Mack Will Be Up Against A Steep Group Of Running Backs At The NFL Combine
For many USF fans it was the inevitable that star running back Marlon Mack was going to bypass his senior year and head to the Draft. While plenty talented enough, Mack will find himself working out at the NFL Combine with a steep group of equally talented running backs.
Mack will enter the Combine alongside running backs like Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fourtnette, De’Veon Smith, and more. While those are big names from big universities, Mack is sized up with the same about of talent.
Mack will be part of Group 3 at the Combine, which takes place from Feb. 28 to March 3. His on-field workout will be on Friday, March 3rd.
Breaking Down Top Running Backs
Marlon Mack set record after record during his junior year at USF. During his three years at the AAC school he became the school’s all-time leading rusher and earned first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors in each season. As a freshman he led the AAC in rushing (202-1,041, nine touchdowns) and as a sophomore (210-1,381, eight TDs). He was also the first Bull and only the third FBS player in the state of Florida history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons (Dalvin Cook is one of those three).
- Positives: Mack has the speed and open field moves to make him a quality NFL starter. When running laterally he is able to slip out of tackles nicely. His speed is his best quality as he is able to burst away from tacklers and is able to string moves together. On six of his 15 touchdowns this past year he went for 43-plus yards. He is also a threat as a pass catcher and is able to swivel in multiple directions.
- Negatives: Perhaps his biggest weakness is his high fumble rate. His fumble rate this past year was 54.3, while the average fumble rate for the top-10 rushers in the NFL last season was 108.5. His one other downfall is his inconsistent power through contact. While one of his strengths is slithering out of tackles, he needs to accelerate through contact at the next level.
- Grade: NFL.com gave Mack a grade of 5.54
Dalvin Cook, Florida State, is one of the running backs that is highly debated as to where and when he will be drafted. Cook was the first RB at FSU to break the 1,000 yard mark in his first season. In 2015 he ranked sixth in the FBS with 1,691 yards only to follow up in 2016 by ranking fifth with 1,765 yards. He earned first-team All-ACC honors each year of play. In 2016 he was named first-tema All-American by the Associated Press and Walter Camp Foundation. Is one of three FBS players in the state of Florida history to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.
- Positives: Cook is able to keep his feet under him to make lateral cuts in a split second and excelled in zone, gap and power schemes. He is able to slow safeties and linebackers with his hesitation steps and looks inside, but has a powerful run-away gear that makes him hard to catch. He’s able to change direction without having to gear down and is not much of a dancer. He stays in constant motion and can also be used as a weapon out of the backfield.
- Negatives: Most of Cook’s weakness comes off of the field. He has struggled with hamstring issues throughout the 2015 season and had three shoulder surgeries since high school. In high school he tore his rotator cuff, then tore the front part of his labrum in 2014 and the back part in 2016. He’s also had a number of run-ins with the law, though those charges have either been dropped or he was found not guilty in. On the field Cook isn’t always a tough inside runner and needs to become more comfortable between tackles. Like Mack, Cook also has inconsistent hands and has a 63.8 fumble rate, which is a red flag in the NFL. He may not be reliable enough to play as a blocker on third downs.
- Grade: NFL.com gave Cook a 6.54 grade, which is a very deserving grade for the talent he does exhibit on the field.
Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, had a standout season despite suffering an injury midway through the season. With 1,639 rushing yards, the running back decided not to play in his team’s bowl game to avoid injury. Son of former NFL receiver, Ed McCaffrey, was an All-American, Heisman Trophy finalist, Associated Press and Pac-12 Player of the Year in 2015. He even set a NCAA record with 3,864 all-purpose yards, ranking second in the FBS with 2,019 rushing yards, 645 receiving and 1,070 on kickoff returns.
- Positives: Smooth and fast are the best adjectives to describe McCaffrey. He’s able to perform instant cuts and change of direction. He protects the football well while running through traffic and reads keys quickly on stretch plays. He doesn’t dance around and is able to get downhill with his speed. He’s also able to make defenders miss and changes his track effortlessly. He has many speeds and can gear up and down in a split second. Perfect hands out of the backfield and he can be used from the slot. Performs well as a punt or kick returner as well.
- Negatives: He doesn’t accelerate into contact and lacks the power to break tackles and get yards through power. His bursts may not be enough to get past NFL speed and he isn’t the ideal size to be an every-down back. He has 300-plus touches in each of the last two seasons, making him appear a little worn out to some NFL scouts.
- Grade: NFL.com gave him a 5.93 grade.
Leonard Fournette, LSU, lead the SEC in all-purpose yards as a true freshman (137.4 per game, including 1,034 rushing yards) after having a stellar high school career. He was the No. 1 overall recruit and USA Today National High School Offensive Player of the Year. As a sophomore at LSU he had nearly 2,000 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns. During his junior year he suffered a pre-season ankle injury that limited his play to just seven games. Despite that he received second-team All-SEC honors with five 100-yard games.
- Positives: Great size and build for the NFL with long, speedy strides. Is able to click into the next gear quicker than most backs his size. His big hips and thighs help him break tackles and make it hard to bring him down. He runs through contact and has the balance to break through tackles on an angle. Has a good stiff arm and can create plays for himself.
- Weaknesses: His open field shake needs work and his aggressive style could bring more injuries on top of his ankle issue. Restricted hips stop ability to jump-cut from gap to gap. Patience will be a big virtue for him as he uses his burst of speed too quick and runs into defenders when there are other holes available. Needs work in pass protection and routes.
- Grade: NFL.com gave him a 7.15 grade.
Joe Williams, Utah, is retired then came back to the field this past season. He’s had quite a history when it comes to football. He starred in football and track in high school, then went to Hargrave Military Academy in 2011 before attending Connecticut where he had just six yards on three carries in nine games. He was suspended in 2013 for credit card theft and illegal use. In 2014 he went to ASA College in New York where he was named second-team NJCAA All-American (1,093 yards, seven TD). He then went to Utah where he was a backup for Devontae Booker, but decided to retire. After seeing many of his teammates go down with injuries he knew he’d get the call to return and he did. He finished the year with 1,420 rushing yards, scoring 10 times in nine games and finished his career with 222 yards and a touchdown in the team’s Foster Farms Bowl win.
- Positives: He has speed and bursts that help him get away in small holes. He is able to kick it into the next gear to turn corners or accelerate through the line of scrimmage. Williams moves his feet through contact and can break through arm tackles. His wiggle and power makes him unbelievably hard to bring down. He always finishes runs with momentum.
- Negatives: The fact that he “retired” for a month doesn’t look good to most NFL scouts. Though he has the speed and power needed to play at this level, he has a lack of ball control. Usually runs into traffic instead of hanging back to find another opening.
- Grade: NFL.com gave him a 5.35 grade.
Side note: USF’s Rodney Adams will also be participating in the NFL Combine. He will be in Group 4- consisting of wide receivers, quarterbacks and tight ends- taking place from March 1 to March 4. Adams’ on-field workout will be on Saturday, March 4.