Much is often made of the NFL Scouting Combine and the 40-yard dash in particular. Prospects who run well are often vaulted up draft boards, while prospects with disappointing 40 times can see their draft stock drop.
Auburn’s Tank Bigsby, for example, wasn’t getting much national buzz before the Combine, and is getting even less after a workout that left something to be desired.
And athletic testing is an important factor — for some positions. But other positions, like running back, don’t depend quite as heavily on raw athleticism for consistent production. There’s no way to measure vision and contact balance doesn’t show up on a stopwatch. There are always prospects who can help an NFL offense, but are overshadowed by more dynamic athletes.
Bigsby may have had a disappointing Combine performance, but his tape reveals a solid player who could do the important work of keeping an offense on schedule.
Could that kind of runner appeal to the New York Giants?
Games Played: 35
Yards (YPC): 2,903 (5.4 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 448 (7.2 per catch)
Games Played: 12
Yards (YPC): 970 (5.4 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 180 (6.0 per catch)
Best: Competitive toughness, contact balance, acceleration, down-hill running
Worst: Long speed, ball security
Projection: A rotational running back in a zone blocking scheme.
Auburn’s Tank Bigsby is a tough and highly competitive running back prospect.
Bigsby is primarily a one-cut running back who has experience playing out of the shotgun, I formation, and as a Wildcat quarterback. He has solid size and athleticism for the position at the NFL level at 5-foot 11 ⅝ inches, 210 pounds. And while Bigsby’s long speed (as evidenced by his 4.56 second 40 time) isn’t spectacular, he does feature good acceleration and a very good burst out of his cuts.
Bigsby runs with good tempo behind the line of scrimmage. He understands how to run with patience and allow his blockers to establish their blocks, as well as change his speed or use quick hesitations to force defenders to change their angles. Bigsby may be a one-cut runner, but his cuts are crisp and sudden when he approaches his intended hole. Once through the hole, he has a very good burst which seems to take defenders by surprise and force poor tackle attempts.
He has solid vision at the first level, allowing him to anticipate defenders around the line of scrimmage and prepare himself for contact. Bigsby has excellent contact balance. He easily survives contact around the line of scrimmage and maintains his footing as he weathers arm tackles or shoulder checks. He is a very difficult runner for defensive backs or even lone linebackers to bring down, which can lead to a lot of yards after contact.
Bigsby is a solid receiver out of the backfield, though he was mostly used as a check-down option or on passes behind the line of scrimmage.
Bigbsy’s acceleration allows him to gain early separation from defenders, and he has enough speed to maintain that separation to pick up chunk yardage in the open field.
That said, Bigsby is going to get run down from behind. He’s capable of generating chunk yardage, but won’t have many truly explosive plays. And while Bigsby’s competitiveness leads to yards after contact, it can also lead to issues with ball security. Bigsby fights incredibly hard to not go down, but that also creates opportunities for defenders to punch the ball out while he fights to keep the play alive.
He can also have instances where his hands are suspect as a receiver. He usually secures the ball well, but there are plays where he bobbles the ball before securing it.
Overall Grade: 6.7
Tank Bigsby projects as a rotational running back for a team that primarily runs a zone blocking scheme.
Bigsby’s acceleration, contact balance, and competitive toughness should allow him to be effective in all areas of the field. He can pick up chunk yardage between the 20’s, while his acceleration makes him effective on quick-hitting plays in the Red Zone.
He is a relatively limited athlete and might never be a “bellcow” back at the NFL level. Bigsby probably shouldn’t be put in positions where he needs to string moves together often, and he might not be an attractive option for teams that make heavy use of the running back in the passing game.
Bigsby’s ball security might be the bigger problem at the NFL level. The fumbles in the games viewed were more due to his intense competitiveness than his technique. His refusal to go down is an asset, but it does give defenders added chances to punch the ball out. That said, the instances where he bobbles the ball as a receiver are more concerning. Runners need to be reliable receiving options in the modern NFL, and Bigsby may struggle to find the field if his hands aren’t reliable.
Teams may want to pair Bigsby with a 3rd down specialist, but Bigsby could be a useful back in short-yardage or goal line situations early on in his career. He might not be a flashy back, but Bigsby is the type to keep an offense on schedule.