Almost every year there are a number of individuals who blow up the combine and pop up on the radar of many NFL fans. Whether it is running a blazing 40-yard dash or jumping out of the building, the combine offers a chance for fans to be acquainted with players who could potentially be suiting up for their favorite team next fall.
Ryan Pace has not been shy about taking explosive athletes who excelled at the combine, and while some have worked like Tarik Cohen, others have failed to make a mark like Kevin White.
Without further ado, here are some players that showed out at the combine and should be realistic options for the Bears late on Day 2 or on Day 3:
5. Miles Sanders, Running Back, Penn State
5-foot-11, 211 Pounds, 4.49 40-yard dash, 20 Bench Press Reps, 36 Inch Vertical, 124 Inch Broad Jump, 6.89 3-Cone Drill, 4.19 20-Yard Shuttle
Obviously running back is a position a lot of Bears fans have been paying attention to leading into the start of the 2019 offseason. Sanders is a running back who has the ability to play on all three downs and showed he was smooth catching the ball at the combine on Saturday.
After being the backup to Saquon Barkley in 2016 and 2017, Sanders was finally afforded the opportunity to be the lead back in 2018, and he did not disappoint, rushing for 1,274 yards on 220 carries for 5.8 yards a carry. Sanders is one of the few running backs in this year’s draft who can come in and immediately contribute on all three downs and be the feature back.
Due to his strong performance, the Bears might even have to trade up to get him, something Bears fans know Pace is not afraid to do. In some ways, Sanders smooth running style to go with his patience, vision and ability to cut on a dime reminds me a little bit of former Bear Matt Forte.
4. Justice Hill, Running Back, Oklahoma State
5-foot-10, 198 Pounds, 4.40 40-yard dash, 21 Bench Press Reps, 40 Inch Vertical, 130 Inch Broad Jump
Before injuring his hamstring on his second 40-yard dash run, Hill was on his way to possibly the best combine performance of anyone at the running back position this year.
Although his size does not scream NFL running back, Hill runs hard and led Oklahoma State in both rushing and carries each of his three years in the program. And while he may seem small, Phillip Lindsay of the Denver Broncos showed it does not take a 6-foot, 220-pound frame to run for 1,000 yards in the NFL anymore.
Hill’s best role would be splitting carries with a veteran, maybe Jordan Howard, or maybe a free agent such as TJ Yeldon if Howard is traded. Hill could easily slide into a higher volume and enhanced version of the role played by Taquan Mizzell in 2018 while ideally offering more in the run game. Hill could finally allow Cohen to be used as the premier gadget back that he is.
3. Mecole Hardman, Wide Receiver, Georgia
5-foot-10, 187 pounds, 4.33 40-yard dash, 17 Bench Press Reps, 36.5 Inch Vertical, 119 Inch Broad Jump
Hardman was one of my favorites coming into the 2019 NFL Combine. Despite only catching 35 passes for 543 yards during his junior year, he was in a run-heavy offense while splitting time with two other wide receivers who are also likely to be drafted.
Additionally, it was only his second year as a wide receiver after playing quarterback in college and cornerback his freshman year at Georgia. Hardman melts angles on the field and shows easy acceleration that is only seen in a select number of players in the NFL.
Though comparisons to all-pro players is an exercise in futility, it would be fun to see Matt Nagy potentially get his own version of Tyreek Hill to really open things up for this Bears’ offense. Hardman mentioned in his combine interview that his versatility makes him valuable, and he can play anywhere.
Similar to Hill, Hardman could be used in the backfield, inside at slot, outside and was also valuable on special teams at Georgia, where he was used as a punt returner, kick returner and a gunner on the punt team. The Bears’ offense (and kick return) needs more explosive plays and a true deep threat who can go 80 yards in one play like Hardman did in the 2018 National Championship.
2. Parris Campbell, Wide Receiver, Ohio State
6-foot-0, 205 pounds, 4.31 40-yard dash, 11 Bench Press Reps, 40 Inch Vertical, 135 Inch Broad Jump, 4.03 20-yard shuttle
Campbell is somewhat hard to judge as a wide receiver prospect as Ohio State primarily used him on jet sweeps, shovel passes and in the screen game. Because of this, Campbell is hard to assess as a route runner, but it is hard to argue with those testing numbers.
As previously stated, the Bears need someone who can take the top off a defense with their speed. Taylor Gabriel is fast, but his game is not necessarily about blowing by defenders while Campbell’s could be. Having drawn comparisons to former Urban Meyer standout Percy Harvin, Campbell actually ran faster (4.31 40-yard dash vs. 4.41), jumped higher (40-inch vertical vs. 37.5) and jumped farther (135-inch broad jump vs. 121).
Additionally, Campbell also returned kicks in 2016 and 2017 and would have had the second-best kick return average in 2017 had he returned enough kicks to qualify. Campbell is a smooth, fluid athlete but is also a little bit raw due to the system he is coming from. At the very least it would be exciting to see how Nagy would deploy such an explosive player with the speed to keep defensive coordinators up at night.
1. Foster Moreau, Tight End, Louisiana State
6-foot-4, 253 pounds, 4.66 40-yard dash, 22 Bench Press Reps, 36.5 Inch Vertical, 121 Inch Broad Jump, 7.16 3-Cone Drill, 4.11 20-yard shuttle
It is safe to wonder if tight end Adam Shaheen is trending toward bust territory. Part of this is due to him not being able to remain healthy, but even when he was healthy, there was not necessarily any evidence that says he is the future at the position.
For this reason, as well as Ben Braunecker and Daniel Brown being free agents, it is not out of the question for the Bears to draft a tight end. It’s a position that plays such a vital role in Nagy’s offense.
As for Moreau, it is almost impossible to judge him based on college stats as he was criminally underused at LSU. Like Hardman at Georgia, Moreau was in an offensive system that wanted to establish the run, and therefore, he saw very few targets.
Though not a comparison, George Kittle is a player who comes to mind as someone who saw a lack of opportunity in a run-heavy offense but went on to explode due to his elite athleticism. Moreau offers upside as an additional blocker in the run game but also in the passing game with his untapped athletic potential that will likely help him contribute right away.