The Bears made a splash with their first pick by trading up and selecting running back David Montgomery in the third round, but they were not done with the running back position. In the 7th round, with the 222nd overall pick, the Bears picked up Devin Singletary‘s FAU running mate in Kerrith Whyte Jr.
Last year, the Bears kept four running backs on their roster. Two of those four are gone, and in their place we have Mike Davis and the aforementioned Montgomery. If the Bears employ the same strategy as last year, the final running back spot is up for grabs between Taquan Mizzell and Whyte. I’m going to discuss the latter.
Kerrith Whyte Jr was only recruited by one Division I school out of college, and that was FAU. During his time at FAU, Whyte was known as a gadget player, which is a back or receiver who does a little bit of everything in the run, pass, and return games. That’s what happens when you are a backup to a collegiate workhorse like Devin Singletary. We know that Ryan Pace loves his gadget players, as his draft history proves, and that makes me feel like he has a good chance to make this roster as a rookie seventh round pick.
Whyte and Mizzell both have the skills to be receiving backs, but what separates Whyte from Mizzell is his ability as a return man. For his college career he averaged 26.1 yards per return including 28.7 yards last year. Mizzell last season averaged a paltry 15.1 yards per return. With Whyte and Cordarrelle Patterson both back on returns, the Bears should be in good field position after most kickoffs. Also, Patterson could very well be one-and-done in Chicago and Whyte could take over his spot next year.
Mizzell wasn’t just used as a return man; he had a small impact on receiving out of the backfield last year as well. However, his contributions can certainly be upgraded. Whyte (in a small role) had 160 yards receiving last year, 540 receiving yards in his last season with starting-caliber playing time (albeit, it was high-school). I believe that he can add to the passing game in a way that Mizzell just can’t. Mizzell doesn’t have the breakaway speed (Whyte ran a 4.36 40-yard dash) or the leaping ability (42-inch vertical jump) that Whyte possesses.
With all this being said, Whyte sounds like an easy choice to keep over Mizzell but things are a little more complex then they appear. Mizzell knows the offense already, and a lot of what I described said about Whyte could have been said about Mizzell – he was a 1,500 rushing yard, 1,500 reciving yard guy in college. The only thing that can’t be said about both of them is that Whyte brings game-changing attributes with his speed.
In the end, I do believe that Whyte will be able to provide depth at the kick return position, add to the passing game, and allow Matt Nagy to be more creative. There could be triple-reverses in store and many plays with two running backs running meaningful routes. Most of the time when there’s two running backs on a passing play, only one runs a meaningful route and the other runs a safety option because they’re not experienced in the full route tree.
This could tap into a whole new level of Matt Nagy’s offense if things work out. Just like Tarik Cohen, Whyte is a guy who has a chance at finding pay dirt every time he touches the ball.