The NFL is a copycat league, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see teams start to look toward smaller players who rely on athleticism and explosiveness to win in space with fresh eyes. After all, a team who appeared in the last two Super Bowls features one such player.
It also just so happens that the 2021 NFL Draft features a number of players who would have previously been dismissed as “gadget players” and relegated to special teams. Players like Demetric Felton, who has played both running back and wide receiver for UCLA. Felton was one of the standout performers at the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl, showing that he has the ability to contribute in both the running and passing game against NFL caliber opponents, under NFL coaching.
Felton’s performance over the course of Senior Bowl week likely put him on the NFL’s radar. And given the New York Giants need all the offensive explosiveness they can get, would they be interested? Or do the ever-traditional Giants simply not have a place for Felton in their offensive philosophy?
Prospect: Demetric Felton
Games Watched: vs. Arizona (2019), vs. Arizona (2020), vs. USC (2020), vs. Cal (2020)
Games Played: 31
Yards (YPC): 1,101 (4.7 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 958 (9.7 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 15 (7 rushing, 8 receiving)
Games Played: 6
Yards (YPC): 668 (5.1 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 159 (7.2 per reception)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 8 (3 rushing, 5 receiving)
Best: Stop/start quickness, agility, acceleration, contact balance, vision, receiving ability, versatility
Worst: Size, play strength, scheme limitations
Projection: A versatile offensive weapon in a spread offense.
UCLA’s Demetric Felton is a quick, agile, and explosive offensive weapon with the skill set to fill a variety of roles in a modern spread-inspired NFL offense.
Felton played both wide receiver and running back in UCLA’s offense and has upside as both a runner and receiver in the NFL. Felton shows good vision and contact balance as a runner. He runs with good tempo in the backfield, managing to both give his blocks time to develop and accelerate through the line of scrimmage. Felton does a good job of tracking defenders at the first and second level as well as anticipating where holes will materialize. He also has enough speed to gain the edge on outside zone plays.
Felton is a good receiver out of the backfield as well as when aligned in the slot. He hits his landmarks well as a route runner (both as a receiver and out of the backfield), and is generally where he is supposed to be, when he’s supposed to be there. Felton does a good job of navigating traffic and finding voids in zone coverage. He has solid ball skills, locating and adjusting well, as well as catching the ball with his hands. Felton frames the pass well and makes sure to secure the ball before turning upfield.
He is an explosive ball carrier as both a runner and receiver. Felton has excellent stop/start quickness, with the ability to sink his hips, stop on a dime, then explode in a new direction. He can be incredibly elusive and has the ability to make defenders miss in a phone booth. He also shows good contact balance, using his natural leverage to bounce off poor tackle attempts or run through arm tackles.
Felton is, however, a small player. He lacks play strength and the ability to push the pile as a runner and can be easily brought down if a defender gets a good angle on him. Likewise, while he is willing, he lacks the ability to be an effective pass protector. Felton understands his role in the blocking scheme, but doesn’t have great technique and can be overwhelmed by linebackers or larger defensive backs. He is much more useful releasing into the flat in scat protection.
Overall Grade: 6.7 - This prospect has the ability to be an effective contributor early in his career but has scheme limitations and won’t be for every team.
Felton projects best as a moveable offensive weapon in an offensive scheme based on Spread Offense concepts.
Felton is best looked at not as a receiver or running back, but as a hybrid of both positions. He has the vision and contact balance to be an effective runner for a team that uses outside zone blocking schemes in their rushing attack. His vision, instincts, and athleticism as a runner — as well as his ability to hide behind bigger offensive linemen — make him tough for defenses to get clean shots on. However, teams would likely want a bigger runner for an “every down” role. That’s particularly true if they want a runner who can contribute as a blocker in pass protection.
Likewise, he can be an effective slot receiver, with good route running and hands to secure the catch. Felton is equally elusive in space as he is behind the line of scrimmage and turns into a running back as soon as the catch is secured. He has the ability to turn any reception against zone coverage into a big play. However, teams might want a slot receiver with more size and a bigger catch radius for short yardage or red zone situations.
But if a team is willing to use Felton in both positions, he has the potential to be a real headache for defenses. His quickness, agility, acceleration, balance, and speed make him a legitimate problem for linebackers and safeties as both a runner and receiver — at least given a bit of space with which to work. Teams that run more traditional offenses will probably want to look elsewhere, but coaches who are willing to look to the college game for inspiration could have success with Felton.