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How to Scout College Running Backs (1 Viewer)

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
Haven't seen this topic since it was discussed a little bit last year. I've been thinking about it alot and have 9 categories that I've started reviewing for each RB I'm looking at. These require seeing alot of film of the backs, but I'd like to hear what folks think and how they scout the backs. In no particular order:1) Hole Vision - How well they see the hole, hit the hole and read the blocks. Not necessarily how fast, because patience can be a virtue. 2) Wiggle - How well the back keeps his feet moving, keeps his balance, moves through arm tackles and moves through tight spaces3) Cutback Vision - How well the player sees the field when in open space, how well they make the one cutback that is often needed, how well they set up their blocks once they're past the first line of defenders4) Moves - How well their moves are, usually in a one on one situation. This is the second or third cutback, or the shake and bake to get past that defender5) Speed/Quickness - How quick they make their cuts, how fast they are in the open field, how well they start and stop6) Power - How much power they bring to their runs, can they initiate contact, can they keep their leg drive going, can they fall forward7) Hands - How well they catch the ball, how well they protect the ball8) Build - Are they too thin to be a power runner, are they too tall, too short, too stocky, etc. Can they grow in a NFL weight room.9) Football Smarts - Do they understand the game situations, do they get in the right position to block, even if they aren't a good blocker, do they seem like a team playerI don't know that I can just assign "ratings" to all of those categories or anything. But they are the things I look at when scouting a RB. I imagine that others who get into this look at similar things, but does anyone think there are things that I'm missing, or that aren't as important? Or are there things you do differently?

 

azgroover

Footballguy
One thing I use to taper my expectations are seeing how much they get touched at the line of scrimmage and how long it takes before they have to shed a tackler or make a move. If you have a guy who puts up good numbers, but he just runs through gaping holes, I tend to put a little doubt in the guy's actual ability. I've tested this theory using Michigan RBs with alot of success.

 

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
One thing I use to taper my expectations are seeing how much they get touched at the line of scrimmage and how long it takes before they have to shed a tackler or make a move. If you have a guy who puts up good numbers, but he just runs through gaping holes, I tend to put a little doubt in the guy's actual ability. I've tested this theory using Michigan RBs with alot of success.
Great point and this is what I file under Wiggle. I'm beginning to think that category is more important that I initially thought. It's nice to see guys run though big holes like at KC and SEA in the NFL and Minn and Wisc (and sometimes Mich.) in college. But it's probably better to see how those RBs do when there isn't a big hole. Can they "wiggle" their way through the mass of bodies and arm tackles?
 

ILoveMyLions

Footballguy
I would separate blocking from football smarts. Although there is a part of blocking that has to do with picking up the right blitzer, etc. it also requires technique, balance, leverage, power and timing. This seems to be a different category.

 
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ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
I would separate blocking from football smarts. Although there is a part of blocking that has to do with picking up the right blitzer, etc. it also requires technique, balance, leverage, power and timing. This seems to be a different category.
I can see that. One of the reasons that I put blocking into football smarts was because so few college RBs are decent blockers when they come into the NFL. So I think most RBs would rate low on a blocking only category. But if they have football smarts, I can feel better about them understanding when to block and how important it is. There are certainly different physical skills though.
 

bro1ncos

IBL Representative
I would throw something in there about if they hit the hole hard when they see it. When they see a hole they need to get up to top speed in a couple steps to get through a hole in the NFL.

 

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
I would throw something in there about if they hit the hole hard when they see it. When they see a hole they need to get up to top speed in a couple steps to get through a hole in the NFL.
yeah< I sort of meant to include that in Hole Vision. They need to have the vision to see the hole and then hit it.
 
For dynasty leagues, I look for guys with all around games who are a little under-rated. It also doesn't hurt if they are very well rounded athletes. Some guys I targeted and drafted in the past include Mewelde Moore and Dom Davis. This year it was Vernand Morency.The thing they have in common is they are great athletes, first and foremost. And they've proven they are versatile enough to be threats both running and catching. They don't do anything spectacular, but they do everything pretty well.

 

Spike

Footballguy
I would add something to ignore combine data. Measureables do not seem to help, only hurt.

 

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
I would add something to ignore combine data. Measureables do not seem to help, only hurt.
:goodposting: About the only thing in there is speed and quickness. I think the 40 time is very overrated, but the 3 cone time can be useful.

 

Spike

Footballguy
I would add something to ignore combine data.  Measureables do not seem to help, only hurt.
:goodposting: About the only thing in there is speed and quickness. I think the 40 time is very overrated, but the 3 cone time can be useful.
My point is that I don't think the combine numbers are useful (unless you're seeing something like Maurice Clarett run the 40 slower than Madonna would run it) and that people take them into account more than how the player actually played and how their scouts assessed the players.
 

beto

Footballguy
Nice topic. Seems like most ofl your categories would require a lot more film study and knowledge of RB skills than I have. I simplify it a bit.1. Size speed combo - combine ht., wt. and 40 time. With 40 time being the least important factor.2. How they run - this probably combines your wiggle, hole and cutback vision categories. In the few times I get to see them, I try to see how these fit into the NFL RB prototype. Moves might also fall into this category.3. Hands - In the quest for the next Faulk or Holmes, it's nice to see if they are comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield.4. Power - How well they break tackles, move the pile. You touch on one category that I am trying to figure out in player evaluation and that relates to football smarts - Character. How are we supposed to tell if a guy with some character issues is going to be an Onterrio Smith or a Randy Moss??????? Probably a separate topic, eh?

 

Pittsburgh P

Footballguy
Honestly not even looking at all that stuff I usually can tell from just watching them play a game or two.
I would say that you probably are looking at all (or most) of that stuff, you just aren't thinking about it that way. You are more taking the totality of it into account by sight and feel and making your call.Kinda like some people do projections, some make lists, others do it free-style, but we all rank players somehow.

A lot of it comes down to what weight we give to various aspects of a player's game.

 

ConstruxBoy

Kate's Daddy
Nice topic. Seems like most ofl your categories would require a lot more film study and knowledge of RB skills than I have. I simplify it a bit.

1. Size speed combo - combine ht., wt. and 40 time. With 40 time being the least important factor.

2. How they run - this probably combines your wiggle, hole and cutback vision categories. In the few times I get to see them, I try to see how these fit into the NFL RB prototype. Moves might also fall into this category.

3. Hands - In the quest for the next Faulk or Holmes, it's nice to see if they are comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield.

4. Power - How well they break tackles, move the pile.

You touch on one category that I am trying to figure out in player evaluation and that relates to football smarts - Character. How are we supposed to tell if a guy with some character issues is going to be an Onterrio Smith or a Randy Moss??????? Probably a separate topic, eh?
yeah, you really have to see alot of a guy to judge these things, but you can get them as you watch without trying to break it out. Let me give you an example of the differences though. I'm a PSU fan and back in 2002 I also was in a league where we could have college guys and I had McGahee. So I watched alot of him and Larry Johnson. My thoughts on McGahee (pre-injury of course) were that his speed and moves were fantastic and his cutback vision was great, but his hole vision and wiggle was just average. He didn't seem to see the hole as well and didn't seem to run in tight spaces all that well.

Johnson was almost the opposite. He didn't have the moves or great speed/quickness, but he was excellent at hitting the holes and keeping his balance and running through arm tackles.

At the time, I (and most people I think) thought that McGahee would be far superior in the NFL because Johnson didn't have the "moves and speed to run away from NFL defenders".

Fast forward to today. Yes, McGahee was injured and yes the KC line is much better than the Buffalo line, but you can see that LJ has very good hole vision and outstanding wiggle. But he isn't faking out guys or running away from them.

And McGahee, even with the line not as good, doesn't seem to read his blocks and hit the holes all that well. In fact, I think Malarkey called him out on that specific part of his running style earlier in the season.

Who is the better runner right now and going forward?

Watching the game last night, I realized more clearly that White could be (could be, mind you) LJ and Bush could be McGahee in the NFL. White just seems to have fantastic hole vision and wiggle. There was one run in particular where he had to run by almost sliding along the back of one of his blockers and then kept his balance as a defender dove at his plant leg. Brilliant run. The problem with Bush is that he has such great moves/speed-quickness that you hardly ever see him run in tight spaces. He can probably do it great, but who knows.

BTW - I guess this wiggle category has alot in common with the phrase "running between the tackles", but in my opinion, when most people talk about a back not being able to run between the tackles (as they did with Bush before the season), they're really talking about his Build and Power. Is he big enough. I'm not sure that's it. I think Ron Dayne is the textbook example of a guy who can't run between the tackles because he doesn't have great wiggle, even though he is a big guy.

 

mooka

Footballguy
Here's a slightly different take on evaluating running backs. I've found that in the breaking down of a candidate into the component parts, things get lost. It doesn't end up sounding as elegant, but a simpler, more results oriented set of characteristics gives a different read on guys.

Required skills to be a competent NFL backup or borderline starter:

1. Tough enough

See: Lee Suggs, Mew Moore, etc., and on the other end of the spectrum Emmitt Smith. Is there a more physically demanding position in all of sports?

2. Gets the yards he's supposed to get

Finds and hits the hole, has minimum required levels of speed/strength, etc. Eric Metcalf could NOT get the yards he was supposed to get. Nick Goings does, but not much more.

3. Capable of pass blocking

4. Can catch a swing or screen pass

If a back doesn't have 1 and 2, and can't be taught 3 and 4, they aren't NFL caliber RB. They're an athlete playing the wrong position, and is really just a glorified special teamer. There are examples of guys who get very specialized roles because they are particularly good at one of these tasks (Larry Centers comes to mind).

Bonus skills that turn a backup into a starter (or star):

1. Gets the yards he shouldn't get

Edge has really turned this into an art form this season. He routinely gets 2-4 more yards on any particular play than he should by leaning, twisting, diving, stiff-arming, etc. Reggie Bush and Vince Young put on a clinic of this sort of ability last night, with Bush's "I can't believe he turned that corner, tight-roped the sideline, and dove that far" TD as the shining example.

2. Forces opponents to account for them in the passing game

See: Marshall Faulk

3. Gets stronger as the game goes on

See: Sweetness, Emmitt, etc.

So if I were evaluating this years top guys, I'd say Reggie Bush meets all of the above characteristics except for "bonus 3" ... sharing the load and with the frequent blowouts, I'm not sure we know. For LenDale White, I don't know that his pass receiving ability is particularly special, but he's pretty darn good at the rest. D. Williams also seems to meet all of the criteria.

In the next category down, I'm not sure Michael Bush can get the yards he's supposed to get ... not sure he's quick, agile or instinctive enough to do that at the next level.

Just my .02 ...

 

Pick

Footballguy
Good point on the blocking. I've seen plenty of RBs make the right read and be in position to pickup the blitz, but don't use the correct technique (either cuz they don't know or they're ####wads).

 

Cecil Lammey

Footballguy
First and foremost I would say that knowledge of college stats is the most important key. Did they dominate in the SEC or NAIA? Level of competition is also extremely important, but cannot be the only deciding factor. Remember, both Marshall Faulk and LaDainian Tomlinson played in the WAC, a conference that is known for pass happy offenses, and weak defenses. Not only should you look at where they went to college, but also look at who was recruiting them out of high school. Some great talents in college football have to transfer for various reasons, whether it’s grades, or disagreements with coaches. Talents like Rudi Johnson and Charlie Garner got their start in JUCO football, then they both transferred (to the SEC no less) and dominated with their respective teams.I like to also look at the actual yardage that they compiled while in college. This includes receiving yardage because we know in today’s NFL the coaches want their backs to be well rounded. We fantasy owners also want a back that doesn’t get pulled at the goal line or on 3rd down situations. YPC is an important stat to consider. I expect a college RB to average around 5 yards per carry while in college. A red flag goes up when I see a back that is only in the 4.3 to 4.1 range. Another important stat is actual carries that they have accumulated. In my opinion, RB’s are like tires-they only have so much tread. A RB that had 3 or 4 years of 300 plus carries, while showing great durability, also has less wear than a back that was subbed in and only had say, 1 year of full time starting. The average career span in the NFL for RB’s is 5 years. Recently, we’ve been blessed to see such runners as Curtis Martin, or Emmitt Smith, or Ricky Watters. These are backs that maintained a certain level of play for many years. They are the exception and not the norm. Look at someone like Terrell Davis, he didn’t play much in college, came into the pro’s, dominated for 4 years and then was out. Being able to spot an up and coming RB can mean the difference between having a consistent successful team every year, and being one and done.Look at what team drafted the RB. Are they a good fit for the system they’re in? Do they have a good OL in front of them? Are they on a pass happy team, or one that is dedicated to the run. Look at Marshall Faulk when he was a Colt. Don’t get me started on the Lindy Infante years (what a mess!). But when Marshall went to the Rams he took his skills to the next level. He was good as a Colt, but he was fantastic as a Ram. And finally, there is breaking down the actual game film. Yes, that even means preseason. Preseason is a time when you get to evaluate some players that may not get very much time in the regular season. Two things to remember when evaluating a preseason game. 1) Defensive coordinators are not going to show very much from their playbook. 2) It’s the preseason, so the great talent is going to be sitting for most of the game. Now, you may ask, why even break down preseason film? The answer is simple, we get to see these backs in a game situation and see how they respond/react. Take it with a grain of salt, but remember this: 4 years ago Rudi Johnson led the NFL in preseason rushing yardage, and I've had him on my team ever since. When watching the film, there are several key things to look for. Remember to watch the film like a coach, or a scout, don’t watch it like some arm chair quarterback. Watch to see if the back hit his holes on time. Watch his patience as the play progresses. Did he dance behind his linemen, or did he stretch the play out and make the most of it? Speed is very important in the NFL but don’t get caught up in 40 times. Fred Taylor only ran a 4.55 coming out of college and I’ve seen him outrace many defenders on his way to a 90 yard touchdown. The most important type of speed is “pad speed”. Terrell Davis was not fast whatsoever, but he had great pad speed and was hardly ever caught from behind. Power is very good to display as a young RB. Did he run out of bounds, or did he lower his head and move the pile? Look to see if he’s afraid of contact, or if he initiates the punishment. Footwork is probably the most important ingredient for a great RB. We all know Trung Canidate is super fast, but have you ever watched his feet when he made a cut? It’s horrible! It’s even worse than that, it was pathetic! Change of direction skills, and the ability not to lose much if any speed is extremely important. Canidate would make 4 or 5 steps to make a cut that Marshall Faulk could make in one.

 
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jeff_eaglz

Moderator
Nice topic. Seems like most ofl your categories would require a lot more film study and knowledge of RB skills than I have. I simplify it a bit.

1. Size speed combo - combine ht., wt. and 40 time. With 40 time being the least important factor.

2. How they run - this probably combines your wiggle, hole and cutback vision categories. In the few times I get to see them, I try to see how these fit into the NFL RB prototype. Moves might also fall into this category.

3. Hands - In the quest for the next Faulk or Holmes, it's nice to see if they are comfortable catching the ball out of the backfield.

4. Power - How well they break tackles, move the pile.

You touch on one category that I am trying to figure out in player evaluation and that relates to football smarts - Character. How are we supposed to tell if a guy with some character issues is going to be an Onterrio Smith or a Randy Moss??????? Probably a separate topic, eh?
Parts of the combine include the Wunderlic test and also interviews. That goes to character and intelligence assessments. That's probably more valuable than the 40 times (unless something glaring shows up).Last thing one needs is the next Mike Mamula....

 

Big

Footballguy
Two words for you my friend:MelKiper.(boy i hope the sarcasm adequately expresses itself in this thread)

 

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