gone is starter David Montgomery, who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency. GM Ryan Poles responded by signing D’Onta Foreman, who should pair with Khalil Herbert to form a quality backfield in 2023.

The 2023 NFL Draft will offer the Bears additional options at running back, including Texas A&M’s Devon Achane, whose rare speed would provide Chicago with an explosive offensive weapon.

Before diving too deep into Achane’s traits, we must address the glaring red flag on his scouting report: He’s small. He measured under 5-foot-9 and weighed 188 pounds at the NFL Combine. He looks slightly thicker than that in pads, but aesthetics don’t help a sub-190-pound running back handle the beating that comes with playing the position in the NFL.

Achane’s ability to hold up in the pros is a valid concern. But what he lacks in weight, he makes up for with incredible burst and speed. Defenders won’t be able to hit what they can’t catch, and part of why Achane has been a productive runner in the SEC is his knack for avoiding big hits. He’s either running by bigger, stronger linebackers or juking them on the second level. And even when a defensive lineman squares up on him, Achane’s low center of gravity and spacial awareness keep him safe.

As for that speed, Devon Achane ran a blistering 4.32 40-yard dash at the 2023 Combine. The stopwatch can sometimes be deceiving; players often run faster in shorts and a t-shirt than in pads. That isn’t the case for Achane. He’s a legit 4.3-guy on the field, and it shows in every game and against top competition.

What makes Achane such an intriguing prospect is his ability to rip off chunk gains as both an inside and outside runner. His capacity to get small through the hole and jolt past linebackers without much effort shocked me. I expected Achane to be an easier tackle for defensive linemen and linebackers. Yet, the 188-pounder consistently shows the ability to break arm tackles or make the first man miss. And when he does, hold your breath. He can flip the field in the blink of an eye.

Some draft analysts will peg Devon Achane as a gadget player or third-down back. I don’t think that’s accurate. Instead, at least initially, Achane has a legitimate chance to be an every-down player.

Achane should add at least some weight as he matures. He’s only 21 years old; it’s fair to assume he’ll be somewhere in the mid-190s early in his career. That’s only five pounds lighter than Austin Ekeler, who’s proven during his career with the Los Angeles Chargers that he can handle a feature-back role despite being undersized.

The Chicago Bears don’t have a running back who can do what Achane does. Herbert is the most explosive runner on the depth chart, and Foreman is a banger with an extra gear. But neither veteran has the playmaking upside Devon Achane possesses. The threat he’d pose sharing a backfield with Justin Fields is downright scary.

The consensus top running back prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft is Bijan Robinson (Texas). Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs is next, with a fringe-first-round grade. Achane generally ranks in the top five, with a slotting that varies by analyst.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Achane leapfrogs Gibbs as the second running back selected. His explosiveness is that rare. Granted, Gibbs ran almost as fast as Achane at the NFL Combine at 199 pounds; his tape is impressive too. And if Gibbs is the second running back picked, the Chicago Bears’ odds of landing Achane in the later portion of Round 2 go way up.

If GM Ryan Poles is set on adding a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft, he should focus on a player like Achane over a more traditionally built prospect like UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet, who doesn’t possess a trait that’s an upgrade over Herbert or Foreman. Achane does.

Indeed, advocating for Devon Achane breaks my strict rules when scouting running backs. Size matters at the position, and I generally want a running back who’s at least 210 pounds. But the Chicago Bears are uniquely positioned to prioritize speed over size while Justin Fields is at quarterback. The half-second of hesitation Fields forces defenders to take is all a player like Achane needs to become an immediate impact player on offense. And it’s an impact that could be breathtaking.

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