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2017 NFL Draft Reaction: Tarik Cohen Goes to the Chicago Bears

Tarik Cohen was drafted 119th overall by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft. The Bears add to their running back depth behind Jordan Howard, as Cohen will compete for a role with Jeremy Langford, Benny Cunningham, and KaDeem Carey.

Cohen brings his workhorse-level production and 4.42 speed to a Bears backfield that’s short on both. Among current Bears backs, only Langford bested a 4.59 in the Forty, and only Carey matches Cohen in terms of collegiate market share of rushing yards. Cohen should be able to compete for passing down work right away, though it’s difficult to see him taking any early down work from Howard without an injury.

I’ll dig into the Bears more below, but first, let’s take a closer look at their new RB.

Tarik Cohen, North Carolina A&T, 5-6,179

RB Prospect Lab Data

AGE WT FORTY CONE ATTS YPG TDS RECS SCORE
21.5 179 4.42  7.22* 17.7 132.3 1.5 3.1 38

*Cohen did not participate in the 3-Cone at the Combine. This measurement is from his pro day.

Both Cohen’s raw and team-adjusted production stand out. From 2017 RB Workhorse Scores:

…he is one of the most productive RBs in the draft, amassing more than 5,600 career rushing yards and nearly 1,000 career receiving yards in four years at North Carolina A&T. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in all four seasons, including more than 1,500 yards in the last two and more than 15 touchdowns in the last three. He also caught at least 25 passes for more than 200 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons.

Raw Production

SeasonGamesRushing AttemptsRushing YardsYPCRushing TDsReceptionsReceiving YardsYPRReceiving TDs
TOTAL4686856196.556989459.63
20131119511485.981115213.81
20141119713406.815252379.51
20151226415435.815252178.70
20161221215887.518373399.21

Workhorse Score and Adjusted RB Dominator

PlayerWorkhorse ScoreWorkhorse RankDominator RatingDominator Rank
Tarik Cohen83.684th (out of 36)0.484th (out of 36)

Cohen does not appear in the Box Score Scout because he played for an FCS school. But we can approximate his comparables by using a similar player to stand in for him. From a size and production standpoint, Cohen is a very similar prospect to Darren Sproles.

PlayerHtWtRuAtts/GRuYdsRuYds/GYPCRuTDs/GRecs/GReYds/G
Darren Sproles5-618718.14979110.66.11.01.513.5
Tarik Cohen5-617918.95619122.26.51.22.120.5

Cohen is slightly faster, while Sproles bests him in agility. Cohen outproduced Sproles in every category, but Sproles played against tougher competition at Kansas State. Sproles (with Cohen’s draft position) should give us a close enough approximation of Cohen’s comps:

sproles-comps

A few of the backs on this list have been able to find success in the NFL precisely by excelling in the passing game. But the fact that there are relatively few successes on this list should highlight the fact that smaller backs are already at a disadvantage. Still, Cohen fans can take solace in the fact that several of the RBs on this list were drafted much later than he was.

Player Outlook

Cohen becomes the fifth running back in Chicago, and in that sense faces something of an uphill battle to meaningful work. That said, none of the current backs in Chicago has a secure role apart from Jordan Howard. Cohen’s path to passing game work in Chicago may not be as difficult as it would be on some other teams.

Cohen was taken with the Bears’ fourth-round pick. While that’s not exactly a high-value pick, it’s still meaningful draft capital. And as I mentioned before, he possesses a rare (for current Bears’ RBs) combination of speed and production, being the only back on the Bears’ roster both to run a sub-4.5 forty and to account for more than 80 percent of his team’s non-QB rushing yards in college. No current Bears’ RB caught more than 29 passes last season, so the passing game is a facet of the Bears’ offense to which Cohen could immediately contribute.

Cohen caught more than three passes per game in his senior year. He caught three receiving TDs over his collegiate career and averaged more than nine yards per reception. The agility he displayed at his pro-day is disappointing, especially for a player nicknamed “The Human Joystick.” But it’s possible his measured athleticism does not give us a complete picture, considering his college resume. His receiving production out of the backfield suggests he is a skilled pass catcher, and that he should be able to produce for Chicago in that area right away.

It might not be the most likely outcome, but it’s certainly possible that Cohen becomes the Bears’ primary pass-catching RB this season.

Team Outlook

Chicago’s third-down running back role could be extremely valuable. Whoever ends up starting at QB, whether it’s Mike Glennon or Mitchell Trubisky, will be someone without much NFL game experience. It’s possible they will look to dump off to an RB more quickly and more often than an experienced QB would.

Additionally, the backup RB in Chicago is likely to get more work than a backup RB might get elsewhere. Given that the Bears will be starting either a rookie QB or a career-backup QB, it would make sense for them to lean more on the running game. More team rushing attempts should translate more backup RB attempts. If Cohen can unseat Langford to become Howard’s primary backup while also garnering much of the passing-down work, he could turn into a valuable fantasy asset.

Conclusion

Cohen’s best case scenario is to become Chicago’s Darren Sproles. The good news is that he looks to have the requisite skills, and no other RB on the Bears has proven himself to be a reliable third-down back for them up to this point. According to the Dynasty ADP App, Cohen is often not being drafted at all in rookie drafts–when he is drafted, it’s well below other rookies who arguably have an even more difficult path to meaningful work in year one.

cohen rookie adp

Cohen could be an impressive value for the fantasy team that’s able to pick him up at the very end of a dynasty rookie draft.

Find all our 2017 NFL Draft reaction content here.

Additional Research

  • Running Backs – The RB Success Model – Using age, production, and combine measurables, Cole builds on earlier regression tree analysis to build a model that predicts success within the first three years of a player’s NFL career. Odds of success are given for 28 RBs from the 2017 NFL draft class, along with commentary on the more prominent names.

See for Yourself . . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsimHbxxFd8

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