Prior to the 2017 college football season, just three running backs were designated as first round potentials by The NFL Draft Report - senior Nick Chubb and junior Saquon Barkley and Derrius Guice. While Barkley is considered to be in contention for the top overall pick (likely to go between selection two-to-four), Guice has a chance for being selected late during Day One activities.
Chubb’s history of injuries and the rise of fellow Georgia tailback Sony Michel could see the big back get a call on Day Two of the draft, but he could slip into the third round due to his long medical history. Hamstrings have “hamstrung” USC’s Ronald Jones III this off-season and teams have still yet to gauge the durability of Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson, but both are likely to join Michel as second round selections.
Saquon Barkley - Penn State
The unquestioned cream of the crop.
Overview...Barkley’s amazing performance at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine is certain to see the 2017 Big Ten Conference Player of the Year end up hearing his name called within the first five selection on draft day. He started since his freshman season for the Nittany Lions and despite seeing his 2017 season slow down after a great start, his athleticism, speed and raw power saw his record 15 100-yard rushing performances, including a trio of 200-yard efforts.
NFL.com recently called Barkley the most elusive running back in college football. One NFL scout calls him the best running back he’s seen in the last decade. They see a rising star that has racked up a ridiculous 3,209 all-purpose yards and 30 total touchdowns during his first two seasons at Penn State. Other scouts agree with his elusiveness, but also cite his power running, which brings comparisons to Pittsburgh’s Le’Veon Bell.
Barkley and Le’Veon Bell have a few things in common outside of their power running style and jersey number (26). Both Bell and Barkley held only four reported offers out of high school, with the former’s lone Power Five scholarship tender coming from the Spartans. Of course, Mark Dantonio hit a towering home run with Bell, as he earned a unanimous All-Big Ten Conference nod his last season in East Lansing (2012). Scouts feel that the Penn State tailback is more than just a running back with impeccable vision — his steely patience before he hits the hole is second to none in college football.
Like Bell, Barkley has that unteachable trait of lulling defenders to sleep off the edge before unleashing a wicked jump-cut and his frame couldn’t be more NFL-ready.
The 2017 Season...The running back was named the recipient of the Paul Hornung Award, as college football’s most versatile player, as he finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, the highest finish by a Penn State player since Larry Johnson placed third in 2002. He was selected as a finalist for the Maxwell Award, Doak Walker Award, Lombardi Award and Walter Camp Player of the Year Award and became the 100th first-team All-American in Penn State history.
Barkley rushed 217 times for 1,271 yards (5.86 ypc) and eighteen touchdowns in 2017. He caught a career-high 54 passes for 632 yards while reaching the end zone three times. He also scored twice on fifteen kickoff returns that netted 426 yards.
Barkley was selected first-team All-American as an all-purpose player by The NFL Draft Report, the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and Sporting News.
Body Structure...Barkley has outstanding strength and impressive quickness for his position. He has a thick, yet athletic physique with a muscular and defined upper body. He has a tight waist and hips, good abdomen and bubble, along with muscular thighs and calves. In other words, he is built for power, but will out-race most first- and second-level defenders. He is a stout athlete who has broad shoulders, good chest muscle development and above average change of direction agility.
Athletic Ability...Barkley has a sudden initial burst with good stop-&-go action, as he is quick to redirect, maintaining balance and accelerates out of his breaks in an instant. He shows good vision and change of direction agility moving around in the backfield, but might be better served lowering his pads, squaring his shoulders and trying to power through tackles, rather than try to dance around them. He shows good anticipation in the second level, as he is quick to find the seam to break through for long runs. His foot quickness is evident on his straight-line runs, as he is very good at getting to top speed in a hurry.
Football Sense...On the field, Barkley shows great field vision and awareness. He’s a good student and shows no difficulty digesting the playbook. He has the vision to locate the creases and shows patience following his blockers. He has that instinctive feel running with the ball and is a power-type running between tackles, as he shows very good patience waiting for his blocks to develop. He is not the type that needs a lot of repetitions, nor does he need to be “coached up,” as he is perhaps the most instinctive runner with the ball in his hands that the long history of Nittany Lion runners produced by the school. He’s what scouts call a “quick study” on the field, as he easily adjusts to game situations and takes what the opponent gives him as an opportunity. He understands and learns football well.
Initial Quickness...Barkley has excellent lateral agility. He shows a quick initial burst and builds to top speed coming out of his stance. He has a fluid stride in the open and the body control and balance to redirect. He knows how to set up defenders with his hip wiggle and head fakes, doing a nice job of varying his speed to avoid when running down the sidelines. He is a classic speed burner who can go long distances, and he has the elusiveness and deceptive second gear to elude. His flexibility is above average, evident by his sharp change of direction and lateral movement. He shows very good slide agility and the ability to get into stride quickly coming out of his stance. He hits the hole with authority and has fluid change of direction skills. He is very patient waiting for holes to develop (some say he’s too patient), and he stays low in his pads, squares his shoulders and keeps his legs churning when having to squeeze through tight quarters. He needs to attack the inside holes with better authority (likes to bounce outside) and stop dancing so much in the backfield before choosing a hole, though. He shows urgency to escape initial contact and has that slippery lateral agility that allows him to do a nice job of sliding and adjusting through the rush alleys. He shows outstanding explosion through the holes, along with that sudden burst to get a quick start off the mark.
Acceleration/Burst...Barkley has effective acceleration to separate from the pack when turning the corner to get into the open. He stays low in his pads when accelerating in and out of his cuts. He is more of a deceptive runner, even with his good quickness, but defenders more often than not, have to chase him down once he gets past the second level, as he can really put on the burners once he builds to top speed. He surprises a lethargic defender with his head and shoulder fakes and it is rare to see an opponent run him down, once he gets into the deep secondary. He is the type that shows good confidence in his lateral moves, fakes and agility to elude in the open. He also shows good slide and redirection skills in the short area. He has functional acceleration and decent finishing speed and is best when working in space, as he is sharp making cuts to rock defenders back on their heels.
Instincts/Balance... Barkley does a very good job of keeping his feet under him on the move. He has excellent patience behind his blocks (needs to stop trying to find the home run lane so much and take what the defense offers, though) for a young ball carrier. He has good avoidance skills to get to level-two and is very tough to bring down upon initial contact (good tackle breaker). He is rarely ever caught from behind at times in the open, and he shows good bounce attempting to cut back. He excels when it comes to reading blocks, as he has the anticipation skills and lower body power to run with a strong base. He stays up well after initial contact and has outstanding body lean to prevent from being rocked back on his heels. His body control allows him to keep his pad level low when changing direction, much like LaDainian Tomlinson did as a Charger. Watching this player on game film, you can see that Barkley has a lot of “old school” in him, as he runs over his feet with good base and balance. He sets up his blocks well, has above average field vision and displays a natural feel for the running lanes. He can find the hole in an instant and will cut back fluidly, showing a nice bounce in his step.
Inside Running...Barkley shows good slide, but he needs to hit the inside seams with more authority. He tries to find that “perfect” hole too much, which has resulted in a high amount of negative yardage runs (caught from behind 20 times in 2017, 12 times in 2016 and 17 times in 2015 on a total of 671 carries). He has very good balance and can jump cut, but must do a better job of powering through the smaller creases (tends to run a bit upright trying to squeeze through a crowd). Still, he can avoid defenders on the move and shows good vision redirecting to the cutback lanes. He has the ability to be very effective when picking and sliding, thanks to his above average body control and balance.
Outside Running...Barkley has the blazing speed needed to break free from the pile along the edge, and he shows good up-field acceleration and the ability to bounce off tackles while maintaining his balance. He is not the type that needs to gather in order to cut and demonstrates the ability to square up and move the chains. Barkley is a solid downhill runner who can turn the corner, but he also possesses above average lateral bounce. He has exceptional quickness turning the corners to take the ball the distance (see 2017 Akron, Iowa, Michigan, Washington games). With all of his elusive skills, he is a load to bring down in space. He shows excellent patience (sometimes too much though) to let the “toss” develop and then burst through the seam or turn the outside corner. When he makes the cut in the open, he can hit a “home run” and reach the end zone in an instant.
Elusiveness...Barkley’s array of moves, fakes and balance makes him elusive when he turns the corner on sweeps, or when lining wide out of the backfield as a receiver. He shows very good vision and change of direction quickness to generally make the initial tackler miss. He creates quite a bit on his own, showing good shake to break free from the crowd. With his quick redirection agility, he is very good at making the jump cut, showing the vision to avoid when doing so. He also has the ability to make quick decisions, leaving the lethargic defender grasping at air.
Tackle-Breaking Strength...This is one area for concern. Barkley is more of a finesse-type runner than a power back, despite his size. He needs to stop dancing so much in the backfield, as he might have good weight room strength, but not enough to push the pile and get through traffic. He runs hard, with a good pad level when near contact, but needs to show better body lean in attempts to fall forward. When he gets too tall in his stance, he can get knocked back, as his base will narrow (see 2017 Indiana, Ohio State, Rutgers games). When he keeps his pads down and runs with good lean, he can get positive yardage after initial contact. He just has to stop looking to score on every carry and revert to moving the chains.
Receiving Skills...Barkley has become a highly effective weapon catching the ball out of the back-field. He is a good hands catcher who will extend to catch outside his frame. He is used mostly on screens, but his hands are of a receiver’s quality, as he can snatch, turn and accelerate without having to gather. He has not been used much on deep routes, but with his leaping ability and hands, he appears capable of combating defenders for the ball on deep patterns. He maintains very good concentration going for the ball in traffic and looks natural running on screens and swing routes. He will come back when the quarterback is flushed out and does a nice job of finding and sitting in the soft area of the zone. He is very flexible going up for the ball, timing his leaps to get to the pigskin at its high point.
Route Running...He is quick getting into his patterns, as Barkley looks the ball in well and works hard to get open in the short area. When used on dump-offs or hot reads, he shows the leg drive and hip snap to instantly turn and head up field after the catch. He also makes proper body adjustments to track the ball in flight and has the balance and body control to compete for the ball in traffic.
Blocking Ability...Barkley is not used much as a lead blocker, but needs to show better hand placement and form attacking defenders in pass protection. He is quick to locate stunts and games, even when aligned deep in the backfield, but while he demonstrates proper hand placement when facing up, he will generally catch or deliver a one-shot effect before the defender escapes. You can see that he knows how to angle in the second level when trying to cut block, you’d just wish he’d show more desire to do so. He squares to the target and strikes with arms properly extended, but there are too many times when he will let them get too far outside his frame.
Compares To...LaDainian Tomlinson-ex-San Diego Chargers...You can see that Barkley has the tools to be a breakaway back and fine receiver - you’d just wish he would do so on a regular basis. He will excite you throughout a game, but the next week, you wonder if he’s hiding in the stands with Carmen Sandiego. Still, he has so much impressive athleticism to overlook those occurrences, but rather than trying to reach the end zone on every play, he needs to realize how important it is to move the chains. While he is the top-rated back in this draft class, our staff continues to feel that Sony Michel might be a cheaper second round option that could be the one franchise back in this draft class.
The rest of the class
There are some impressive running backs this year, but outside of Barkley, you don’t hear many scouts citing the “gotta have” tags on the rest of the group. Well, maybe our staff’s preference - Georgia’s Sony Michel might prove to be the King of the Hill hear in a few years. What intrigues our scouts is just that - the carries, as he’s leaving college boasting a 6.16-yards per carry average. That includes a breakout 2017 campaign where he averaged 7.87 yards per clip.
Derrius Guice of Louisiana State is expected to follow Saquon Barkley off the draft boards and has a legitimate shot to go in the opening round and Michel’s running mate with the Bulldogs, Nick Chubb is another quality back with a long medical record, but the Fort Lauderdale native is still the one who excites our office when watching game film. This trio could be joined by Southern California’s Ronald Jones as second-round picks, but running backs with hamstring issues like this Trojan has might not be on the field as much at the next level.
Sony Michel - Georgia
Overview...While not as fast as former Miami Dolphin, Mercury Morris, Michel operated in a similar system that Don Shula used, as Michel was often the change-of-pace back, sharing carries with Todd Gurley and later, with Nick Chubb during a 47-game career that featured just eleven starts.
2017 Season...Named to The NFL Draft Report’s Super Sleeper Team, the team captain started just twice through 14 games while sharing carries with Nick Chubb, but he helped lead the Bulldogs to the Southeastern Conference championship and a berth in the national title game. NFL scouts were greatly impressed in his finest season yet - gaining a career-high 1,227 yards on 156 carries while scoring 16 times.
Body Structure...Michel has a solid build with good upper body muscle definition, big bubble, thick thighs and high calves. He has broad shoulders, good chest thickness and a frame that can carry another 10 pounds of bulk with no loss in quickness.
Athletic Ability...Michel generates good explosion with his initial step and he runs with a normal stride, showing steady acceleration and a short area burst. He runs with very good balance and has the foot quickness to redirect on the move. He is a sudden runner around the corner, yet still displays very good patience waiting for blocks to develop. He can generate a second gear to separate in the open and has the nimble feet needed to make precise lateral cuts. His loose hips and change of direction agility makes him very elusive avoiding traffic. He has nice feet and above average balance in his initial burst, doing a nice job of “getting skinny” to pick his way through tight creases. He keeps his feet after contact and has the pick-and-slide agility to elude when running in-line. He runs with a normal stride, but is very crisp redirecting on the move. Michel shows explosive lateral agility and movement and is a threat to break for a long run any time he frees himself along the perimeter. He has the crisp plant-and-drive agility to make sharp cuts and has outstanding balance on the move, keeping his feet churning to break arm tackles.
Football Sense...Michel has no problem learning and retaining plays. He has good football instincts and no problems making quick adjustments to the defensive coverage. He has a very good understanding of the offense and blocking schemes. He shows the vision to locate the soft areas in the zone and shows no hesitation redirecting when the rush lanes are clogged. He has a natural feel with the ball in his hands, doing a fine job of anticipating in-line openings.
Initial Quickness...Michel has valid suddenness off the snap and he shows good in-stride quickness to adjust in his direction and the loose hips and vision to change direction to find the cutback lanes. He has that extra short area burst to get through traffic and comes out of his stance building to top speed in a hurry. He might not always be explosive going long distances, but has the loose hips to redirect and separate. He shows good in-stride quickness when adjusting his direction and can clear the line of scrimmage in an instant when he keeps his pad level down. He has good body lean, but sometimes gets too high in his stance when attempting to race into the second level, failing to sidestep low blocks in the process.
Acceleration/Burst...His acceleration makes him a viable threat and he has more than enough moves to defeat a defense on his own to gain separation. He is best when running off tackle, but he also has the power and hip wiggle to go for big yardage running inside. Michel has a burst and maintains acceleration on extended runs. He has that body control and balance, along with loose hips to redirect and separate in the open. He doesn’t have that great, explosive second gear (still, he is very elusive) to win foot races vs. cornerbacks, but has the moves to set up the defender and elude. He runs inside with very good body lean and awareness, especially when picking and sliding.
Instincts/Balance...Michel has very good vision on the move, instantly finding the cutback lanes. He is not the type that will dance forever in the backfield, doing a very good job of angling and getting “skinny” to get through tight areas. He has the ability to bounce off the tackle and make the initial defender miss, but tends to redirect to the outside more often than he should. He is a patient runner who gets most of his success because of his feel for the rush lanes, as it is rare to see him run into traffic. He does a very good job of setting up his blocks and shows no hesitation running through openings when he locates them.
Inside Running...Michel’s short area burst lets him bounce to the outside when the middle is clogged. He is a good downhill runner with the slippery moves and change of direction agility to get through trash. He knows how to get skinny through tight creases, but needs to improve his leg drive, as he is not the type to move the piles. Michel runs inside with very good body lean and awareness, especially when picking and sliding. His short area burst lets him bounce to the outside when the middle is clogged. He is a good downhill runner with the slippery moves and change of direction agility to get through trash. He knows how to get skinny through tight creases, but needs to improve his leg drive, as he is not the type to move the piles. He runs with good awareness and body lean, but also has the agility to bounce outside when he generates a short burst.
Outside Running...Michel doesn’t have the pure blazing speed to beat the secondary defenders after turning the corner, but he does have good success starting up field and bouncing outside, thanks to his quick burst. He is a very good stop-and-go runner, whose precise cutting agility will generally see the initial tackler over-pursue. He will sometimes get too fancy and execute multiple moves (see 2017 Auburn regular season game), allowing the defender to recover, but he does a good job of following his blockers, generally. He is much more effective eluding defenders with his lateral slide and veer moves, combining them with his burst, but will never be confused for being a world class speedster as an outside runner.
Elusiveness...Michel is much more slippery than explosive in his stride. When he tries to make multiple moves in space, the defense has time to recover. His range and cutback agility will generally take the defenders off their feet.
Tackle-Breaking Strength...What this Bulldog does is consistently run with a good pad level and he has enough strength on contact to break tackles, showing excellent balance, but he could improve his leg drive when having to push the pile. He can square his shoulders and keeps his pad level down, making it tough for the isolated tackler to bring him down, though. His balance lets him keep his feet, redirect and race through the cutback lanes to gain additional yardage after contact. He can be tripped up when he gets too tall in his stance, as he does not always protect his feet from shoestring tackles. When he lowers his head, squares his shoulders and keeps his balance, he will consistently chew up big chunks of real estate.
Tendency to Fumble...Michel has improved his ball distribution skills, but has fumbled 12 times, with five being recovered by the opposition (season-high five fumbles as a sophomore, but just two last season). He does a much better job of protecting and holding on to the ball in traffic and upon contact since he has learned how to distribute the ball better to keep it away from the defenders to prevent costly fumbles. He protects the ball better running through traffic than when bouncing outside, but still struggles some when handling pitch-outs, despite having the best hands on the team.
Receiving Skills...Even though he is not used much in this area as much as the team should have, Michel has soft, natural hands, doing a good job of catching the ball outside his frame. He has the vision to look the ball in over his outside shoulder and the cutting agility to separate after the catch.
Route Running...Michel shows good route quickness and burst to get under the throws. He appears to look fluid getting into his routes. He knows where to find the soft areas to settle under and has a good up field stride to gain yardage after the catch. He shows good acceleration throughout his route progression and the flexibility to adjust to off-target throws
Blocking Ability...This is perhaps Michel’s weakest area, as he seems unaware of his assignments in pass protection. He is not quick to recognize the blitz, stunts and twists and he can be steamrolled by bigger edge rushers.
The Injury Factor...Maybe his lack of blocking is due to a few broken bones in his left arm that saw him twice undergo surgery. He suffered a left shoulder fracture as a freshman that sidelined him for five games and prior to the opening of 2016 August camp, he fractured his left arm in an ATV accident. Several teams have labeled him a medical risk on their draft board.
Compares To...Alvin Kamara-New Orleans Saints...Michel has seemed to have carved out his niche as a change of pace back.
Derrius Guice - LSU
Overview...If you listen to the chatter among professional scouts, most will tell you that Jacksonville was justified in selecting Leonard Fournette with the fourth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft. Those same scouts are in consensus with stating that if they had their preference that Guice would have been their “chosen one” over the other Tigers tailback. IT is easy to see that Guice is an electrifying ball-carrier that has the potential to score every time he touches the football.
The thing that separates Guice from the pack is that he routinely makes highlight-reel runs, evident last season, as he set two school records on his way to earning All-American honors from Scout.com as well as being a first-team All-Southeastern Conference pick from both the league’s coaches and the Associated Press. One of those highlight-reel runs featured the longest run in LSU history, as he raced with a 96-yard carry in a win over Arkansas in 2016.
In a game of “can you top this,” he also set the school’s single-game rushing record with 285 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Texas A&M on 2016 Thanksgiving Night. For his two-year career, he has already rushed for 1,823 yards and eighteen touchdowns, despite starting only six games during his time with the Tigers. Of his eighteen scoring scampers, seven have come from at least 40 yards out. He has rushed for 100 or more yards seven times in his career, which includes two games of 200-yards or more, as LSU remains undefeated in games when Guice reaches the 100-yard rushing mark.
While Penn State’s Saquon Barkley has been dubbed college football’s most elusive runner, Guide is regarded as the game’s most “savage” running back, by those same professional scouts. This past off-season, he had the word “Savage” tattooed across his back, perhaps a foretelling that he is again going to carry the brunt of the Tigers’ rushing load in 2017. He is not a blazing-fast ball carrier, but he possesses great size and athleticism which poses problems for defenses on every down. As required by NFL teams, he has also shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield and serve as a solid blocker in passing situations.
Body Structure...Guice has a solid build with good upper body muscle definition, big bubble, thick thighs and high calves. He has broad shoulders, good chest thickness and a frame that can carry another ten pounds of bulk with no loss in quickness. Still, for a player his size, he has just adequate arm length and wingspan, along with smaller than ideal hands.
Athletic Ability...Guice has good timed speed, building his acceleration quickly coming out of his stance. He is not an explosive runner around the corner and needs to show better patience waiting for blocks to develop. He can generate a second gear to separate in the open, but you question if he has the nimble feet needed to make precise lateral cuts, as he does not have loose hips and this affects his change of direction agility when he has to make cuts to avoid traffic. He has nice feet and above average balance in his initial burst, doing a nice job of “getting skinny” to pick his way through tight creases, though. He keeps his feet after contact and has better pick-&-slide agility to elude when running in-line. He runs with a normal stride and despite tight hips, he has the second gear needed to execute with his adjustment-on-the-move skills. His best assets are his feet, as he is quick to plant and cut, keeping his pads low to dish out as much punishment as he absorbs.
Football Sense...Guice has a good understanding of the offense and blocking schemes. He shows the vision to locate the soft areas in the zone and there is no hesitation on his part when lowering his pads to clear room for himself when the rush lanes are clogged. He has a natural feel with the ball in his hands, doing a fine job of anticipating in-line openings. He has no problems taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. He’s not a “to the detail” player, but plays with hunger and is hard to bring down in isolated coverage. He is the type that scans the field quickly and knows the moment he needs to shift gears in the open field (see 96-yard touchdown run vs. Arkansas in 2016).
Initial Quickness...Guice has that extra short area burst to get through traffic and comes out of his stance building to top speed in a hurry. He might not be explosive going long distances (prefers to power through defenders than elude), but he shows good in-stride quickness when adjusting his direction and can clear the line of scrimmage in an instant when he keeps his pad level down. He has good body lean, but sometimes gets too high in his stance when attempting to race into the second level, failing to sidestep low blocks in the process. While he shows good quickness out of his stance and to the hole, he is not explosive, but his short burst and body snap lets him get to the line of scrimmage quickly, though.
Acceleration/Burst...Guice has a quick burst out of his stance and shows steady acceleration on his long runs. He has that competitive quickness and balance to separate in the open, but does show tightness in his hips when trying to redirect and separate. He doesn’t have that explosion to win foot races vs. cornerbacks, but has the moves to set up the defender and elude. He has a good burst and acceleration through the line of scrimmage, with some dart ability. He just lacks top-end speed to win foot races in the open field (more of a violent runner than one who will ballet past a defender).
Instincts/Balance...Guice excels at finding the cutback lanes. He has the ability to bounce off the tackle and make the initial defender miss. When he demonstrates patience, he is a runner who gets most of his success because of his feel for the rush lanes, as it is rare to see him run into traffic. When he gets too antsy and does not follow his blockers, his running tempo become erratic (see 2017 Syracuse and Florida games). When he maintains proper pad level, he does a better job of setting up his blocks and shows no hesitation running through openings when he locates them.
Inside Running...Guice is a downhill runner with the enough moves and change of direction agility to get through trash, but he does like to punish defenders rather than take an opportunity to elude. He knows how to get skinny through tight creases, but prefers to use his leg drive in attempts to move the piles. He runs with good awareness and body lean, but also has the agility to bounce outside when he generates a short burst. He compensates for a lack of raw power (strength is functional, see Combine bench press numbers) with his balance and body control running up the middle.
Outside Running...Guice is a very good stop-&-go runner, whose precise cutting agility will generally see the initial tackler over-pursue. He will sometimes get too fancy and execute multiple moves (see 2017 Florida, Alabama games games), allowing the defender to recover, though. He doesn’t have the explosive speed to beat the opponent around the corner, but once he starts turning up field, he has the feet and balance to bounce outside and punish defenders in his path. Still, there are times when he gets too tall in his run form and while he has the perimeter speed will get him to the edge vs. the slower defenders, it is not enough to break open field tackles on a regular basis vs. NFL types.
Elusiveness...This kid runs with a bull in the china shop mentality. Guice is much more slippery than explosive in his stride. When he tries to make multiple moves in space, the defense has time to recover. He compensates for a lack of sudden sustained speed with very good lateral slide and veer moves to avoid, despite hip stiffness (more pronounced when he does not keep the pad level down). His range and cutback agility will generally take the defenders off their feet, but even with his lateral slide in the short area, he needs to learn how to do a better job of gearing up and down in order to elude.
Tackle-Breaking Strength...Guice won’t win any Mr. Universe contests, but he can push the pile on a consistent basis, as he is a savvy, hard-charging runner with good balance. When he squares his shoulders and keeps his pad level down, it makes it extremely tough for the isolated tackler to bring him down. His balance lets him keep his feet, redirect and race through the cutback lanes to gain additional yardage after contact. He can be tripped up when he gets too tall in his stance, as he does not always protect his feet from shoestring tackles. When he lowers his head, squares his shoulders and keeps his balance, he will consistently chew up big chunks of real estate. He shows good body lean and the ability to finish after contact, but is not flashy. He has good lower body strength, but needs to keep his feet running up the middle. When he gets too upright running the ball, he can be tripped up by ankle tackles (adequate knee lift).
Receiving Skills... Guice has soft, natural hands, doing a good job of catching the ball outside his frame. He has the vision to look the ball in over his outside shoulder and the cutting agility to separate after the catch. He is used mostly on controlled routes, but has the quick stride to be lined wide or in the slot. He is very effective settling in underneath and is alert to coverage (very rare to see him run into crowded spots).
Route Running...Guice appears to look fluid getting into his routes. He knows where to find the soft areas to settle under and has a good up field stride to gain yardage after the catch. He shows good acceleration throughout his route progression and the flexibility to adjust to off-target throws.
Blocking Ability...Guice is a willing blocker with a good eye for picking up the blitz. He shows good intent and aggression chipping on edge rushers and gives the quarterback enough room to operate when protecting the pocket. He will not hesitate to face up and fight for position blocking in-line and makes a determined effort to engage. He is a good contact seeker in space, taking good angles when cut blocking.
Injuries/Off-Field...Guice has taken his fair share of big hits the last two seasons and despite back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, he had issues with his ankle (missed Troy game) in 2017 and also suffered a knee sprain in practices prior to the season opener. He also has a family issue that teams are looking into. While he has been a no-problem type at LSU, his brother, Derrick, has been arrested multiple times and pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a firearm (May 2017) for his role in a drive-by shooting.
Compares To...Marshawn Lynch-Oakland Raiders...Like Lynch, Guice’s style is to run over people rather than go around them.
Ronald Jones III - USC
Jones is a talented ball carrier, but his lingering hamstring issues are a concern. Some teams even ventured to place him on their wide receiver charts and had him do position drills there at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he had a less than inspiring performance in the agility tests (see below). Much like his season, a right hamstring issue prevented him from completing the agilities. Still, most board have him as an early second round prospect. Our staff feels that he should not be considered draftable until Day 3 action commences, but it is one general manager’s decision whether to utilize a second-rounder on Jones.
Jones likes to work downhill and he’s a no-nonsense running who doesn’t sacrifice momentum in the name of attempting to give a defender a slick move, getting downhill quickly, but still showing the vision and lateral quickness to bounce runs outside when necessary, but only when dictated by his superior vision.
When the USC Trojan prospect can’t merely use his elite footwork to avoid defenders, he’s strong enough despite not having a great deal of mass that he can lower his shoulder, get behind his pads, and break tackles and finish runs. He doesn’t look like the most powerful back with a relatively thin lower body, but the fact that he’s always moving so fast surely helps in that regard.
There’s also something slippery about him, especially when he turns his hips to get through small holes, a trait that is reminiscent of ex-Kansas City Chiefs and current Denver Broncos tailback Jamaal Charles, who can make himself exceptionally narrow to work through traffic. When you take a look at his highlight tapes, you first notice the 4.41-second speed that allows him to thrash opposing defenses. You’ll see the quick cuts and downhill style that helped him run for over 1,000 yards as a USC sophomore and you’ll also see a dose of physicality that helped the four-star recruit become one of the nation’s most sought-after tailbacks and attracted offers from Alabama, Notre Dame and USC, among many others.
Body Structure... Jones has a compact frame with good chest definition, and adequate shoulder width, but lacks a great wing span. He has a good bubble and better upper body thickness than you would expect from a 205-pound frame. He has decent arm muscle tone, big thighs, thick calves and the athleticism to make up for a lack of ideal or strength. He has small hands and short arms, but has been very conscious of ball security.
Athletic Ability... Jones needs to add more bulk to his frame, but might be at maximum growth potential, thus, some teams requested he work during wide receiver position drills at the Combine. He is not exceptionally fast or strong and has adequate shoulder definition, but compensates with good balance, body control and loose hips. He has a quick short area burst and good footwork, doing a nice job of shifting his weight and staying low in his pads to slip through traffic into the second level. He generates good body lean, moves and fakes to con the defender and is very effective using his outstanding change of direction agility. In isolated coverage, he will generally win the foot race vs. second level defenders. He has swivel hips, rather than veer and weave, doing a nice job of picking and sliding trying to find daylight.
Football Sense...Jones has excellent peripheral vision and good football awareness. He needs only normal reps to retain, as he’s instinctive and really prepares for the game. He does well in school and will not have problems digesting a complicated playbook. The thing you see on film is the way he can adjust to coverage and pick and slide, showing very good patience following his blockers. He might dance around too much in the backfield, but is not the type that tends to run out of bounds, and is more apt to fight for yardage than take the “easy” way out.
Initial Quickness...Jones not be the type to generate an explosive and sudden burst into the crease, but he has that low center of gravity that remind old time scouts of former Jets tailback Freeman McNeil. He has outstanding vision and stop-&-go action to freeze the defender and is a slippery runner through the holes. He runs with great balance and flashes good quickness on the move. He might not be able to simply fly past an opponent, but he can quickly pick and slide through trash and is a fast-twitched type who has no problem negotiating through even the tiniest of creases.
Acceleration/Burst...Jones is not going to win long distance foot races, but his balance, loose hips and short area burst is evident by the way he picks, slides and breaks into the second level. When he runs low in his pads, he has no problems separating from defenders and while he lacks blazing speed, his stride and acceleration will see him take the ball to the house (see 2017 Western Michigan, Stanford-both regular season and Pac-12 title, Arizona State, Arizona, UCLA games). He shows both burst and acceleration, changing angles sharply to find daylight and can quickly gain advantage over the defender.
Instincts/Balance...Jones has excellent change of direction agility and body control. He is very effective when taking the pitch and having time to scan the field. He is the type that can create quite a bit on his own, but also is patient following his blocks. He does a very good job of adjusting on the move and with his shiftiness in and out of his cuts, he can get past the second level consistently. He has good lower body strength (just adequate upper body) to break tackles and it is rare to see him go down on the initial hit.
Inside Running... Jones has that short area burst to make defenders miss and stays low in his pads to attack and move the pile. He is very conscious of ball security and has the forward body lean to gain positive yardage squeezing through tight quarters. He is very sudden to cut back, displaying above average vision and pick-and-slide agility. He will gain yardage between tackles, as he quickly sees the crease, but is best when having room to move and slide. With his balance and ability to keep his feet, along with his vision, he can find the seams quickly.
Outside Running...Jones bounces outside with good urgency. He has superb outside vision and can get to his top-end speed to take the ball to the house turning the corner. He moves well as an option running back, also, where he is able to capitalize on his balance and foot work. He has a very good feel for the cutback lanes, getting the bulk of his yardage when doing so. He might not have the timed speed to beat secondary defenders, but takes good angles and shows the head and shoulder fakes to take those opponents out of the play. With his body control, he excels at turning it up with his outside run.
Elusiveness...Jones might not have the blazing speed of other backs, but he is quick enough and shows very good balance to consistently flash the quickness needed to break down and step away from the defenders. He has good shake-and-bake moves, very loose hips and a darting style that gets him into the second level. He shows very good awareness to adjust on the move and good acceleration out of his cuts. What is puzzling is that he tends to dance quite a bit, running east-to-west instead of north-to-south in the backfield, looking for that perfect hole to attack.
Tackle-Breaking Strength...Jones will never be accused of being a blow ‘em up type of a ball carrier. He needs to add more upper body strength, but he runs hard, runs through and punishes tacklers with his leg drive. He can move the pile when he stays low in his pads, using his strong lower body and compact built to run through arm tackles. He’s not really a pile mover running inside, because of strength issues, as he is best when he utilizes his moves and quickness to break free. He does appear stronger when attacking the secondary, though.
Receiving Skills...The Trojan is also being considered as a receiver prospect. He shows very good hands coming out of the backfield to catch the pigskin. He is fluid when trying to extend his hands away from the framework, especially when attempting to get to off-target tosses. He shows good concentration to look the ball in and is quick to turn and head up field after the catch. He has the body control to adjust to the ball in flight and has a very good feel for getting open on the screens.
Route Running...Jones is used mostly on short rounded, screens and flats out of the backfield, but the team did line him wide on several occasions in 2017 after giving him time at flanker during preseason camp.
Blocking Ability...Jones is an adequate blocker, but limited. He will bend, and pop in pass protection and will attempt to stand his ground, but when he keeps his arms close to his body, he fails to pick up the blitz and sustain. He’s a decent cut blocker who will try to face up and strike, but he does not stone defenders.
Compares To...Bishop Sankey-Minnesota Vikings...Most compare Jones to Jamaal Charles, but like Sankey, I wonder if he has the frame to handle inside punishment at the next level.