With their second selection in the fourth round of the draft Saturday, the Bears chose North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen with the 119th overall pick.
The diminutive and speedy 5-6, 179-pounder is the leading rusher in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference history with 5,619 yards on 868 carries. A four-time all-conference selection who was voted the MEAC offensive player of the year as a junior in 2015, he rushed for 1,148, 1,340, 1,543 and 1,588 yards in his four seasons.
Cohen set all-time school records with 6,564 all-purpose yards and 61 touchdowns—with 56 coming on runs, three on receptions and two on passes. He also averaged 6.5 yards per carry, caught 98 passes for 945 yards and competed on North Carolina A&T's track team as a sprinter.
Cohen has been nicknamed "The Human Joystick" because of his cutback running style.
With the 119th overall pick in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Bears selected North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen.
"I just look for a defense being too aggressive," Cohen said Saturday during a conference call with the Chicago media. "When the defender is too aggressive he really leaves himself vulnerable for the cutback. Then, knowing me and knowing I'm a shifty back and I have speed, defenses really want to get to that point before I can get to that point. That's when they really get over aggressive and that sets me up for the perfect cutback."
At the NFL Combine, Cohen was the shortest player and also ran the fastest 10-yard time (1.47) of any running back. His lack of size has motivated him ever since he was a child.
"I didn't necessarily want to be bigger, but I wanted to beat the bigger kid," Cohen said. "I definitely got a chip on my shoulder. When I was going against the bigger kids I always felt like I had something to prove so I'd always go harder."
Cohen feels that he can actually use his size as an advantage in the NFL, the same way small backs such as the Eagles' Darren Sproles and the Chiefs' Tyreek Hill have done.
"I think it will play a key role in helping me and benefitting me," he said. "The linemen are going to be bigger, so it's really going to be hard for defenders to see me behind my linemen and I can use that to my advantage."
As he makes the leap from a small school to the NFL, Cohen is confident that he'll be able to make a smooth transition.
"I'm expecting it to be a pretty noticeable jump, but I don't feel like I've reached my potential yet in terms of being an athlete," he said. "I feel like I can definitely get in better shape as far as muscles. I can definitely get the mental aspect of the game down pat more. I'm just ready to see where I can be and how I can compete on this next level."
Cohen got his first taste of elite competition at the NFLPA all-star game in January.
"At first I kind of doubted myself because I didn't have the first day that I wanted," he said. "But then that night I really got in my playbook hard and the second day I really killed it, and that's what showed all the scouts that I could play at the heightened competition and I'm not just an FCS guy."