Tyjae Spears

2023 Senior Bowl standout Tyjae Spears a logical target if the Bears lose David Montgomery

Tulane running back Tajae Spears has been one of the biggest stars at the 2023 Senior Bowl. Considered a smaller prospect for his position, Spears measured 5095 and 204 pounds in Mobile. That’s an inch taller and nearly 10 pounds heavier than Chargers star running back Austin Ekeler was during his draft year. And while Spears’ NFL Draft stock will benefit from him adding weight, what he’s done on the field in Senior Bowl practices will have NFL teams buzzing.

Spears has been the best running back at the Senior Bowl through two days. He’s flashing top-shelf vision and quickness to see and hit holes before they fully open. His low center of gravity makes him a more powerful runner than his 204-pound frame, and there’s been little concern about his hands after two practices. He’s been a reliable target as a pass-catcher.

It hasn’t been a perfect two days for Tyjae Spears. His pass protection has been spotty, but he’s proven to be a tough-minded player with a short-term memory. Check out this sequence as proof.

Spears exploded in 2022 with 1,581 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns. He also set career highs as a receiver, with 22 catches for 256 yards and two scores. At 21 years old, he’s an ideal mid-round prospect for a team searching for a running back who will initially be part of a rotation but can also emerge as an RB1 at some point in his career.

The Chicago Bears may be in that position when the 2023 NFL Draft rolls around. David Montgomery is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and there’s been no indication that the Bears will be aggressive in their attempt to re-sign him. General manager Ryan Poles adores Montgomery but made it clear in his end-of-year press conference that sometimes, numbers don’t line up.

If the Bears decide to dip into this year’s crop of NFL Draft prospects to replace Montgomery, Spears’ skill set will work wonders in Chicago’s offense. He blends some of the best traits of Khalil Herbert and Montgomery in a more compact package. Spears is decisive after making his first cut but also has above-average hip and ankle flexibility to use some wiggle to break free if needed.

The Bears have spent Day 3 picks on running backs two years in a row. Herbert was a sixth-rounder in 2021, and Poles used 2022’s sixth-round selection on Baylor’s Trestan Ebner.

Ebner failed to take advantage of his opportunity to prove he’s capable of being an RB2 in 2023, leaving the door open for a prospect like Tyjae Spears to be targeted on draft weekend. He began the Senior Bowl week as a fringe-top-150 prospect. I think he’ll finish the all-star event with a rock-solid fourth-round grade and a chance to sneak into the third round.

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