Scouting the Draft: Running Backs

In Part 3 of our Packers draft preview, we examine the final four rounds of running back prospects. This is likely where the Packers will add to their backfield corps. Will it fit the usual big-guy mold or will they go outside the box for a change-of-pace back and returner?

ROUNDS 4-7: BIG GUYS

David Cobb, Minnesota (5-11, 229; 4.81): As a senior, he started all 13 games and rushed 314 times (school record) for 1,626 yards (school record) and 13 touchdowns (third in school history). His 2,893 career rushing yards rank seventh all-time in program history. He’s not much of a receiving threat.

“Much like former Falcons tailback Michael Turner, Cobb earns most of his success pounding the inside rush lanes,” reads his scouting report. “He will never have NFL-caliber second-gear ability, but he’s an excellent downhill runner with good power and vision. He needs to develop more flavor to his route running and it is very important he develops better ball security skills, as he exposes the ball too much, which could lead to fumble issues.”

Karlos Williams, Florida State (6-1, 230; 4.48): Williams opened his career at safety and even started a game at linebacker but moved to running back before the second game of the 2013 season. He rushed for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging a gaudy 8.0 per carry in 2013. In 2014, he managed 689 yards (4.6 average) and 11 touchdowns. While his rushing production slipped, he emerged as a receiver, coming up with 29 catches for 265 yards and a score. Even with his great size, only Langford beat his 40 time at the Combine. His brother, Vince, played linebacker for the Seminoles and starts for the Steelers. Teams seem to be cautious about embracing this talent, as he was under investigation during the summer after a Tallahassee man claimed Williams set him up for a drug robbery.

“Williams has a lot of ‘old school’ in him, as he runs over his feet with good base and balance,” reads his scouting report. “He sets up his blocks well, has above-average field vision and displays a natural feel for the running lanes. He can find the hole in an instant and will cutback fluidly, showing a nice bounce in his step. He has that instinctive feel and vision to spot even the slightest of crease and, unlike a lot of young backs, has the patience of a veteran when it comes to following his blocks.”

Dominique Brown, Louisville (6-2, 234; 4.63): The bruising Brown — who started his collegiate career at quarterback — had a breakout junior season with 825 rushing yards and 24 receptions but rushed for 397 yards (3.9 average) and four touchdowns as a senior. He carried just once in the final six games after opening the season with 142 yards vs. Miami.

“For a player of his size, he shows good foot agility and balance,” reads his scouting report. “He takes short, pitter-patter steps and demonstrates the loose hips to change direction and come out of his breaks with an explosive upfield burst.”

Matt Jones, Florida (6-2, 231; 4.61): Jones rushed for 817 yards (4.9 average) and six touchdowns in 2014 and 1,431 yards and 11 scores in his three seasons. He missed most of 2013 with a virus (early) and knee injury (late). Without “naturally soft hands,” he caught just 19 passes in 29 career games. He’s OK in protection.

“When healthy, Jones gets into the holes with good urgency and has the low center of gravity to run at a proper pad level when taking plays to the outside,” reads his scouting report. “He is better served as a one-cut runner, but he demonstrates adequate lateral agility and slide to redirect. He has good open-field acceleration and the body flexibility to extend and pluck the ball outside his frame.”

Malcolm Brown, Texas (5-11, 224; 4.62): In 25 starts over four seasons, Brown rushed for 2,678 yards (4.3 average) and 24 touchdowns and added 51 receptions for 382 yards and three more scores. As a senior, he ran for 708 yards (3.9 average). He caught 16 passes but probably won’t be highly regarded by the Packers because of protection issues.

“Brown is more of a dart-and-weave type of runner than a power back, but has the functional strength in his hands to protect the ball with good urgency and concentration,” reads his scouting report. “As a route runner, he lacks technique.”


CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL SCOUTING REPORTS from the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas.


ROUNDS 4-7: LITTLE GUYS

Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn (5-10, 212; 4.53): The junior-college transfer rushed for 2,218 yards (5.6 average) and 19 touchdowns while adding 14 receptions in two years at Auburn. He had a huge senior season with 1,608 yards (5.3 average), 13 touchdowns and 13 receptions.

“The thing that you notice immediately about Artis-Payne is his change-of-direction agility and body control,” reads his scouting report. “When the rush lane is clogged, he’s has the feel to redirect and bounce outside, but does not have the speed to take the ball to the house down the sidelines.”

Terrance Magee, LSU (5-9, 213; 4.62): By the time he finished his LSU career, he had just one starting assignment — coming during his final season — to show on his resume. While 226 carries for 1,330 yards (5.9 average) and 12 touchdowns might be good numbers for a player in a season, that would be Magee’s final numbers. Magee, who spent time at receiver early in his career, added 24 career catches. However, he’s a respected team leader who opened eyes at the East-West all-star game.

“Magee is strictly a north-south runner, as his agility tests and running stride show his hip stiffness, preventing him from being effective bouncing out wide,” reads his scouting report. “He has the functional leg drive to break tackles and shows good forward body lean, but must stay at a low proper pad level to drag defenders for extra yardage.”

Mike Davis, South Carolina (5-9, 217): At Clemson, Davis’ brother, James, rushed for 3,881 yards and an ACC second-best 47 touchdowns. As a junior in 2014, Mike Davis led the team with 199 carries for 982 yards (4.9 average) and nine touchdowns and added 32 catches for an 11.5-yard average and two more scores. Two fumbles cost him a lot of playing time down the stretch.

“Davis has decent initial quickness and timed speed, but it is his body control and balance in his running stride that really stands out,” reads his scouting report. “He keeps his pad level low to generate solid lower-body power in attempts to break tackles. He builds to top acceleration and runs with a normal stride. He has adequate change-of-direction agility and does a good job of twisting and adjusting his body on the move.”

Josh Robinson, Mississippi State (5-9, 215; 4.62): In three seasons, he rushed for 1,997 yards and a school-record 6.2 per carry, including 1,203 yards (6.3) in 2014. He added 43 career receptions, with 28 of those coming this past season.

“Robinson is patient letting his blocks develop and catches the ball with good confidence,” reads his scouting report. “He also has the short area receiving skills and perimeter explosiveness to be a capable third-down back.”

Akeem Hunt, Purdue (5-10, 189; 4.40): Hunt is a jack-of-all-trades weapon. For his career, he rushed for 2,035 yards (5.5 average), caught 100 passes for 841 yards and averaged 23.8 yards per kickoff return. As a senior, he rushed for 949 yards and caught a team-high 48 passes.

“Hunt is used mostly on controlled routes, but in opportunities lining wide, he shows Percy Harvin-like ability to get into his route and get behind the defender,” reads his scouting report. “Even on screens and flats, he knows how to avoid contact. He has the speed and balance to run crisp routes and can separate on all levels.”

Trey Williams, Texas A&M (5-8, 195) In three seasons, Williams started just twice and rushed for 1,343 yards (6.6 average) and 18 touchdowns. Williams’ receiving skills are a work in progress, so his immediate appeal will be as a change-of-pace runner and kickoff returner (24.1 career average).

“Williams demonstrates above-average body control, balance and lateral footwork,” reads his scouting report. “He's extremely difficult to tackle in space or in a phone booth, and he has the speed and quickness to take it outside and turn the corner, along with excelling on the cutback.”

Malcolm Agnew, Southern Illinois (5-9, 202; 4.61): Agnew — the son of longtime NFL defensive lineman Ray Agnew Jr. and the brother of Cowboys fullback Ray Agnew III — opened his career at Oregon State. In two seasons at SIU, he rushed for more than 1,700 yards and caught 29 passes.

“Keeping Agnew healthy has been a problem (ankle and hamstring),” reads his scouting report. “While that burst gives you the impression that Agnew is quick, he does lack great long speed. Agnew does cut smoothly and can run through narrow lanes. As a receiver, Agnew lacks route-running experience.”

Michael Dyer, Louisville (5-9, 218; 4.58): Dyer, who starred for Auburn as a freshman, rushed for 3,039 yards (5.3 average) and 22 scores in four seasons. With four schools and multiple suspensions — including an academic suspension for this year’s bowl game — it’s hard to imagine Dyer is on the Packers’ board. Then again, they gave a shot to Colt Lyerla last year, so who knows?

FOUR WILD CARDS

Johnathan Crockett, North Dakota State (6-0, 217; 4.62): Crockett was a second-team FCS All-American after setting school records for all purpose yards (2,419) and rushing yards (1,994), and his 21 touchdown runs were two shy of the team record. Plus, he ranked third on the team with 30 receptions. He didn’t fumble on almost 400 touches as a senior — a good thing for a team with little tolerance for coughing up the ball. A scout called him a smaller version of Ryan Grant.

Dreamius Smith, West Virginia (5-11, 223; 4.48): His pro day elevated Smith’s stock. The junior-college transfer rushed for 451 yards (5.6 average) and five touchdowns and caught 11 passes (just 41 yards) as a senior. He certainly has the size and strength the Packers like if not the receiving background (two catches as a junior).

Marcus Murphy, Missouri (5-8, 193; 4.61): Murphy rushed for 924 yards (5.2 average), caught 28 passes for 212 yards (7.6 average), and averaged 29.6 yards per kickoff return (two touchdowns) and 10.4 yards per punt return (one touchdown) as a senior. He leaves Mizzou with seven career return touchdowns (four on punts, three on kickoffs) and 4,905 all-purpose yards (second to Jeremy Maclin).

B.J. Catalon, TCU (5-7, 186; 4.57): Catalon was one of five finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, which goes to the nation’s most versatile player. He rushed for 493 yards (5.0 average), caught 14 passes for 163 yards (11.6 average) and averaged 31.8 yards with one touchdown on kickoff returns.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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