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Is Tarik Cohen Fantasy Football's Next Tyreek Hill? - Footballguys

Tarik Cohen and Tyreek Hill have similar talents. New Bears head coach Matt Nagy is the link between the two. Could Cohen emerge as the Bears' ultimate weapon in 2018?

If you believe Tarik Cohen is too small to become a focal point of an NFL offense, move along. You obviously didn't mean to come here. You must have stumbled onto the wrong page while looking for advice on the best haircuts for aspiring news anchors, white outfits for family beach photos at Hilton Head, and CNBC's approved draft strategy that won't get you laughed out of your weekly golf foursome.

Convincing you that Cohen can follow in the footsteps of Darren Sproles, Warrick Dunn, or Lionel "Little Train" James is fruitless. Besides, the smell of fear mixed with your Old Spice is unbecoming.

By the way, you know that Old Spice was originally designed for women, right? No? So were Ford Mustangs, superheroes, and Marlboro Cigarettes. Somewhere, Cecil Lammey is having an identity crisis...

However, if you're here to explore the realms of the exceptional without blindly ruling it out, Little Train James is an apt starting point for this analysis. James, who shared a backfield with Bo Jackson at Auburn, was five-foot-six and 171 pounds — 5 pounds lighter than Cohen — and played in a harder-hitting era of football. An ace return specialist, James took on a larger role for the San Diego Chargers offense in 1985 and delivered as a PPR dynamo:

Top-12 PPR Running Backs (1985)

Running Back
FanPts
Rushes
RushYards
RushTDs
Receptions
RecYards
RecTDs
Roger Craig
388.6
214
1050
9
92
1016
6
Marcus Allen
382.4
380
1759
11
67
555
3
Walter Payton
318.4
324
1551
9
49
483
2
Joe Morris
302.8
294
1336
21
22
212
0
Gerald Riggs
291.6
397
1719
10
33
267
0
Lionel James
288.3
105
516
2
86
1027
6
Tony Dorsett
281.6
305
1307
7
46
449
3
James Brooks
277.5
192
929
7
55
576
5
James Wilder
277.1
365
1300
10
53
341
0
Greg Bell
257.9
223
883
8
58
576
1
Stump Mitchell
257.8
183
1006
7
47
502
3
Earnest Byner
251.2
244
1002
8
45
460
2

What you don't see from this column is that 1985 was the season that James set the record for more combined total yards (2,535) as a runner, receiver, and returner. Short scat backs with potential for tall volume aren't new to football; they just don't come around that often. Tyreek Hill could have easily been used primarily from the backfield if drafted by a different team.

The five-foot-eight, 185-pound runner-turned-receiver delivered top-5 production at his position last year and top-15 totals the year before as a rookie. After examining Hill's and Cohen's usage in 2017, there's enough in common between the two players that it isn't a stretch to see the Bears implement Cohen in a "Tyreek Hill role" in 2018.

Tarik Cohen: What We Learned in 2017

Cohen was my top situational running back in my 2017 pre-draft publication of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio:

An electrifying player, Cohen is a slippery athlete with phone-booth quicks and breakaway speed. He succeeded as the primary back at A&T because he could break down defenses with his improvisational flights. However, Cohen is not the second-coming of Barry Sanders and—with all respect to the excellent Lance Zierlein—he’s not Darren Sproles 2.0.
 
The Sproles reference is a good one for the role Cohen could eventually earn, but they don't match 1:1 in terms of skills and athletic ability. I think Zierlein understands this, but it might not be captured with a quick sound bite comparison. Sproles is a disciplined runner with great execution of his blocking schemes. Cohen is as undisciplined as one can imagine in this area.
 
Even so, he’s a good down-field receiver who tracks the ball as well as any back in this class. Give Cohen targets where he’s already in space, and he could wreak havoc on a defense. The role I see as a great fit for him is similar to the one Kansas City created for Tyreek Hill. Cohen is not as fast as Hill, but his vision, elusiveness, and creativity are on par.
 
Despite working with a conservative head coach in John Fox, Cohen earned immediate playing time. After watching his debut against the Atlanta Falcons, it appeared the Bears might use Cohen to his greatest capacity. By mid-season, we saw that the Bears occasionally used Cohen in dynamic ways but could have done a lot more.
 
  • Cohen flashed in the deep game during isolated moments of the season and methods to get him open should have been used more often.
  • The Bears had good ideas for getting Cohen mismatches but fell back on screen and slot receiver gadgetry that was predictable.
  • Cohen is a quality NFL running back who can turn broken plays into big plays.
  • Some of Cohen’s best runs were reversals of the field.
  • The Bears could save Cohen’s stamina by using more misdirection plays that give Cohen some of that reversal of field opportunity more efficiently.

Cohen earned 728 total yards and 53 receptions as a rookie earning scraps behind Jordan Howard in this conservative offense. Fox's regime hinted at what Cohen could provide for the Bears offense, but did little more than tease us. Enter former Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, who implemented Hill as the Chiefs' ultimate weapon during the past two years.

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