The Chicago Bears are depending on second-year running back David Montgomery to have a breakout season in 2020. If he doesn’t, the offense is going to be in a whole lot of trouble. There’s no depth at the position, and with Montgomery’s rookie year being somewhat of an incomplete grade, it’s a calculated risk that could result in the Bears having a big need in the backfield next year.
According to the latest 2021 NFL mock draft from 247 Sports, the Bears will have that need during next year’s draft cycle. And they’ll address it in the first round with the selection of Clemson running back, Travis Etienne, at No. 19 overall.
This is a bittersweet mock draft. Landing Etienne in Round 1 would be an exciting jolt of juice for the Bears’ offense, but it also suggests Montgomery isn’t the player fans were so excited about during the 2019 preseason.
Etienne is every bit the first-round running back prospect, which is difficult to find in the current NFL draft economy. The league simply doesn’t value running backs enough to justify an investment in the position with a top-32 pick, but Etienne’s game-breaking ability is on par with Saints star, Alvin Kamara. With all due respect to Montgomery, Etienne’s talent is on a different (and more impressive) level.
Etienne ran for 1,614 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2019 after running for 1,658 yards and 24 scores the year before. It’s hard imagining a scenario where he can top those seasons in 2020, but if he does, he may not make it to the 19th pick.
Hopefully, the Bears won’t be in the running back market next offseason. For that to become reality, Montgomery has to top his rookie season production when he ran for 889 yards and six touchdowns. He certainly has the talent to emerge as a 1,200-yard feature back, but he’s also the kind of player who’s dependent on his offensive line to create running lanes for him to exploit. Etienne isn’t; he can make chicken salad out of chicken waste.
Let’s take a second to focus on where the Bears pick in this mock draft: 19th. That draft slot suggests they’re going to be in the mix for a playoff spot next season. This is a break from the narrative that’s formed around Chicago this offseason, one in which football media has the Bears among the worst teams in the NFL. It’s the most realistic prediction of how Chicago’s season could end up going. The defense is loaded and will keep them in every game, while the quarterback situation is uninspiring and will probably cause the Bears to fall just short of a playoff run.