But one senior is gaining momentum as he goes through the draft process, telling people to "expect the unexpected" from him.
His name is Matt Forte. And he's a big, physical running back who is drawing early comparisons to the Cardinals' Edgerrin James and the Colts' Joseph Addai for his ability to gain yards both with his feet and his hands, while also serving as an effective blocker for his quarterback when he's asked to stay in the backfield for added protection.
"I can run inside the tackles, and run outside of the tackles also," he explained while describing his running style to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine on Thursday. "I have speed and power, so I'm very versatile as a runner."
Matt Forte runs for a 46-yard touchdown versus Rice in 2007.
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
Forte averaged over 177 yards rushing per game for a total of 2,127 yards during his senior year. One of just three players in the nation to break the 2,000-yard mark, Forte sees himself as an every-down back at the pro level.
And why shouldn't he?
He also grabbed 32 passes for 282 yards during his final year at Tulane. At 6-foot-1, 221 pounds, he can pick up blitzing linebackers with ease. With that demonstrated ability and experience on his resume, Forte believes he has an important edge in this year's draft class.
"It means I don't have to come off the field on third downs. I can run
pass routes or block," he said.
Asked what his secret to success is when he's called on to protect his quarterback, Forte said, "Basically, it's all technique and want-to. A lot of guys aren't asked to do that in college, and you have to want to do it."
Yet despite his accomplishments, Forte knows he still has his doubters.
"For some reason, they think I'm not as fast or shifty as some of the other guys," he said.
Like Edgerrin James, Forte doesn't always look particularly quick while he's rumbling over and through would-be tacklers. But he piles up the yardage, seems to get stronger as the game progresses, and is more explosive than many people give him credit for. So he can't wait to show off his speed against some of the nation's finest running backs who have gathered in Indianapolis to showcase their talent this week.
"With all the juniors who came out, also with all the other great running backs who are seniors who came out, it gets your adrenalin going and gets you competitive just thinking about it," he said. "I'm really anxious to get started, get the tests done and see how I compare to them."
One other issue that some doubters raise about Forte is the level of competition he faced in Conference USA. But Forte believes that earning the MVP Award at the Senior Bowl Game was an important step towards putting that issue to rest.
"Being out there with a lot of guys from the SEC, the Big Ten, the Big 12 — and playing against them — it helped me answer that question," he said.
It also helps that Forte is used to being doubted and overlooked. He explained that as far back as high school, he got overlooked by major college football programs despite putting up strong numbers at that level as well. When only Tulane, McNeese State and Northwestern State made offers to him, Forte decided to go with the only Division I-A school out of the bunch. And once he was there, he said that he didn't feel he got as much recognition as someone would have gotten for similar achievements at other schools.
Forte collides with USC's Keith Rivers during the Senior Bowl game.
AP Photo/Dave Martin
So he uses those oversights as fuel for his competitive fire.
"That's what I think about every day when I'm working out and in everything that I'm doing," he said. "I think that actually added some motivation to me to do better things this year, in being that people don't really recognize Tulane football as a big-time school.for football.
"I had to come out and do something exceptional this year to get noticed, to get on the map. That just boils my blood that people can say 'downgrade' just because it's Tulane, just because of the name of the school."
As a result, Tulane's Matt Forte has arrived in Indianapolis recognizing both the challenge and the opportunity that awaits over the next few days.
"I still have a lot to prove," he said. "I think a lot of guys out here, they doubt my speed, and they may doubt other things. I just want to come out here and show them my full ability — that I'm an every-down running back, and that I can be one of the biggest, the fastest and the strongest running backs here."
So keep your eye on Matt Forte this week at the NFL Combine. And expect the unexpected.
Because that's what you're likely going to see from this quietly confident and very talented football player.