Chicago Bears rookie running back Roschon Johnson has left an indelible mark on the team during this preseason, showcasing his outstanding performance, according to reports from both Sports Illustrated and Clutch Points. This leads us to ponder a significant question: Has the 2023 NFL Draft bestowed upon the Bears the finest running back to emerge from the Texas Longhorns?
The Chicago Bears have indeed secured the premier Texas running back in this year’s draft. Johnson was plucked by the Bears in the fourth round, while his college compatriot, rookie running back Bijan Robinson, soared to the Atlanta Falcons as a first-round pick, touted as a generational running back prospect.
In college, Johnson often found himself in Robinson’s shadow on the depth chart, but that doesn’t preclude him from forging a more illustrious NFL career.
To commence, Johnson carries a chip on his shoulder. He navigated the draft under the radar, primarily due to his role behind the All-American Robinson. Although Johnson displayed flashes of brilliance during his tenure in Austin, he was seldom accorded the accolades he rightfully deserved while in Robinson’s formidable shadow.
Rest assured, Johnson’s fortunes are set to change in the Windy City. He steps into an auspicious opportunity with the Bears, a team that led the league in rushing yards last season and seeks to maintain its dominance on the ground.
At present, Johnson occupies the third spot in the Bears’ depth chart, trailing D’Onta Foreman and Khalil Herbert. However, if rumors regarding Johnson turning heads during training camp hold true, his ascent up the depth chart seems imminent as the season progresses.
Conversely, Robinson is expected to assume a three-down role for the Falcons, potentially amassing around 30 touches per game in their offensive scheme.
This heavy workload may eventually take a toll on Robinson’s career trajectory, while Johnson’s gradual ascent through the depth chart could lead to a prolonged and injury-resistant career, defying the trend of early burnout.
A parallel scenario unfolded in the late 2010s involving two Penn State running backs. Saquon Barkley, a Heisman frontrunner and touted as a once-in-a-generation talent, was drafted second overall by the New York Giants in the 2018 NFL Draft. Although he earned Rookie of the Year honors, Barkley’s career has been marred by injuries since then.
Miles Sanders, Barkley’s backup at Penn State, had to claw his way up the Philadelphia Eagles’ depth chart before eventually becoming their primary three-down back.
In 2022, Sanders became the first Eagles running back to surpass 1,000 rushing yards since LeSean McCoy in 2014 and played a pivotal role in the team’s fourth Super Bowl appearance since 2000. As Barkley and Sanders find themselves in the midst of their careers, both are now recognized as top-10 running backs in the league.
Should history repeat itself, Roschon Johnson could emerge as an absolute steal in the Bears’ draft. He is already starting to gain the recognition he rightfully deserves, with ESPN analyst Matt Bowen recently dubbing Johnson as the Bears’ fantasy sleeper candidate in a published article.
The stage is set for an inspirational ascent to stardom for Johnson. As he prepares to make his debut in a run-heavy offense, aiming to conquer the wide-open NFC North, numerous opportunities await him.
Notably, Johnson will proudly sport the No. 23 jersey for the Bears, a number synonymous with another iconic Chicago athlete, Michael Jordan. It’s difficult not to rally behind Johnson as he embarks on his promising journey.
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