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Armchair GM – 5 at 5 to Watch, the Running Backs – Draft 2017

April 3, 2017
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Armchair GM – 5 at 5 to Watch, the Running Backs – Draft 2017

In this segment of 5 at 5 to Watch we look at some VIDEO on a wide variety of Running Backs. It’s a pretty deep class so there is a lot of potential even in the later rounds. The Steelers will probably not go for a RB until the 3rd Rd or later so the blue chip guys, Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook will be long gone as will be Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey. The Steelers have two 3rd Rd picks so it’s conceivable they might be going for depth and insurance for the offensive backfield.

The Steelers value Running Backs who can catch and block so those qualities weigh heavy in evaluating prospects. That’s how the position is evolving, with just strong running not being enough. It’s a game of touches and how many schemes a back can fit. It’s possible the Steelers might want to add two backs of contrasting styles, one early and one late as the position was very thin last year and roster spots should be available.

2nd to 3rd Rd – Jeremy McNichols – 5′-9″, 214#, 4.49/40 – McNichols is a patient runner, who can quick cut in either direction. He has some power for his size as well and will break through arm tackle attempts. Can run between the tackles. The Steelers have been looking for that Scatback/Spark for years and McNichols fits the role well. Good receiver out of the backfield. Had incredible production for Boise and was their red zone specialist, with 240 att, 1337 yds, 5.6 avg and 20 TDs rushing and 51 receptions for 460 yards and 6 TDs in his Sophomore year. McNichols had 314 att, 1709 yds, 5.4 avg, 23 TDs and 37 receptions for 474 with a 12.8 average and 4 TDs as a Junior.

“Able to elude sudden traffic in backfield. Not much dancing. Can shift rush tracks without tapping brakes. Fluid, flexible hips allow for multiple jump cuts and direction changes up to second level. Great vision and quick to process field in front of him. Trusts his offensive line and doesn’t need point of entry for committed, downhill approach. Anticipates flow of second level defenders and responds accordingly.” NFL.com

2nd to 3rd Rd – Marlon Mack – 5′-11″, 213#, 4.50/40 – 125 in. broad jump – Mack looks bigger than his listed size. He’s a smooth runner but can also lower the shoulder pads for extra yards. His pass catching role was expanded in 2016 with Mack often lining up as a wideout. He tracks the ball well and is a hands catcher. In his Senior year Mack had 174 att., 1187 ys, 6.8 avg, 15 TDs and 28 rec. for 227 yds. As a Junior he was less of a factor in the passing game but put up 210 att., 1381 yds, 6.6 per carry with 8 TDs and 16 receptions for 111 and one 1 TD. His broad jump shows a burst that should be good in short yardage and goal line situations. Projects as an every down back for the NFL.
Mack is very much in the Le’Veon Bell mold and would fit seamlessly into the Steelers offensive scheme.

“Looks like he has ball bearings in his hips. Able to swivel in multiple directions. Can tilt and slalom around defenders on the second and third level and is able to string moves together. Explosive burst carries him into his getaway gear. Able to run away from tacklers. ” NFL.com

3rd to 4th Rd – Kareem Hunt – – ‘6-0″ 225″ – 40/4.62 – Hunt would give the Steelers another duel threat. He follows his blockers well, has an impressive cut move and bounces quickly to the outside if he’s got nothin’ in the middle. He’s also big and tough enough to deliver some hits when players close on him. He averaged 5.6 yards per carry this year for 1,475 yards with 10 touchdowns in the MAC. Hunt is also a good check down receiver with nice moves after the catch and had 41 receptions for 403 yards and a touchdown. He wasn’t asked to block much but puts in a good effort when called upon. Has the frame and game to be an every down back. Hunt has the traits of an every down back.

Though Hunt was out for four games during the 2015 season, he still had 5.5 yards per carry for 973 yards with 12 touchdowns. He had a great year as a sophomore when he averaged a whopping 8 yards per carry for 1,631 yards with 16 touchdowns. Hunt even saw action as a freshman and had an impressive 6.3 ypc, for 866 yards and 6 TDs. Hunt was a standout in the East-West Shrine game against the step up in competition from the MAC.

5th – 6th Rd – James Conner – 6′-0″, 233#, 4.65/40 – Connor is a big back who packs a load. Think of a LaGarette Blount with character. Patient at the line and makes fast slashing choices once he sees his move. LOVES to lower the pads and hit as players close on him. Good footwork in short area, as well. Soft hands and is a good receiving option coming out of the backfield. With his combination of blocking, running and receiving, could see immediate duty as a 3rd down/short yardage and goal line back. A cancer survivor who had a dip in production when recovering from the illness. Local Pitt player and the sentimental choice of many.

Conner had 216 att for 1092 yards and 5.1 average and 16 touchdowns with 21 receptions for 302 yards and very good 14.4 average 4 TDs in 2016

“Team captain known for incredible resilience and mental toughness. Leaned down and added more muscle mass this season. Arm tackles are a waste of time. Carries heavy momentum behind pads at finish. Drops shoulder to punish final tackler. Uses wicked stiff-arm to punch and swat tacklers to the ground.” NFL.com

5th – 6th Rd – T.J. Logan – 5′-9″, 195#, 4.37/40 – Very fast, versatile and agile, Logan fits the scatback mold perfectly. He didn’t get a lot of carries at N.C. State and he doesn’t project as an every down back. He is sturdy enough to run between the tackles, though that’s not where he’ll earn his keep. A perfect player for specialized packages that take advantage of his short area quickness and ability to make something happen after he gets the ball. Logan is an outstanding kick returner with a 32.2 yard average in 2016 and 5 touchdowns for his career. So, he can contribute on special teams, immediately, while the offense figures out other ways to use him. Logan had 120 att. for 650 yards for a 5.4 yard average and 7 TDs with 29 receptions for 244 and 3 touchdowns in 2016.

“Contain-buster who has a nitrous gear that rockets him to and around the corner on sweeps. Accesses top gear quickly when bursting downhill and can make defenses feel it if he’s untouched into second level. Has rhythmic feet to make directional changes without much change in his pace.”

Those are the Running Backs. In this Draft nothing is certain, except it will be interesting to watch. The Steelers gambled big last year and it paid off with the top three players they drafted all taking starting roles in their first season. Hopefully, they can match that magic with Offense, this year. Next up, the Tight Ends!!!

Go Stillers!

Jeffrey Burton

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