When Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Pace drafted running back Tarik Cohen in the fourth round (119th overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft, few fans knew much — if anything — about the young running back.
The 10th running back chosen in the draft that year, Cohen attended North Carolina A&T and came with the nickname “The Human Joystick” attached, but other than that, he was a relative unknown.
Flash forward to three years later. Cohen was an All-Pro punt returner in 2018, and even after a down season in 2019, he remains one of the Bears’ most explosive weapons. But how did he fare back in the combine in 2017? Here’s a look back a Tarik Cohen’s NFL Combine results, as well as what people were saying about him when he entered the NFL Draft.
Tarik Cohen’s NFL Combine, 40 -Yard Dash Results
Cohen’s speed was on full display during the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, which was the third-fastest time of any running back in the combine that year. His time was faster than the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, and Marlon Mack, all of whom were drafted in 2017. Only running backs T.J. Logan (4.37 seconds) and Joe Williams (4.41 seconds) had faster 40-yard dash times than Cohen that year.
By comparison, Tyreek Hill ran a 4.25, Saquon Barkley ran a 4.41, and Ezekiel Elliott ran a 4.47 in their respective 40-yard dashes.
Cohen also had a 31.5 inch vertical jump, which is not bad for someone his size (he’s 5-foot-6). Draft analysts compared Cohen to former Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles at the time, and while some of his perceived weaknesses entering the league have remained, a look back at what analysts said about Cohen then shows how much some players can excel and develop.
According to the strengths and weaknesses section of his combine player profile on NFL.com, Cohen’s field vision, cuts, and ability to stop and start at will were all noted as strengths, and have also translated to his pro game. Some of his noted weaknesses at the time have remained, as well: he still takes too many carries that lead to negative yardage, and he still swings for the fences and goes off-script too much.
That said, analysts at the time said Cohen wasn’t a solid receiver, while also noting his inexperience fielding kicks of any kind: “Stature and short arms make him a tougher target for quarterbacks. Has almost no experience as a punt or kick returner on special teams.”
Not only is Cohen one of the premiere punt returners in the league, he has turned into a solid receiver. In his three seasons with the Bears, he has 1,534 receiving yards and nine touchdown catches.
Despite a down year in 2019, Cohen is capable of huge plays and remains a major offensive and special teams threat. Next Gen Stats clocked him at exceeding 21 mph on a 70-yard touchdown catch against the New York Jets in 2018, so his speed remains one of his primary assets.
Bears fans can only hope Ryan Pace and company notice another player or two of Cohen’s ilk at the combine this year.