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2019 NFL Combine Recap: Running Backs

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The NFL Combine is now in the books, and we’re under 2 months away from the NFL Draft! The combine offered some clarity in each positional class and like every year, we have some winners and losers from the Indy interview.

Here is the first of four positional breakdowns at the NFL Combine. This group offered an entertaining day alongside offensive linemen. Some highly rated players ran as expected, some struggled. But more interestingly, a handful of lesser anticipated prospects made the most of their opportunity. These are the names we’ll want to dive back into over the next couple months.

The evaluation process incorporates only reps shown on the televised broadcast. Team and media interviews, the Wonderlic, or non-televised workouts are not evaluated.


2019 NFL Combine Recap: Running Backs

Miles Sanders, Penn State

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Sanders simply stole the show. He ran well during measurable drills: recorded top three shuttle and cone drill times. Sanders benched 20 reps, which hits the median. A 36″ vert and 4.49s 40-time (102.91 speed score), all good numbers for a running back. However, he didn’t earn my “best RB at the Combine” title with his measurables. He looked best during the on-field workout. Sanders showed great hands despite not being known for his pass-catching skills. He cut with good hip movement and easy, natural footwork. He looked comfortable running most of the routes, and particularly the wheel and flat. Sanders really boosted his stock.

James Williams, Washington State

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“Boobie” Williams was in his element in Indianapolis. Already known as a quick, efficient running back, Williams had the stage to showcase his footwork and agility and he owned it. Smooth and easily in and out of his breaks, James Williams put on a clinic during on-field workouts. He easily looked like the most natural pass catcher out there. James Williams didn’t stand out in the measurable phase of the workout (hence why he graded below Miles Sanders). He ran a 4.58s 40-yard dash, a modest but sufficient time in perspective of his college tape. He went on to measure well on the vertical, broad jump 3-cone and shuttle (36.5″, 118″, 7.01s, 4.25s, he didn’t bench). Overall, James Williams’ measurables graded as a straight 4/10 but his spectacular workout boosted his grade and backs up the tape.

Mike Weber, Ohio State

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Weber’s a prospect I had studied very limited tape of prior to the combine. I had seen a handful of Ohio State games live during the season but didn’t look back at most of them. His combine workout sends me right back to the tape. He didn’t particularly dominate the measurable drills as he only ran the 40-yd dash, vertical jump and bench press. Nevertheless, he showed he was fast for a back his size (4.48s), explosive and strong enough (33.5″ and 22 reps).

However, Weber made his money during the on-field workouts. He ran all his reps at full speed, showed natural footwork and familiarity with the drills. Mike Weber ran one of the best off-tackle reps of the group. He didn’t show any sign of tightness in his change of direction drills. To the contrary, he was in and out of his breaks efficiently and translated that to the receiving drills. His ball tracking was on display and he showed good hands. Mike Weber has the potential to be a versatile one-cut running back in an NFL offense.

Alex Barnes, Kansas State

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Alex Barnes stood out from the moment he arrived in Indy. A six-foot 226lb back crushing 34 reps at the bench press. He translated that out of the gym, onto the field with outstanding measurables and a good enough workout. Barnes finished top-three on the vertical jump, bench press (best), 3-cone, shuttle, and top-five in the broad jump. He ran a good 40 clocking 4.59s, scoring a 101.83 speed score. Barnes now needed to confirm his performance with his on-field workout. He displayed some natural agility and good hands for a power running back. Nevertheless, he still confirmed he belongs in a north-south running role. Looking back to his tape, he’s not the quickest, fastest, most agile or athletically gifted, but he always finishes forward. He’s a smashmouth runner that should stick on whichever NFL roster he lands on.

Benny Snell, Kentucky

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What I expected out of Benny Snell is what we got from Alex Barnes. Not to discredit Snell who had a good day. He ran a 4.66 on the 40, a good run for a player of his build. Surprisingly, Snell didn’t stand out with any of his other measurables. He particularly underwhelmed at the bench press with 16 reps.

Benny Snell turned on the jets for the on-field workout. My highlight? He ran every single rep HARD. Snell was there to compete, and that’s coherent with his tape. He kicked things off with two easy reps at the off-tackle and change of direction drills. Benny Snell isn’t known as a receiving back but he looked the part alongside the rest of the group. He ran a great wheel route, setting a standard for hustle and head fake. In contrast to his movement skills, Benny Snell showed he isn’t a natural pass catcher. He struggled in the find the ball drill, showing unease running lateral routes.

Alexander Mattison, Boise State

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I’ve seen flashes of Alexander Mattison (much like AJ Richardson) while studying Brett Rypien, but never dove deeper. Mattison was undeniably a standout player from Day 1 of the NFL Scouting Combine. He started off with an outstanding run at the measurement drills. 4.67 is fast enough for a running back his size. I haven’t seen enough of Mattison to judge his quickness in parallel to his numbers, but 7.13′ and 4.29′ are nice scores at the 3 cone and shuttle. He passed the 20-threshold and benched 22 reps, ticking that box, along with the vertical and broad jump.

To add to his nice start, Mattison kept his pace onto the field workouts. I knew he ran the flat and texas route with Rypien so his ease with the routes shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He looked very smooth in the change of direction drill and had nice footwork on the off-tackle run (could have run harder). Mattison had himself a good day all over, although some of his routes weren’t televised. He’s an interesting day 3 prospect to look into before draft night.

Elijah Holyfield, Georgia

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You’ll hear, and have probably already heard, a lot of criticism on Holyfield’s time in Indy. We don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. For all we know, he crushed his interviews and his workout is irrelevant. Holyfield is a mean, hard-working running back, that plays much faster than his 40-time indicates. In the midst of this 40 talk, Elijah benched 26 reps (3rd best). This supports his hard-working reputation.

I thought Holyfield had it in him to save his day on the field. He started off with a decent rep on the off-tackle drill but looked very stiff on the change of direction. It went downhill from there. To put it in perspective, Holyfield only caught eight receptions in Georgia and we may have caught a glimpse at why. His corner and flat routes were not televised, so his grade. Although, in Holyfield’s defense, the effort was there on every rep and he showed some nice things. Among which, he definitely did not look slow among the group. I believe his playing speed easily outweighs his 40-time.

Last words

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I haven’t had a chance to touch on a couple of headline prospects yet. Mainly David Montgomery, who was highly anticipated and delivered. He ran a great on-field workout, showcasing his outstanding hands and footwork. However, Montgomery didn’t shine amongst the best with his measurables. He still turned in a modest scoresheet with a 4.63 40-time and 121″ broad jump, despite struggling with his vert and bench press.

Other touted players like Devin Singletary and Trayveon Williams had good enough days. They both showed no signs of stiffness, good footwork and particularly, versatility. Jordan Scarlett and Nick Brossette who participated in all the drills had unhelpful days but credits for competing. Both have intriguing NFL potential.

You might be wondering why the (as anticipated) fastest running back at the combine, Darrel Henderson, ranked 21st. He simply didn’t run the on-field workouts, similarly to Justice Hill. Other backs like Love, Anderson and Moore stuck to weigh-ins, interviews and the bench press.

Great day: Miles Sanders, David Montgomery, James Williams

Good day: Alex Barnes, Damien Harris, Mike Weber, Alexander Mattison, Devin Singletary, Benny Snell, Trayveon Williams

Bad day: Elijah Holyfield, Jordan Scarlett, Nick Brossette, Dexter Williams

Grading

Each player’s measurable drill is graded out of 10, the average score represents the first half of the Combine Score (Measurables Score).

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Each on-field workout rep is graded out of 10, the average score represents the second half of the Combine Score (Workout Score).

Combine Score = Workout Score + Measurables Score

RankCombine#NameSchoolHtWtWORKOUT SCORECOMBINE SCORE
1RB20Miles SandersPenn State5-102116.7113.43
2RB27James WilliamsWashington State5-91977.3312.33
3RB15Alexander MattisonBoise State5-102215.512.21
4RB3Alex BarnesKansas State6-02263.6711.34
5RB6Damien HarrisAlabama5-10216611.02
6RB2Ryquell ArmsteadTemple5-112204.410.69
7RB5Myles GaskinWashington5-92054.8310.64
8RB25Mike WeberOhio State5-92116.6310.63
9RB16David MontgomeryIowa State5-10222610.6
10RB24Benny Snell Jr.Kentucky5-102245.2510.57
11RB28Trayveon WilliamsTexas A&M5-82065.2510.57
12RB23Devin SingletaryFlorida Atlantic5-72035.3810.55
13RB11Travis HomerMiami5-102014.169.81
14RB26Dexter WilliamsNotre Dame5-112123.59.32
15RB18Qadree OllisonPitt6-02284.338.86
16RB19Tony PollardMemphis5-112104.828.63
17RB22L.J. ScottMichigan State6-022737.52
18RB21Jordan ScarlettFlorida5-102082.887.11
19RB4Nick BrossetteLSU5-112092.716.57
20RB10Elijah HolyfieldGeorgia5-1021736.5
21RB7Darrell HendersonMemphis5-820804.43
22RB9Justice HillOklahoma State5-919804.43
23RB8Karan HigdonMichigan5-920603.86
24RB17Jalin MooreAppalachian State5-1021201.86
25RB1Rodney AndersonOklahoma6-022401.71
26RB14Bryce LoveStanford5-820001.29
27RB13Josh JacobsAlabama5-1022001.14

About Selyan Lonqueux

Selyan's a football addict (no rehab planned). Winner of countless fantasy football championships. Prospect tape grinder, rookie draft smasher, and re-builder of dynasties. Oh, and also plays wide receiver.

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