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2021 NFL Draft prospect profile: Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech

Herbert profiles as a chain-moving back

Virginia Tech v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert is one of those prospects who has had a winding path to the NFL. He spent the first four years of his collegiate career at Kansas where he was fairly unremarkable. Herbert showed promise but never saw more than 120 carries in a season at Kansas and he ultimately transferred to Virginia Tech early in 2019.

The decision to go to Virginia Tech proved to be a good one, and the fifth-year senior had a breakout campaign, shattering his career highs in yards, yards per carry (excluding his four-game 2019 season), touchdowns, receiving yards, and yards per catch.

Herbert still isn’t an exciting runner, but he built on the momentum of his 2020 season with a strong showing at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Considering the New York Giants weigh the Senior Bowl heavily, Herbert might have caught their eye and they might look to him if they need a reliable backup for Saquon Barkley.

Prospect: Khalil Herbert

Games Watched: vs. Duke (2020), vs. North Carolina (2020), vs. Boston College (2020), vs. Miami (2020)
Red Flags: Hamstring (week 7, 2020)

Measurables

Career Stats

Games Played: 46
Carries: 475
Yards (YPC): 2,918 (6.1 per carry)
Receptions: 34
Yards (YPC): 297 (8.7 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 23 (22 rushing, 1 receiving)

2020 Stats

Games Played: 11
Carries: 155
Yards (YPC): 1,183 (7.6 per carry)
Receptions: 10
Yards (YPC): 179 (17.9 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 9 (8 rushing, 1 receiving)

Quick Summary

Best: Vision, contact balance, agility, quickness,burst, patience, competitive toughness
Worst: Speed, overall athleticism
Projection: A solid rotational running back in a zone blocking scheme.

Game Tape

Full Report

Khalil Herbert is a compact runner from Virginia Tech with a good blend of quickness, agility, burst, vision, contact balance, and competitive toughness.

Herbert typically played out of the shotgun or pistol alignment and exclusively ran in a zone blocking scheme in Virginia Tech’s offense. Herbert is a patient runner behind the line of scrimmage, playing with good tempo to allow his blocks time to develop. He has very good vision to track defenders along the line of scrimmage as well as the second level and anticipate when holes will open or gaps will be filled. Herbert is quick to react to running lanes opening or closing and wastes little time in making his decisions. He shows good quickness and agility in making his cuts, as well as picking his way through traffic around the line of scrimmage.

Herbert has a strong burst out of his cuts and also shows good contact balance to keep his feet despite arm tackle attempts. He has enough speed to win the edge in off-tackle runs, but is also a tough, competitive runner who is perfectly willing to run behind his pads and challenge defenders for yards after contact.

Herbert is a willing blocker, both as a pass protector and as a lead blocker. He shows a good awareness of the defense and blocking assignments, as well as good-enough technique as a pass protector. He is a willing lead blocker on read-option or H-back runs, getting out in front of the run and looking to deliver hits to linebackers or defensive backs. He also puts legitimate effort into trying to sell play-action or read-option plays, continuing to run as though he has the ball, even when he doesn’t.

But while Herbert is a willing blocker, his stature does show up occasionally when trying to block bigger defenders. Likewise, it would be good to see him be a bit more consistently aggressive in attacking defenders in pass protection.

Herbert’s greatest detriment is limited athleticism. He is quick and has a good burst, but he isn’t a truly dynamic athlete, able to string together moves, be truly explosive, or find an extra gear to pull away from defenders in the open field.

Overall Grade: 6.5 - This prospect has a high floor and should be an important, and reliable, contributor early in his career. He does, however, have some athletic limitations which could lower his ceiling.

Projection

Khalil Herbert projects as a solid number two or rotational back in an offense which uses a zone blocking scheme.

Herbert isn’t an exciting “human highlight reel” of a runner, and that will cause him to be overlooked by some. That, however, would be a mistake. Herbert should be a consistent producer and chain-mover at the NFL level, as his style will allow him to make the most his blocking on any given play and minimize negative plays.

Herbert should appeal to teams that want to primarily run a zone blocking scheme, as he does a great job of picking out running — and cutback — lanes as the defense gets stressed laterally. He also has the potential to pick up chunk yardage with a good burst out of his cuts, as well as contact balance and stop/start agility to make defenders miss. That being said, he won’t be a home-run threat in the NFL. Herbert has enough speed to sustain the separation from his burst for a time, but he can (and likely will) be run down from behind.

He is also something of an unknown as a receiver. He has never had more than 10 receptions in a season, and while he flashes the ability to frame the ball with his hands, he can also be prone to fighting the ball. His route tree is largely limited to tosses or releasing into the flat for check downs. Coaches will want to work with him to develop his receiving ability and make him a more well-rounded contributor.