Rashad Jennings played the past four seasons at Liberty University after transferring from the University of Pittsburgh in order to be closer to his father.
Given how well he fared at the Senior Bowl — he didn't seem awed by the spotlight and rushed for 41 yards on nine carries — it appears he could have had a long and productive career with the Panthers had he not chosen the Flames instead.
As it stands, he did very well for himself at Liberty, with 720 career rushing attempts for 4,051 yards (5.6 average) and 42 touchdowns. He also added 48 receptions for 557 yards (11.6 average) and four touchdowns.
Against any level of competition, scoring a touchdown every 17 times you touch the football as a running back is very impressive and worth a fair share of recognition.
Jennings on the run at Liberty
Photo: Liberty University Athletics
Jennings did not receive his fair share of recognition, however, until his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine, where he met with the Colts. He wowed scouts by bench pressing 225 pounds 29 times to lead his position group and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds — a very impressive time for a man of his size at 6-feet-1 and 231 pounds.
While at the Combine, Jennings sat down with several teams, including the Colts, Scout.com Senior NFL Analyst Ed Thompson told ColtPower.
He also showed strong lateral movement by posting a time of 4.2 seconds in the short shuttle — any difference of .4 seconds or more between the 40-yard dash and the short shuttle shows that a player is also agile and has good short area quickness in addition to their straight line speed.
Obviously a very powerfully built man and fast and agile enough to do some damage in the open field, there is no doubt that Jennings should be a successful NFL player given the right situation. Scout.com agrees, ranking Jennings as the 6th running back and the 50th player overall.
He has drawn several favorable comparisons to Matt Forte, a second-round back in last year's draft who was productive for a small school and climbed up draft boards after a strong Senior Bowl and a surprising showing at the Combine.
Where the two part company, however, is in their abilities in the passing game — both as a blocker and a receiver. Although Forte was not asked to block much at Tulane — he was far more valuable to the team with the ball in his hands or running a pattern — he was a willing blocker and showed some promise in that area in drills at last year's Combine.
Jennings didn't show as much aptitude for blocking and, unfair as it may be, the Colts are looking for a player that can pass block as well as be a skilled receiver.
Though Jennings can certainly catch, he only averaged 12 receptions per season at Liberty, was not involved in the passing game at the Senior Bowl, and didn't stand out in drills at the Combine, so it's safe to say that operating as a receiver out of the backfield is not one of his strong suits, though it might not necessarily be a liability.
The same could have been said about Forte heading into last year's draft, though, and he ended up catching 63 passes for the Bears in 2008. To be fair, Forte showed more promise as a receiver during the 2008 draft season than Jennings has so far, but the fact that Jennings hasn't caught a bunch of passes thus far in his career shouldn't exclude him from the Colts' plans.
What will end up excluding him from their plans is that he's too good of a fit for other teams that draft ahead of Indianapolis for them to pass on him in the second round and he's not quite perfect enough — as Joseph Addai was in 2006 — for the Colts to take him in the first round.
Jennings will be a productive player for some NFL team for a number of years, but it unfortunately will most likely not be in Indianapolis. They simply have too many other needs and Jennings is just poor enough of a fit — and a good enough one for some other teams — that he could slip away.
This is assuming, of course, that someone takes him in the second round. If he starts to slide down draft boards because of his size, his lack of Division I experience, or because he's turning 24 on March 26th, then the Colts should certainly scoop him up if he falls to them in the third round.
Provided that they don't re-sign Dominic Rhodes and given that they can't be sure about the health of Mike Hart, they owe it to themselves to take a player of Jennings' caliber if he makes himself available to them in the third round.
But not in the first or second round. He'd be a good player for them, but not that good.