Matt Nagy’s eyes lit up when he described a play made by his rookie running back. “The quarterback looked at me and said ‘that’s a running back,’” Nagy said. “I said, ‘I know.’” The back wasn’t top pick David Montgomery. It was seventh-rounder Kerrith Whyte Jr. And he may be more ready to play now in the NFL than expected.
Most of the highlights of the seventh rounder are of him breaking long runs or kickoffs. But there was more to his game than that. “We did a lot of catching and route-running, stuff like that,” Whyte told the Bears team website.
“I think they’ll really like what he can do in the passing game, jet sweeps, motion, different stuff like that,” Whyte’s college coach and former NFL coach Lane Kiffin told 670 The Score. Whyte showed really good vision at times and, once he sees daylight, it’s over. You can see his 4.3-speed kick into gear and nobody can catch him.
While he wasn’t a starter in college at Florida Atlantic University, Whyte averaged 6.5 yards per carry (starting running back and third-round pick Devin Singletary averaged 5.2 yards per carry), rushing for 866 yards. He totaled 1,026 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns.
Whyte did not start in college. He played against a low level of competition. He’s also not a very powerful back, often getting caught in traffic and typically going down with ease. He might never be good between the tackles in the NFL, but he might never need to be.
While Montgomery figures to be the Bears every down back going forward, Whyte can help now and in the future. Bears scout Sam Summerville thinks Whyte will make an instant impact on special teams. “He’s going to be a big time special teams guy in all four phases,” Summerville said on the team’s website. ”When you get late in the draft and you can get a guy who is going to contribute in that, it’s really a steal.”
If that is true and Whyte is going to be on the roster, Nagy is going to find a way to use him on the offense too. A lot has been made of the Taquan Mizzell spot on the team and Whyte is a perfect player to take those reps or to spell Tarik Cohen.
Then, of course, there is the long term consideration when it comes to Cohen and whether or not the Bears are going to want to throw big money into a second contract for a small hybrid running back. But Whyte would have to show he has the goods before the Bears can plan on him playing a big role in the future.
It wouldn’t be surprising if a late-round running back made a big impact as a rookie. It happens seemingly every year. In 2018, the Denver Broncos used the 71st pick on running back Royce Freeman only to see undrafted rookie Phillip Lindsay lead the team with 1,037 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
It’s unlikely that Whyte will have that kind of impact, but should we totally rule it out?