NFL Scouting: Running Backs

In the NFL, the position of the running back has been devalued more than any other position over the past 5 years.  The primary argument for this is the fact that there have been several later round draft picks or undrafted free agent running backs that have had success in the NFL.  Although this is true, if you look at the teams that are consistently the top teams in the league they often feature a dominant running back (the exception being teams with the top 3-5 QBs), teams like Seattle (Marshawn Lynch), Green Bay (Eddie Lacy), New Orleans (Mark Ingram), Pittsburgh (Le’Veon Bell), Baltimore (Justin Forsett), Cincinnati (Jeremy Hill), Dallas (DeMarco Murray).  NFL teams with premier feature running backs make it easier for their quarterbacks and defences to be successful.

So how do you find a premier feature running back, you must know what to look for.  When scouting running backs the key attributes to look for are:

RB Scouting: Look for vision, quickness, power, speed and balance.

In order to succeed in the NFL a running back needs to be able to find lines and follow blockers, this is an essential.  However elite running backs have exception feel and peripheral vision on the field and are able to setup tacklers to create cutback lanes.  Le’Veon Bell does this better than anyone in the NFL and that is why he is so successful.

This is not just ability to accelerate, but also the ability to change direction and move laterally.  This is what allows runners to make a defender miss in the hole and in space.  LeSean McCoy is the quickest and most elusive running back in the NFL today and Barry Sanders would be the perfect example of quickness personified.

This is what allows a runner to wear down and defense and then product big yardage totals in the second half of games.  Power is also an essential attribute when it comes to the goal-line.  You can’t run around defenders when there is only 1 yard between you and the end-zone.  Two of the most powerful and punishing runners in the game are Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch.

Players who can take it the distance any given play are feared in the NFL and that is what elite speed allows.  Speed allows running backs to take advantage of seems in the defense when the appear, running backs with great speed often cause the defense to over-pursue and create more space for other players in the offense.  Chris Johnson was a running back who ran for over 2,000 yards and it was primarily because of his speed and ability to take any play the distance.

This is probably the most under-rated attribute of running backs.  Balance is what helps runners break tackles and avoid arm tackles.  Emmitt Smith was a back who had tremendous balance and was rarely ever brought down by the first defender.



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