The early-money favorite to lead the Chicago Bears backfield this season would almost have to be the incumbent to the offense, Khalil Herbert. He is heading into his third year with the team after tallying over 700 yards and four scores on the ground in a backup/spot starter role last season behind David Montgomery who left for the Detroit Lions this offseason.
If not him, then it might be offseason free-agent acquisition, D’Onta Foreman. He racked up over 900 yards on 200 carries in 17 appearances with nine starts for the Carolina Panthers last season.
But, if one guessed either, they might be wrong no matter what.
“Texas running back Roschon Johnson may have been overlooked a bit during the leadup to the 2023 NFL draft. He was blocked by Bijan Robinson during his time with the Longhorns, so he never got to fully show what he may be capable of,” argues Jake Rill of Bleacher Report. “And because he’s a bruising back, his ceiling could be as high as leading the team in rushing scores this season.
"Roschon Johnson is never going to be a star but he's a great role player. An outstanding leader. You are a player with a star on the team in Bijan Robinson and the true leader of that team was Roschon."
– Senior NFL Draft Analyst and College Football Analyst Todd McShay on ESPN
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) May 1, 2023
Rookie Predicted to ‘Lead Bears’ Next Season
A ‘Hot Take’ Prediction on Roschon Johnson
“It’s a bit of a hot take, but the early prediction here is that Johnson will get a much larger opportunity than he had with the Longhorns and capitalize on it by getting into the end zone more than any other player on the Chicago roster in 2023.”
The Bears selected Johnson in the fourth round with the No. 115 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
He spent four years in college but, thanks to Robinson, three of them were as a backup.
Still, Johnson racked up no fewer than 80 carries, 400 yards, or five rushing touchdowns in any season in college. The 6-foot, 219-pounder also fit right into the theme of the Bears’ draft with top-notch athleticism scores.
Roschon Johnson was drafted with pick 115 of round 4 in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 8.67 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 233 out of 1745 RB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/rc9pRi8mge pic.twitter.com/4lQ1j0QQHz
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 29, 2023
“Chicago could have a three-headed rushing attack this season, with Johnson joining D’Onta Foreman and Khalil Herbert in the backfield,” notes Rill. “Even though Johnson will be a rookie, it’s clear the Bears are high on him.”
The Bears are indeed very high on Johnson
Bears High on Roschon Johnson the Person
“He fits everything [general manager Ryan Poles] and [head coach Matt Eberflus] are trying to accomplish,” Bears Southwest area scout John Syty said per Adam Jahns of The Athletic. “He’s a HITS principle guy. He just emulates everything we want a Chicago Bear to be. … The ‘it’ factor about this kid is special.”
It stands to reason that the Bears would highlight a player’s character. Many believe concerns about Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter’s character led to the Bears passing on the opportunity to select arguably this class’s most talented player.
That’s not something that they will ever have to worry about with Johnson.
#Texas RB Roschon Johnson to Chicago…
— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) April 29, 2023
“Roschon is the best teammate, first of all, I’ve ever had,” Robinson said, per Greg Braggs of CHGO Bears. “Obviously he’s a running back. But I think that he brings out so much in a player and a team just how he goes about being a leader to not just his teammate but everybody in the community. And I think that who he is as a person and what he does on the football field is, to me, I don’t think that it’s overlooked. Because he shows his presence, and he makes his presence felt. But, man, Roschon is the guy. I think that he’s the other great running back in this class. And I don’t think that people should overlook the talent that he has and the skill set that he brings because I think he’s just as good as anybody. And I think just his toughness and his heart is what makes him stand out over everybody.”
Other Predictions for Bears’ Rookies
Johnson’s was by far the hottest take among the bunch. Rill also predicted that No. 10 overall pick Darnell Wright will start every game for the Bears this season. His durability was one of the things that stood out about the four-year starter.
“The 21-year-old is an impressive prospect with the size (6’5″ and 333 pounds) and skills necessary to become an anchor for Chicago’s O-line for the long term,” Rill argues about Wright. “He’ll provide an immediate boost and should help cut down on the number of times Fields gets sacked.
Found our Mr. Wright 🧡 pic.twitter.com/ZdcYWW33oV
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) April 28, 2023
Rill also projects that fifth-round (No. 148) rookie linebacker Noah Sewell will be the “most improved” Bears rookie by the end of the season.
Maybe even more.
“Sewell has a lot of potential. He’s a strong, physical player who was a three-year starter for Oregon and can rack up tackles,” writes Rill. “If he realizes his full potential, he could even become a starter down the line.”