Roschon Johnson could go down as a steal for the Chicago Bears.
The Chicago Bears surprised some by allowing David Montgomery to not only walk in free agency but to allow him a direct path to Detroit with the Lions. As a known Khalil Herbert truther, I enjoyed seeing this from a fantasy football and NFL Draft perspective.
The Bears already have some firepower in the backfield
Herbert is one of the first running backs I ever graded as an analyst. He earned a starting-caliber grade, and I became a leader of the hype train. Since 2021, I have pounded the table for more Herbert in the offense. In his limited action, the Kansas-VaTech product made his presence felt in the Windy City.
Herbert’s 4.2 yards per carry was a respectable number as a rookie, but Year 2 saw the young ball carrier take a major boost in production. His efficiency burst through the roof, giving Herbert a sparkling 5.7 yards per carry, including five touchdowns on 138 total touches.
It is clear that general manager Ryan Poles saw enough from Herbert to trust him with the RB1 role in 2023. He did not extend a new contract to Montgomery, instead signing D’Onta Foreman to a deal closer to the league minimum. If the Bears have such a strong duo, then why is this article about some dude named Roschon Johnson?
The answer: Roschon Johnson is not just “some dude”, he is “THAT dude”.
Johnson was often overshadowed by teammate Bijan Robinson in college. The duo attended the University of Texas, where they terrorized Big 12 defenses at will. Serving as the thunder to Bijan’s lightning, Johnson flexed an impressive running style in his own right.
I liken it back to the mid-2000s USC dynasty. On the Trojans’ best team of that run, running backs Reggie Bush and Lendale White were catalysts for the high-powered offense. In similar ways, the Longhorn pairing matches up well with Bush and White.
Aside from on-the-field comparisons, let’s look at the NFL Draft. The highly sought-after lead backs went on Day 1, with Bush going No. 2 overall to New Orleans and Robinson going No. 8 overall to Atlanta. The “other” USC and Texas running backs fared much worse.
White went midway through Round 2, while Johnson waited two rounds longer to hear his name called. Meanwhile, White logged the most rushing yards in any single season of his and Bush’s careers. Bush had longevity, but this highlights how much draft capital stops mattering once the draft is over.
Robinson will surely have a better career than Bush. He is more suited to an all-around workload, has a direct line to hundreds of touches, and is on an offense with scoring upside. But that doesn’t mean Johnson will fall very far behind Robinson, that is, if he can beat out Herbert and Foreman for reps.
Could Roschon Johnson seize a primary role with the Chicago Bears as a rookie?
There is a chance Johnson is effectively “redshirted” as a rookie, as he can learn behind the two established players ahead of him on the depth chart. However, considering how small the shelf life is for a running back, it doesn’t make much sense to waste a year of his prime for the sake of convenience.
By all means, if Johnson isn’t one of the two or three best ball carriers by the time training camp ends, perhaps patience is the right path. But it is hard to imagine this being the case, especially after his stellar preseason debut vs. the Titans. Efficiency could have been better for the young running back, but we must remember that he played with the second unit.
Either way, once Roschon gets some skin in the game, he will become a lethal partner in crime with Justin Fields out of the backfield. Let’s hope it doesn’t take until 2024 for the coaching staff to see the vision.