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The RB's: Sims leads the way

Mon, Feb 10, 2014

By Phil Savage

Running Backs/Fullbacks

As the RB position evolves in the NFL, every candidate is graded in these five areas: vision/instincts, inside run/make-miss ability, HR speed, blitz pickup and pass receiving. Here is a rundown of the top four backs based on their performances in the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday practices.

1. #33 Charles Sims/West Virginia     5117/214      30 1-2” Arm/8 1-4” Hand                                                                                 

Charles emerged as the most complete back at the Senior Bowl with his performance during the North practices. He displayed burst and acceleration in a short area, caught the ball well out of the backfield and showed the potential to become a capable pass protector in the future. As a rookie in 2014, he should be able to secure a role as part of a backfield committee and return kickoffs as well.

1-on-1 PASS RECEIVING:        Wins: 4           Losses: 0

1-on-1 PASS PROTECTION:      Wins: 4           Losses: 5

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: Charles graduated in May 2013 with a degree in Health and transferred from Houston to WVU for his final year. As a senior, he rushed for 1095 yards (5.3avg) and 11 touchdowns, while catching 45 passes with 3 more scores. He finished his collegiate career with 203 total receptions and was recognized as the Alabama Power Most Outstanding RB at the Players’ Banquet on Thursday night of game week.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Potential Starter/Contributing Backup

2. #20 James White/Wisconsin           5090/206      28 5-8” Arm/8 3-8” Hand

James had a very consistent week of practice in all three areas of importance: running, blocking and catching. Although he does not possess superior measurables, he has excellent instincts for the game and is productive in every setting. With his vision, quickness and ball skills, James should make a roster and be a positive role player for an NFL team because of his all-around skills and intangibles.

1-on-1 PASS RECEIVING:        Wins: 6           Losses: 0

1-on-1 PASS PROTECTION:      Wins: 7           Losses: 3

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: James rushed for 1000-plus yards as a freshman and senior at Wisconsin, finishing with 4015 yards (6.2avg) and 45 touchdowns. He also caught 73 passes during his career and was chosen as the North team’s Most Outstanding Player in the Reese’s Senior Bowl game after rushing for 62 yards and a score while catching 5 passes.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Situational Starter/Contributing Backup

3. #21 Lorenzo Taliaferro/Coastal Carolina   6003/231 31 3-8” Arm/8 1-2” Hand

Lorenzo measured as the biggest RB in the game and really demonstrated his ability to pick up the blitz and catch the football out of the backfield. A polished route runner, he understands the importance of gaining leverage on the defender and using double-stems to set himself up for success. The most impressive pass blocker in the game, he has a solid base, gets his hands inside and stayed square to the opponent in a very difficult drill for RB’s. He may not have breakaway speed, but Lorenzo has the size and bulk to run inside and should be able to roster because of versatile, three-down skill set.

1-on-1 PASS RECEIVING:           Wins: 6           Losses: 3

1-on-1 PASS PROTECTION:         Wins: 9           Losses: 2

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: After spending two seasons at Lackawanna Junior College (PA), Lorenzo transferred to Coastal where he backed up in 2012 before having a breakout senior year. In 2013, he rushed for 1729 yards (6.3avg) and 27 touchdowns and grabbed 23 passes in becoming the Big South Conference Offensive Player of the Year.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Situational Starter/Contributing Backup

4. #5 Antonio Andrews/Western Kentucky   5101/225      30 5-8” Arm/9 1-4” Hand

Antonio had a solid set of practices in that he was able to display his package of inside running, pass catching and blitz pickup to the NFL scouts. Although he is one-speed as a runner, he has a knack for finding the soft spot of the defense and moving the chains. He has a good understanding of route work, but has to win with leverage rather than speed. He uses his size to catch and absorb oncoming blitzers, but overall, did enough to warrant a look as a 3rd down back. Expect to see Antonio make an NFL team and chip in as a do-it-all backup in the future (he has experience as a kickoff and punt returner, too).

1-on-1 PASS RECEIVING:            Wins: 5           Losses: 3

1-on-1 PASS PROTECTION:        Wins: 8           Losses: 4

SENIOR BOWL SCOOP: Antonio was one of the most productive RB’s in the country over the past two seasons when he rushed for 3414 yards, caught 78 passes and scored 30 touchdowns. He set an NCAA record for all-purpose yardage over those two campaigns with 5770 total yards.

NFL CAREER FORECAST: Contributing Backup/Situational Starter

Best of the Rest:

#24 Jerick McKinnon/Georgia Southern    5090/209      29 1-2” Arm/8 3-8” Hand

Jerick made the full-time move to RB and steadily improved under the Jaguars’ supervision. He has some zip in his movements and will compete as a 3rd down back and returner on special teams to get his NFL career underway.

#34 David Fluellen/Toledo                          5112/226      32 1-8” Arm/9 1-4” Hand

David successfully returned from a fractured ankle suffered mid-season of 2013 and flashed his potential as a between-the-tackles runner with hands and blocking ability. He should be even healthier by the Combine and his pro day at Toledo.

#35 Jay Prosch/Auburn       FB/H               6006/256      30 1-8” Arm/10” Hand

Jay is a pure fullback candidate who showed more niftiness as a receiver than NFL scouts expected to see. More effective when working angles than as a lead blocker.

#85 Ryan Hewitt/Stanford  FB/H               6040/246      30 3-4” Arm/9 1-8” Hand

Ryan has FB/H and even some TE ability, so combined with his service on special teams, he should have a great chance to make a roster in 2014.

Phil Savage Phil Savage is the Executive Director of the Senior Bowl. He worked 20 years in the NFL as a coach, scout and executive, including two years as the Director of Player Personnel for the Baltimore Ravens and four years as the general manager of the Cleveland Browns.