2018 RB Combine Expectations
I am back with a 2nd part of my Combine Expectations series, in this article we will cover the Running Backs. This is going to be a particularly interesting endeavor, due to two major aspects of this running back class. One; this is a “Monster” class, it is just as deep as it is talented. Two; this is also a very polarizing, you have Saquon Barkley at 1.01 consensus overall, then a significantly “weaker” consensus has Guice at 1.02. This is where everything gets thrown out onto the freeway and run over until it’s absolutely inconceivable to maintain a consensus on any player for longer than 1.3 milliseconds. Now that I painted a picture of what this class looks like going into the combine, I think it’s time for me to let you know what you should look for these players to do when they show up in Indianapolis.
Note: Saquon Barkley will not be on this list of combine outlooks….Look for him to tear shit up….that’s kind of his thing….
Derrius Guice, LSU
Without necessarily being able to keep a strangle-hold on the consensus 1.02, Guice has been under the microscope since even before he announced his intentions to enter the NFL. Guice has almost every trait you can think of, balance, vision, lateral ability, strength, speed, and he packages that all up in one of the most vicious running styles you will ever see, having said that it should not surprise you at all that his most common comp. is Marshawn Lynch. This also tends to be his biggest knock at times, due to the fact that violent runners cannot be counted on to stay healthy. This argument will never go away, and I am positive he will see his share of injuries, however the upside to that is incredibly special and worth taking that risk in my opinion. He will be looking to prove that speed as well as try to stand out as a pass catcher within the combine drills.
Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
We just got done talking about Guice who had almost literally all the most important running back traits that you can possess. Johnson on the other hand does not have a lot of those same traits, however his biggest and most important trait is that he is a natural athlete with a wide range of speed and burst. He is quite literally a “pinball”. Behind a good offensive line, he could really have a lot of success. Outside of that, I don’t see him having more appeal as more than an early down bruiser. He will wear out defenses, however there are concerns that as a very upright runner, he will not be able to withstand the punishment on the next level. Look for him to show up his speed and athletic ability, however it wouldn’t surprise me if he looked very stiff in the Shuttle and proved a lack of lateral chops.
Ronald Jones II, USC
This man is widely considered one of the overall best back’s in this class. After you get done looking at his explosiveness, pass catching ability, as well as his elite long-speed, you will see a RB that is 6’1” 195lbs. This is where we start questioning whether he can take the next step. This is also where (in his particular case) he can’t improve his size for the combine (unfortunately), however he is someone that we should expect to “light up” the combine as they say. Anything less could inevitably affect his draft stock.
Sony Michel, Georgia
5’11”, 220lbs, Speed, Vision, mix that with a “head” for the game. He sounds like the whole package. Well I gotta tell you, I think he is. Having said that, “the total package” isn’t necessarily a “special” player. I think he has great size and he has all those traits I mentioned, however he doesn’t have world class gifts. He is a player that can get everything that he’s given and more, and in some cases can even make things happen on his own. Unfortunately, from everything I have seen from him, he doesn’t do anything particularly “special” or “Elite”. He will most definitely get his shot at a starting job in the NFL and may even keep it for years, but he projects as a player with a clear and visible ceiling within the NFL. He is going to have to “show up” and “show off” at this combine speed, strength, agility, these are all traits that he possesses. Look for him to put those traits on display at the NFL combine.
Nick Chubb, Georgia
This is an unfortunate story and it starts during his Soph. season at Georgia. He tore multiple ligaments in his knee and has not been the same runner since. That being said, while the player we are evaluating now is not the same “rare”, “special” talent he was pre-injury, in this case he still has a lot to offer a franchise in the NFL. He still obviously hasn’t lost that great size at 5’11”, 228lbs. He doesn’t have the breakaway speed anymore, but he still has the potential to be a very solid “one-cut” runner with great balance and a low center of gravity. I liked his 2017 tape and it looked like he made big strides from his 2016 campaign. The question remains, whether he can regain anymore of that ability lost in the coming years. Everyone will be watching him very closely, this will be anyone’s guess how he performs a crossed the board. Look for him to underwhelm in the 40 but may surprise scouts in the 3-cone.
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Penny is one of my favorites, he is a large man at 5’11”, 220lbs, clearly size will not be an issue going forward into the NFL. He is a big back that runs like a small back giving himself an elusiveness that is hard to come by in that large of a frame. His most noticeable trait on the highlight reel is his clear long-speed. He outruns guys that are very clearly ¼ his size. This may not happen so easily when he gets to the pro’s, however scouts will understand that he is a raw talent and could be very special if brought into the right organization. He is a good decision maker and is exceptional at setting up blocks on runs as well as kick returns. He led the NCAA in rushing yards in his senior year. It is always a rule of thumb that if they are lacking in major competition on the college level then they should show a complete an utter dominance against that competition if they plan to have any success on the next level. This is something he has clearly done. Look for Penny to show his +speed in the 40, as well as his exceptional start and stop ability in the 3-cone.