This article is one installment of a series in which I use my Observational Rushing Numbers to shed light on just how good the 2017 rookie running backs were at carrying the ball. You can find each previous article about these numbers on the series’s hub, including similar articles about Leonard Fournette and Joe Mixon.
Coming out of an FCS program at North Carolina A&T, Tarik Cohen was no household name. But, those who had heard of him knew he deserved plenty of attention. As he produced highlight after highlight for the Aggies, some internet draft scouts developed crushes on Cohen as a late-round playmaker. I was one member of that crowd.
Tarik Cohen is the Reggie Bush of FCS football
— Stephen Gill (@stephengill_ts) February 18, 2017
But, to my and plenty others’ surprise, the Bears called those takes on the 5’6” back and raised them a fourth-round pick in the 2017 Draft — where Cohen was taken among the likes of Samaje Perine, Joe Williams, and Marlon Mack. While I liked his potential to pull off the occasional dazzling return or reception heading into draft weekend, I strongly doubted Cohen’s ability to produce with a workload, in comparison to his fellow fourth rounders. I was wrong.
Despite competing with Jordan Howard for touches, Cohen produced over 700 yards and three touchdowns on 140 touches from scrimmage — in addition to touchdowns via punt return and pass (like, he threw the ball, yeah). For all I’ve seen, most of Cohen’s positive press has focused on his aptitude in the receiving game. To be fair, he is a tantalizing open-field threat and deft pass-catcher and thus deserves that praise. But, it appears that his running game might be flying way too far under the radar. After all, he ran for 4.3 yards per carry in his rookie season, a respectable number for anyone — better than Howard, even.
In this article, I’ll be looking into whether Cohen is a legitimate rushing talent and to what degree he contributed to those positive rushing numbers (independently of the offensive line) in consultation with my Observational Rushing Numbers.
(I’ve taken these tracking stats from weeks 1-14 for each rookie running back with at least 75 carries. If you’re wondering what any of the stats mean in a fuller sense, check the series glossary.)
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