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Should The Bears Trust The Film and Select Devin Singletary?

Should the Bears trust the film and select Devin Singletary? Dan DeYoung answers that here, in a deep dive into Singletary’s game

When the offseason started, Devin Singletary was the name that had Bears analysts drooling. People saw the film and stats and fell in love. He was getting talked up so much that fans became afraid that the club’s lack of early draft picks would come back to haunt them and he wouldn’t reach their first selection.

Hype increased when it was reported that the Bears met with Singletary at the combine. Bears fans everywhere were excited that the team was thinking along those lines – this was the guy to replace Jordan Howard and take this offense to the next level.

The next day, Singletary competed in the NFL Combine, and that is when the love subsided. Singletary went from “the man” to a nobody in the minds of fans just like that, because he had a very poor day.

This is where player evaluation gets difficult. It isn’t too often that the tape and the measurables reveal different things, but there is such a massive difference between the two, it is hard to decide which tool to trust.

Does the tape lie? Do we stick with the numbers? It is a tough decision, but I will give you all the information that you need for you to decide which side you are on.

Statistics

While at FAU, Devin Singletary put up historic numbers. For his career, he finished his career with the 8th most career touchdown runs in NCAA history, This is a heck of an accomplishment, but it is even more impressive when you realize that he averaged more touchdowns per game than all of the players who finished above him.

His touchdown runs were not just little goal-line strolls into the end zone – he was truly a human highlight reel every single night. For historical reference, Singletary is one of the most successful collegiate running backs of all time, finishing his career with 66 total rushing touchdowns.

The best season of his career was 2017, when he practically took over the NCAA. In this season, he ran for a whopping 32 touchdowns. This ended ups being the third-most for a single season in NCAA history, only finished behind Barry Sanders and Montee Ball.

Overall, Singletary was one of the greatest of all time at finding the end zone in the NCAA. That is something that for sure has to be put into draft analysis.

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The other statistical part of his game that you have to check is his lack of receiving production. This is a bit concerning for teams looking for a back that can be utilized as a pass-catcher in their offense.

This, of course, includes the Chicago Bears, a team that just traded away a running back in Jordan Howard partially because of his lack of receiving ability. So why would the Bears be interested in a back who didn’t do it in the past?

Howard himself has been labeled by some as a passing threat because of the amount of receptions he has, but we all know that is not the whole story. He may not have dropped any passes, but that doesn’t mean that he is a receiving threat. Stats can be very deceiving when it comes to running backs and receiving ability.

This holds true for Singletary, as his numbers look poor, and many assume that he cannot be a receiving back because of it. To get a true picture, it is important to check out the past of his coach at FAU, Lane Kiffin.

Before Kiffin went to FAU, he was the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide at Alabama, which is a farm for running backs that are in the league today. In his three years at Alabama, Kiffin had the opportunity to coach NFL running backs like Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, and TJ Yeldon, and also future draft picks in Damien Harris and Joshua Jacobs.

Plenty of great running backs have come out of Alabama while Kiffin was in town, and it is interesting to see how they changed when they came to the NFL. The two names that really interested me were Drake and Yeldon.

The reason these two interested me was their success in the NFL as receiving backs. I decided to look back and check to see how these guys were back in college. What fascinated me was that the stats for them, like Singletary, were rather underwhelming.

The numbers mentioned above are generally the best years of their NFL and college careers at the position

The increase in these guys stats was rather shocking, but not a total surprise based on the film that I have watched. It seems like the Lane Kiffin offense just doesn’t usually use its backs as a receiver that much.

This does not mean that these players can’t do it, it’s just about their coach’s offensive philosophies. It seems like there is a pattern: running backs under Kiffin rarely put up huge numbers. This was case with Singletary, and I will get more into his abilities as a receiver in a little bit.

Grading the Film

Vision: When watching his film, it is evident that Singletary has excellent vision. He does a great job of finding his lane and going for it. When he gets past the initial line of defense and starts to make his moves, it feels like he already knows his next move after the first one; his anticipation is strong.

It got tough to watch the FAU offensive line take on defenders when they had to play tougher teams. Singletary did not have great days when he faced more talented teams, but I don’t blame him for not putting up big numbers. When the holes were there, though, Singletary was able to find space and make a big plays.

Footwork: The first thing you will probably notice about Singletary is his ridiculous ability to make people jump out of their shoes. Sometimes, Singletary has shown the ability to not only juke an opponent but juke them so bad that they take out their own teammates.

It’s almost baffling how good he is at these cuts. What’s really impressive is his footwork, both in space and when he is rushing through the hole. We see all of the crazy jukes when he gets to the outside, but he also does an excellent job of dodging defenders and keeping his balance. This is something for which I was very critical of Howard, as it felt like he would fall over with a little bit of contact.

Power: To go along with his footwork, again, he does an excellent job of staying on his feet through contact. He is too undersized to be a power back, but he does not get destroyed by bigger opponents. He anticipates the contact coming and he finds ways to stay on his feet. For a guy his size, this all you should ask for.

Speed/Acceleration: For a guy who is so shifty, he really does not have the best long speed. On some plays, it felt like he was going to break away, but defenders would catch up from behind. This may also be because he took so many carries in each game that he might not have the energy to go all the way.

His speed is not great, but he does a decent job of accelerating. He does not really go for the burst run around defenders, though, as he is more patient, waiting for a hole to emerge for him. This may be with a defender in the way, but he can just dance around him.

Receiving Abilities: This one is difficult, as the stats show that he was not used very much as a receiving back. He only had six receptions last season, leading many to believe that he is not good at receiving. As you read above, however, this may not be the case. Lane Kiffin’s backs have shown plenty of pass-catching success in the league, but they don’t put up big numbers for him.

When I watch the little film of Singletary receiving the football that we have available, he actually looks good. It appears if he was put into an offense that needs a receiving back like the Bears do, he could easily step up into that role and make plays. I could see him having a big jump in numbers like the ones that Kenyan Drake and TJ Yeldon experienced.

Pass Protection: While at FAU, Singletary was asked to help in pass protection quite a bit. He showed some flashes of being good at it, but he was inconsistent in his performance.

The effort is there when he is in pass protection, but his size may have been an issue. I would expect him to be rarely used like this in the NFL.

Measurables

This is where the love for Singletary died for many draft analysts, as he had a historically bad day at the Combine. I did not expect him to run a blazing 40 time, but I was a bit surprised that he did not run better than a 4.66.

Things didn’t improve for him, as one of the most important drills of the combine for running backs, the 3 cone drill, was an absolute disaster as well. He clocked in at 7.32.

These numbers do not bode well for him. I investigated the past 19 years of the NFL Combine, and I found that only two running backs have ever had the same or worse 40 time and 3-cone drill and still got drafted. Those names would be Reuben Draughns and Adrian Peterson. No, not that Adrian Peterson, the former Chicago Bears’ AP.

Being an undersized back and having this poor of a day at the combine killed a ton of momentum for Singletary.

NFL Comparison: LeSean McCoy

While watching Singletary, some of the most elusive running backs in the NFL come to mind. The one who really stuck with me is “Shady” McCoy. Both of these guys share one big thing: elusiveness. McCoy can juke anyone out of their shoes, and Singletary has been doing that all throughout college. The moves that he is making can translate the NFL.

The film on both of these coming out of college was both insane. Shady did have a better day at the combine, but when watching what both put out there, they are pretty similar in a few ways.

Final Analysis

The Chicago Bears are clearly curious about Singletary, as not only did they conduct a private workout with him last week, they also had him in for an official visit and met with him at the NFL Combine and his pro day.

The Bears are likely doing so much work on Singletary because he is such an odd prospect. The film and measurements tell completely different stories, and the team is likely trying to figure out which is the correct one.

The Bears would be taking a risk in selecting Singletary. As I mentioned earlier, it is incredibly rare for guys with his measurements to succeed in the NFL. The Bears have to make that decision on what to trust.

I am personally more of a film guy, and from what I have seen, adding Devin Singletary seems like the right move. I am dreaming of a personnel package with both Singletary and Tarik Cohen on the field, forcing defenses to be concerned about multiple guys that can make them look foolish on any play.

Selecting Singletary would be a risk, but the risk would be worth the reward.

Follow Dan on Twitter (@DanDeYoung80).

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