Apr 022018
 
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Saquon Barkley, Penn State Nittany Lions (December 30, 2017)

Saquon Barkley – © USA TODAY Sports

New York Giants 2018 NFL Draft Preview: Running Backs

by BigBlueInteractive.com Contributor Sy’56

“NFL Comparisons” are more about playing style, not career projections.

1 – Saquon Barkley – Penn State – 6’0/233

Grade: 94

Strong Points:

-Top tier movement when it comes to agility, explosion, speed
-Able to see diagnose and adjust on the fly, balance and control are at a rare level
-A big time factor as a pass catcher

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t take what the defense gives, too often looking for the home run
-Too much dancing as he approaches the inside running lanes
-Doesn’t impact pass rushers the way he can

Summary:

Junior entry. The top player in this draft, something I have been saying since early October. Barkley is a generational talent that does almost everything at the top level. He is built to carry a load when he has to and has the versatility to impact the game in several ways. He can be a focal point of an offense much like what Elliot and Gurley have provided for DAL and LAR, respectively.

NFL Comparison: Marshall Faulk / RET

2 – Sony Michel – Georgia – 5’11/214

Grade: 81

Strong Points:

-Violent, competitive, and fearless runner that can run through anyone
-Has a knack for finding windows and lanes, has a nose for space
-Can accelerate in a blink once he reaches the open field

Weak Points:

-Can be caught from behind, long speed is limited
-Can be a little stiff as a lateral runner
-Needs to hold the ball tighter to his body

Summary:

An overlooked senior because of the superstar status of Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb a few years ago. He finally got the attention he deserved in 2017 after he broke the 1,000 yard mark for the second time in three years. Michel is a blue collar runner. No-nonsense, hits the hole hard, plays with the proper blend of wiggle and toughness. Won’t ever be a superstar but he is the kind of back that sticks around for a long time and is appreciated more and more later in his career, a la Frank Gore.

NFL Comparison: Frank Gore / IND

3 – Ronald Jones – USC – 5’11/205

Grade: 80

Strong Points:

-Easy, natural explosion that reaches a top speed (sub 4.4) in a blink
-Easily adjusts his intentions, loose hipped and top tier balance
-Consistently shakes off initial contact

Weak Points:

-Slight frame, likely can’t handle a full load
-Made no impact as a receiver or blocker in college
-Runs with his feet too close together, needs a sturdier base

Summary:

Junior entry. Former track athlete. One of the top RBs in USC history. One of my favorite backs to watch all year, he just screams “big play” when he gets the ball in his hands. Jones isn’t an every down guy, but that doesn’t matter too much. Pair him with a bruiser and he might be one of the most dangerous players in the league. If he can prove to be a pass catcher, this could be the next Kamara.

NFL Comparison: Chris Johnson / FA

4 – Nick Chubb – Georgia – 5’11/227

Grade: 79

Strong Points:

-Ideal frame, thickness all around with some extra muscle throughout his legs
-Excellent vision, can anticipate and react equally fast
-Balance and control are always there through traffic

Weak Points:

-Struggles to quickly adjust his weight laterally, not an outside runner
-Doesn’t miss contact
-Injury history can cause some shelf life concerns

Summary:

Had a start to his career that immediately labeled him a future first round pick, a high one. Chubb suffered a gruesome knee injury in 2015 but he came back and put together two quality years. He finished as the 2nd all time leading rusher in the SEC. He did have 3+ years to compile, but I can see a similar career in the NFL. Productive, consistent, reliable. Not a superstar but I think you know what you are getting here.

NFL Comparison: Mark Ingram / NO

5 – Derrius Guice – LSU – 5’10/224

Grade: 78

Strong Points:

-Aggressive running style that will fight for every inch on every carry
-Runs with the forward lean but shows the ability to stop and go to avoid contact
-Impacts the game as a pass catcher and blocker, a true every down back

Weak Points:

-Vision isn’t always there, delayed reactions, struggles to adjust
-Takes too many hits and it has created credible concern of durability
-Stiff hips, lacks wiggle

Summary:

Junior entry. Looked much better in 2016 than he did in 2017, partially because of injuries and a broken offense. Well documented from rags to riches type story, a good kid that will work his tail off. Guice has a sturdy frame and hard nosed style that could be a big factor early, but can he stay on the field? Is there enough diversity to his game?

NFL Comparison: Thomas Rawls / FA

6 – Kerryon Johnson – Auburn – 5’11/213

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Smooth and easy mover with a loose lower body, great balance
-Patient but assertive, knows when to pounce and when to wait
-Top tier blocker

Weak Points

-Inconsistent lean and pad level, slows himself down and vulnerable to big hits
-Needs to add bulk, doesn’t push the pile, lacks lower body power
-Doesn’t break enough tackles in the box

Summary:

Junior entry. Took over the top tailback spot for Auburn in 2017 because of an injured and troubled Kamryn Pettway. He really turned it on over the second half of the year and showed 3-down ability. Johnson can slither in and out of contact, he is very agile for a tall, high hipped runner. He needs more strength on that frame though, as Alabama showed him what a pro-caliber defense can do to him. Upside is big here for a day 2 back.

NFL Comparison: Damien Williams / FA

7 – Jaylen Samuels – NC State – 5’11/224

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Versatile, has played every skill position for NC State
-Smart and savvy, played at a different IQ level than his opponents
-Doesn’t go down easy, will break tackles via strength, desire, and quickness

Weak Points:

-Average athlete across the board, won’t be a big play threat
-Slow to diagnose running lanes outside the tackle
-Tight hipped and doesn’t adjust to lanes that disappear, not innovative

Summary:

You won’t find many players like this. Samuels was a running back at the Senior Bowl, tight end at the combine, and Mr. Everything at NC State. I wouldn’t call him a gimmick guy though, I think his best role is at RB where he can impact the game as a receiver and inside runner. There isn’t a natural feel or flow to him, but he is just a gamer that plays smart situational football. This is the kind of kid that goes to NE and tears it up. Right system makes this kid a stud.

NFL Comparison: Ty Montgomery / GB

8 – Royce Freeman – Oregon – 5’11/229

Grade: 77

Strong Points:

-Consistently gains yard after initial contact
-Quick north/south acceleration, can shoot out of a cannon
-Can wear different hats as a ball carrier, power back or space friendly

Weak Points:

-Stiff lower body as he approaches traffic, needs the extra step
-Poor blocker, doesn’t play physical and doesn’t sustain
-Runs too high and too hesitant

Summary:

A productive four year career, the Pac 12’s all time leading rusher. A couple years ago Freeman was being discussed as a soon-to-be top 15 pick. His production tailed off, he started to get nicked up, and the warts in his game arrived. Freeman is a dangerous runner in the open field because of his sneaky speed and violent power. He is the kind of back that wears a defense down and force tacklers to make business decisions. Give him a quality OL and he will take advantage more than most.

NFL Comparison: CJ Anderson / DEN

9 – Nyheim Hines – NC State – 5’8/198

Grade: 76

Strong Points:

-Track speed that shows up on the field
-Stop and go quickness is top tier, reacts to the defense
-Excellent feel on outside zone runs, instinctive runner

Weak Points:

-Doesn’t have the frame to handle a full load of touches
-Won’t factor between the tackles, lacks power and inside vision
-Won’t break tackles, goes down on initial contact too easily

Summary:

Junior entry. Hines has been used all over the field. He has been a returner, a slot receiver, and mostly a RB in 2017. His performance this past season really put him on the radar and one must think what this grade could have been had they committed to him in this role earlier in his career. Hines is one of the better big play offensive weapons in this draft.

NFL Comparison: Dion Lewis / TEN

10 – Rashaad Penny – San Diego State – 5’11/220

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Excellent straight line speed for his size
-Excels at breaking through initial contact and gaining the extra yards
-Anticipates running lanes and will burst to them before they open up

Weak Points:

-Stiff lateral movement, doesn’t have a lot of wiggle to his game
-Struggles to miss contact, runs high
-Poor blocking presence and technique

Summary

After three years of backing up NCAA all time rushing leader Donnell Pumphrey, Penny got his shot to prove he was more than return specialist in 2017. He excelled, winning the conference player of the year award and finishing 5th in the Heisman voting. Penny has the frame and toughness but I question the short area quickness and ability to adjust. The up tick in competition he will experience wil expose that, but this is still a back worth getting excited about when it comes to potential.

NFL Comparison: Jeremy Hill / NE

11 – Kalen Ballage – Arizona State – 6’1/228

Grade: 75

Strong Points:

-Violent downhill runner capable of sending tacklers in to tomorrow
-Light feet that can dance and plant with power and explosion
-Easy hands catcher that has untapped ability as a receiver

Weak Points:

-Inconsistent production and habits
-Not a quick decision maker, struggles to make timely reads
-Doesn’t run hungry, too often settles

Summary::

A physical specimen that has some tape that will remind Giants fans of Brandon Jacobs. A downhill runner that will make defenders think twice about sticking their pads in front of him. Ballage didn’t fulfill his potential at ASU, as he struggled with the mental side of the game. If he can be put in to a simple role, there are things he can make happen that other backs cannot. He was one of the more impressive players at the Senior Bowl.

NFL Comparison: Chris Carson / SEA

12 – Darrel Williams – LSU – 6’0/229

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Downhill bruiser capable of delivering the violent blow to tacklers
-Surprising jump cut and acceleration ability for his size
-Quick and easy vision inside, natural

Weak Points:

-Gets heavy footed on the outside runs, takes too long to reach his point
-Will run high and slow when looking for space
-Isnt very innovative, won’t create on his own

Summary:

Played behind Fournette and Guice but because both had stretches of being banged up, Williams got his fair share of looks and produced. He averaged 5 yards per carry and has enough quality tape spread out over his career to prove he can be a rotational back. He is a simple bruiser. Give him the ball between the tackles, keep his role simple, and he can get the job done.

NFL Comparison: Zach Zenner / DET

13 – Bo Scarborough – Alabama – 6’1/223

Grade: 73

Strong Points:

-Long stride speed that can run away from defenders once in the open field
-Explosive, big play potential
-A violent downhill force that can make defenders think twice

Weak Points:

-Long limbed, making it very hard for him to run with proper pad level
-Takes a lot of hits to his legs, gets nicked up often
-Takes too long to get going, lacks quick and agile lower half

Summary:

Junior entry. Has missed time all three years with separate lower body injuries. It is almost a given he is going to struggle to stay on the field with a full workload, but his rare abilities are enough to get me excited. He plays faster than he runs and I think there is a high upside with his pass catching and blocking. Could be a very non-traditional but very effective 3rd down back.

NFL Comparison: Darren McFadden / FA

14 – Josh Adams – Notre Dame – 6’2/213

Grade: 72

Strong Points:

-Good straight line burst and acceleration to break off the big run
-Good feel between the tackles, has the blend of patience and aggression
-Good ball security, protects the ball always

Weak Points:

-Slow to make decisions on outside runs, too indecisive
-Needs too many recovery steps when forced to adjust
-Not a physical runner, seems hesitant and can be shaken off his game easily

Summary:

Junior entry. Leading rusher for the Irish in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Was in the Heisman discussion for awhile this past year. As the year went on and the more taped I watched, I think it was obvious Adams was the beneficiary to a dominant offensive line more than anything. A guy with this kind of frame and long speed looks god at first, but a lot of running back traits I look for simply aren’t there. He really disappointed against some of their more physical opponents.

NFL Comparison: Alfred Blue / HOU

15 – Ito Smith – Southern Miss – 5’9/195

Grade: 72

Strong Points:

-Tough to get a hold of with his low pad level and quick feet
-Very balanced and under control through traffic
-Fast decision maker and reaction runner

Weak Points:

¬-Has a hard time pushing piles and break tackles that have him squared up
-Long speed is average at best, can be caught from behind
-Not enough wiggle in his hips in relation to his footwork

Summary:

A fourth year senior that has carried the ball over 800 times in his career, a high number. Also coming from a lower level of college football and his quickness may not be enough at this level. What I like about Smith is how feisty he is. He plays tough, runs angry, and moves like he has something to prove. Smith is a back-of-the-depth-chart player but I’ll be curious to see what he can do after a year of pro strength work.

16 – John Kelly Tennessee – 5’10/217 – GRADE: 72
17 – Mark Walton – Miami – 5’11/202 – GRADE: 72
18 – Akrum Wadley – Iowa – 5’10/197 – GRADE: 70
19 – Ryan Nall – Oregon State – 6’2/232 – GRADE: 70
20 – Jeffrey Wilson – North Texas – 5’11/210 – GRADE: 68
21 – Justin Jackson – Northwestern – 6’0/193 – GRADE: 67
22 – Lavon Coleman – Washington – 5’11/223 – GRADE: 66
23 – Chris Warren – Texas – 6’2/250 – GRADE: 66
24 – Chase Edmonds – Fordham – 5’9/205: 66
25 – Justin Crawford – West Virginia – 5’11/203: 66

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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