Cameron Artis-Payne patiently waited for his turn as a featured back for the Auburn Tigers after spending the 2013 season backing up Tre Mason. Once Mason left for the NFL, it was Artis-Payne’s show and he didn’t disappoint. He carried the ball over 300 times and rushed for over 1,600 yards with 13 touchdowns as a senior.
At 5-11 and 212 pounds, Artis-Payne has the frame to handle the pounding of an NFL season. He is the type of back that is going to earn his paycheck between the tackles and fits perfectly in the Carolina Panthers' offense. One of the reasons he is successful in this part of the field is because of his vision. Once that hole opens up, he is through it quickly with great acceleration, like on this play against LSU.
The other thing that stands out from this play is that Artis-Payne, while he has good acceleration, does not have that breakaway speed to finish a play off in the endzone. This is not a bad thing but Artis-Payne is going to be a grinding out type of back and not necessarily that home run hitter.
This is another play from earlier in the year against Arkansas that illustrates this point. The play also shows another strength of his game which is his balance and his ability to break tackles. He is a powerful runner who is usually not going down on first contact and can run through arm tackles. More importantly once he breaks those tackles, he is able to keep his balance to pick up more yards.
In the game against LSU he showed his leg strength and drive, where he was able to take a play that should have been stopped in the backfield but spun to the outside. He was able to fall forward just enough to pick up the first down.
Some areas that still remain a question mark from the two games that I watched is his pass protection and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. In those games he caught four passes for 49 yards. A couple of his catches were not easy as they were off target and behind him but he did have one drop that should have been caught. It is unfortunately just too small of a sample size to get a great feel for this part of his game.
As for pass protection, he was not asked to do it much in those games due to the style of offense Auburn runs. If it was a pass play, he was generally running a route out of the backfield. If he can show this offseason to be a capable and willing blocker, it is going to make this position much stronger.
The Carolina Panthers were searching for a running back who could help shoulder some of the rushing attack with Jonathan Stewart after releasing DeAngelo Williams this offseason. Artis-Payne certainly has the potential to be the guy.