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Patriots Prospect Profile: Keith Marshall

The Patriots need a running back, specifically one with breakaway speed that can take some pressure off the aging Tom Brady. Keith Marshall was considered a top prospect as a freshman, but after tearing up his knee in 2013, he missed most of 2014, then lost his job and had to battle for carries in 2015. He showed NFL scouts he is still a speed threat with a 4.3 forty at the combine, the fastest of any running back.

The Patriots are in desperate need of running back depth, preferably depth that has good speed considering that it is one of New England’s weak points. As Tom Brady ages and still continues to face a possible four-game suspension, the one thing the Patriots can do to make his job easier and keep the offense dangerous is to develop a strong running game. The Patriots do like to use a committee of backs, but that shouldn't be an issue for Marshall as he split time with Todd Gurley and Nick Chubb. In fact, Marshall splitting time allowed him to fully recover gradually without taking a ton of wear-and-tear as he tried to return from a major knee injury. If there was still a problem with the knee, Marshall wouldn't have run the fastest 40 for running backs with a 4.3.

Check out the video below from Dawg Post to hear what Marshall has to say about outside distractions; this should put him in Belichick's spotlight: 

Marshall, 22, is listed at 5'11, 220 pounds, a good build for someone with his world class speed. Marshall was the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior, carrying the ball 258 times for 1,891 yards and 25 touchdowns. His junior year he ran for 1,539 yards and 17 touchdowns, and his sophomore year he rushed for 1,165 yards and 11 touchdowns. Scout.com ranked Marshall as the number one running back, number 12 overall, and number two overall in the state of Georgia, a hotbed for great D-1 football prospects. Marshall also excelled in track, winning the 100 meter state championship as a senior. 

As a freshman at Georgia in 2012, Marshall exploded onto the scene along with fellow freshman stud running back Todd Gurley, who also ended up battling injuries but overcame them and is now one of the best running backs in the NFL. As a freshman, Marshall carried the ball 117 times for 759 yards and seven touchdowns while also pulling in 11 receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. Marshall was named Georgia's "Newcomer of the Year" and seemed well on his way to a tremendous career and a chance at being a high draft pick when he eventually declared for the draft. Unfortunately, best laid plans don't always work out, and Marshall was about to deal with some serious adversity.

Six games into Marshall's sophomore year he tore his ACL against Tennessee, and he was lost for the season. ACL injuries are a fact of life in football, especially for running backs, and Marshall had no choice but to rehab and try to come back strong in 2014. When he attempted to return, his ACL wasn't repaired properly and he only ended up playing three games before Mark Richt and the Georgia coaching staff decided to shut him down for the season. 

Marshall finally returned to health in 2015, but when he returned he was the backup to Nick Chubb. In a twist of fate, Chubb went down with an injury and Marshall, who had been getting a few carries here and there, replaced Chubb and had the opportunity to show NFL scouts that he still had the ability to be a good NFL running back. He finished the year with 68 rushes, 358 yards, three rushing touchdowns, four catches, 28 yards receiving, and one touchdown catch. In his final game, he carried 14 times for 62 yards against Penn State and showed that he had his speed back, which was an issue because many scouts thought he was done. Marshall was voted Comeback Player of the Year for the Bulldogs and decided to enter the NFL Draft instead of applying for a waiver due to his knee problem.

Marshall was projected to go between the 6th and 7th round, but his excellent combine should vault him up at least two rounds. If Marshall never blows out his knee, he is at least a second round pick, maybe higher. Now he has proven to be back healthy, and we know that it typically takes two full years to get back to 100%, and Marshall is in year three. He proved himself when he finally got back on the field in 2015, and his combine simply can't be ignored- somebody is going to get a steal.

The Patriots are known to have a much different draft boards than some of the so-called "experts", and although they've had their misses on unknown or formerly injured players, they've also nailed it on others. Considering their need for a running back and their war chest of picks, Marshall is a worthy gamble in the third or fourth round. The Patriots need a home run hitter and Marshall is the guy that can bring that to their offense. 

High School and College Statistics Provided by GeorgiaDogs.com

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