The 2021 NFL Draft may have been the event that turned the Chicago Bears around. This team seemed stuck in the mud but their aggressive trade up the board for Justin Fields injected some much-needed life into the franchise.
After also trading up for offensive tackle Teven Jenkins in the second round, the Bears were not left with a ton of remaining 2021 NFL Draft capital. That being said, they certainly made the most out of what they had. In particular, the selection of Khalil Herbert late in the sixth round (217th overall) stood out as a strong fit.
After spending four years in a part-time role at Kansas, Herbert transferred to Virginia Tech for the 2020 season. He was able to come in and make a major impact for the Hokies, carrying the ball 155 times for 1183 yards (7.6 yards per carry average) and eight touchdowns in 11 games.
As the featured back in Virginia Tech’s offense, Herbert showed impressive patience and ball carrier vision. He has a knack for finding the right hole and shows great natural instincts as a runner. herbert also displays quick feet, good burst through the hole and does a great job of remaining low and remaining balanced through contact.
Simply put, he is a relatively powerful runner who does a great job of consistently keeping his feet and also shows some big-play ability. Herbert was consistently impressive as a runner this past season and even showed some ability in the passing game.
He did not get many opportunities as a pass-catcher out of the backfield, but Herbert has soft hands and can create a bit after the catch. Even more importantly, he enters the NFL as a ready-made pass blocker who can help protect his quarterback.
The Chicago Bears did not enter the 2021 NFL Draft with a major need at the running back position. Starter David Montgomery really came on for the team down the stretch last season but they could certainly use some depth. Herbert stands out as a strong value pick as a sixth-round selection and should be able to make an immediate impact as a complementary player to Montgomery.
On top of that, he has the upside to grow into a capable full-time running back. Paying a running back a big second contract simply is not good business and Montgomery is only under contract for two more seasons. Being able to steal Herbert late at least gives the Chicago Bears options when the Montgomery decision comes up.
Finding value late in the draft can be extremely important, especially for a team that does not have a ton of draft resources to work with. The Chicago Bears invested in talented players early, trading up to secure their services, leaving them a bit light on draft capital. Being able to nail these picks late is extremely important and the Bears certainly hit the mark with the selection of Khalil Herbert.