The Chicago Bears traded their workhorse running back during the off-season but they found a replacement Friday night in the NFL draft.
And they found him in Ames, Iowa.
The Bears traded up 14 spots in the third round in order to select Iowa State running back David Montgomery with their first pick in the draft.
Montgomery, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards and was first team All-Big 12 each of the past two seasons, figures to step into the role previously filled by Jordan Howard. He probably is a better fit in the Bears’ offense as he also caught 71 passes in his ISU career in addition to rushing for 2,925 yards and 26 touchdowns.
According to Pro Football Focus, Montgomery also led the nation in broken tackles each of the past two seasons.
The Bears traded Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles in March and swung another deal in order to get the back they wanted in the draft.
They were scheduled to have the 87th overall pick but sent that selection, their fifth-round pick and a 2020 fourth-round pick to New England in exchange for the 73rd pick and the Patriots’ sixth-round pick.
They then used the 73rd pick to take Montgomery, who immediately responded on Twitter, writing "Feels great to be a BEAR!!!! Let’s get to work!"
The 5-foot-11, 216-pound Montgomery is the first Iowa State running back to be drafted since Troy Davis was chosen in the third round in 1997. It’s the highest any Cyclone has been drafted since Kelechi Osmele went in the second round in 2012.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace said in a late-night news conference that at that point in the draft Montgomery’s name stuck out on the team's big board as someone they really liked and felt comfortable moving up to get.
He said they not only liked Montgomery’s skills but also recognized him as someone with “unbelievable makeup and character.
“He’s just a good, well-rounded player,’’ Pace said. “It’s everything you look for in a running back, starting with his instincts, his vision his ability to make people miss, good hands. He’s just a well-rounded back.’’
Pace said the Bears interviewed Montgomery at the NFL Combine and brought him in for a visit. Pace also was in attendance at Montgomery’s final game, at the Alamo Bowl.
They also got great reports from the Iowa State staff about his “work ethic, his professionalism, how he treats the staff, how coachable he is, his desire to be great.
“He’s extremely driven,’’ Pace added. “You can feel that in his personality.’’
Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said "the impact David had on the Iowa State football program, the university and to our great community is impossible to quantify.
“He will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the all-time greats to wear the Cardinal and Gold, but his legacy will extend far beyond the field,'' Campbell said. "He truly led the culture change within our walls. I am so excited for David and his family as he takes his next step in his journey in the NFL.”
Western Illinois’ Khalen Saunders also was chosen in the third round, becoming the Leathernecks' first draftee in 10 years. The 324-pound defensive tackle went to the Kansas City Chiefs with the 84th overall pick.
Northern Illinois offensive tackle Max Scharping was selected in the second round, going to the Houston Texans with the 55th selection.
Montgomery’s Iowa State teammate Hakeem Butler also had expected to be drafted in the first three rounds but he watched 13 other wide receivers go off the board ahead of him Friday.
If the 6-6, 225-pound Butler is chosen sometime in the final four rounds today, he will become the first Cyclone wide receiver to be drafted since Tracy Henderson in 1985.
Iowa safety Amani Hooker and defensive end Anthony Nelson also are among the players expected to be selected when the draft wraps up today.