The 2023 Senior Bowl is scheduled to kick off its week of practices on Tuesday, January 31 in Mobile, Alabama, and the Chicago Bears scouting department will be in attendance in full force over the three days of practice sessions.
One position the Bears will scout closely is running back, assuming David Montgomery departs in free agency as many expect he will. Khalil Herbert will assume the starting role in 2023, and Trestan Ebner has a chance to earn primary backup duties with a strong 2023 training camp. But general manager Ryan Poles may decide that an upgrade is available on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft, and that upgrade could come from this year’s Senior Bowl.
Running back will be one of the stronger position groups at the Senior Bowl. Almost every running back attending the game has a draftable grade, including:
Kenny McIntosh, Georgia
Chase Brown, Illinois
Chris Rodriguez Jr., Kentucky
Eric Gray, Oklahoma
Tyjae Spears, Tulane
Roschon Johnson, Texas
TCU’s Kendre Miller and App State’s Camerun Peoples will also get a long look.
Rodriguez is a name Chicago Bears fans should keep an eye on. He possesses the kind of thick frame (5112, 229 pounds) and hard-charging running style that would make an adequate replacement for Montgomery’s physical presence in the run game. A quicker-than-fast running back, Rodriguez would complement Herbert and profiles as a better pro prospect than Ebner did last year this time.
McIntosh measured a verified 5117 (just under 6-feet) and 207 pounds last spring. If he adds another five pounds to his frame during the 2023 NFL Draft process, he’ll appeal to teams that prefer bigger-framed runners who can be on the field all three downs. Scouts project McIntosh will run a 4.45 40-yard dash. If he does, he could be a Bears fourth-round target and compete for a sizeable role as early as 2023.
Gray could be the week’s biggest riser. After rushing for more than 1,300 yards in 2022, he’s been somewhat overlooked so far in the 2023 NFL Draft process. He’s a bulky running back with very good vision and instincts in the open field. Gray runs behind his pads and is a challenge to bring to the ground. If he proves in Mobile and at the NFL Combine that he has enough burst and twitch to threaten pro defenders on a down-to-down basis, his stock will skyrocket. He reminds me quite a bit stylistically of Montgomery, a quality jump-cutter who runs angry.
A sleeper (if you want to call him that) is Johnson, who but for Bijan Robinson would probably be ranked as a top-100 prospect. He could still get to that ranking with a strong draft process. He averaged nearly six yards per carry over the last two seasons and at a verified 6005 and 219 pounds, he has a chance to win the ‘look the part’ award for the week.
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