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NFL Draft

NFL Draft: What To Look For In RB Prospects

Brian Martin



Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In RB Prospects

Today we continue the series about what to look for when scouting individual positions for NFL hopefuls.

In the previous article we took a look at the quarterback position and now we will move on to what to look for when scouting for a potential NFL running back.

It is important to remember that it doesn't really matter if you are an expert, amateur, or hobbyist, film study is still the best tool at your disposal in order to learn the most about a potential prospect. Also, remember that character background checks and pre-draft workout results are also part of the puzzle that end up helping to complete the scouting report.

Now, let's take a look at what I like to look for when scouting the running back position.

Ball Security

Fumbling is inexcusable at any level of play, and especially in the NFL when offensive possessions are held at a premium.

In the NFL, each offensive series hopes to result in putting points on the board. So, forfeiting a series because of a fumble will lessen the opportunities a running back will receive.

To me, ball security is one of the simpler traits to scout.

What I like to do is look up a prospects statistics and see how many fumbles they may have. Then I like to look at the game film and see how those turnovers occurred.

Did the RB carry the football high and tight or was he carrying it away from his body? Was he fighting for extra yardage? Was it a clean handoff?

All of these questions could be reasons why the fumble occurred and all should could possibly be fixable with coaching.


A running back's vision to me is one of the most important aspects to look for in a RB prospect, because if he can't find where the running lane is, he's going to have a difficult time in the NFL.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In RB Prospects 1NFL players are bigger, stronger, and faster than they are at the collegiate level. Running lanes close up quickly so a RB has to have the vision to see that running lane open up and then plant their foot in the ground and get up the field quickly before it disappears.

Sometimes being a little bit more patient helps with a players vision. They can push the ball towards the hole where the play is designed to go and then look for a cutback lane on the backside, hopefully catching the defense off guard.

A lot of people would argue that speed is the most important aspect for a running back, but I believe a RB has to be able to see the running lane before he can even think about using his speed.

When watching game film I try to watch the running backs eyes if at all possible and see if they are reading the defense as soon as they take the hand off.

I think this is a trait that either comes naturally to a person or it doesn't.


I don't know about you, but when I think of a running back with quickness I think of Barry Sanders. Sure, he had true breakaway speed, but what made him one of the most elusive running backs in NFL history was his quickness.

In the NFL, running backs have to rely more of their quickness than they did at the collegiate level. They simply can't out run everybody and look to bounce their runs to the outside.

I like to look for running backs that can run between the tackles and use their quickness to make a defender hesitate or miss a tackle.

I look for a RB to have quick feet and good start-stop quickness to be effective no matter where they run the ball.


Personally, I think a lot of evaluators put too much importance on a running backs speed. You're not going to see a RB take a handoff and run straight up the field in the NFL. That's why I put more importance on a player's quickness.

To me, straight-line speed doesn't really correlate directly to what a running back is asked to do in the NFL. Sure, there are those instances where an offense can get a RB out in space in order to take advantage of his speed, but even that relies mostly on catching the defense offguard.

Plus, if you look at the defensive trends in the NFL today, you will notice that you are seeing more speedy linebackers that can play sideline to sideline. Some of these linebackers have about the same type of speed that the running backs do.

That is why I put more importance on a running backs quickness instead of their speed.


A RBs durability is relatively easy to scout. You can look to see how many games they missed and what type of injuries they may have sustained to miss those games.

On the other hand, I like to take it a step further and take a look at the workload they received at the collegiate level and maybe even go back to see what they did in high school as well.

The running back position is one of the more physically demanding in the entire NFL and their bodies tend to break down quickly. A RB that has already had a heavy workload might not have a very long career due to their skill set diminishing at a quicker rate.

I want a running back that I can depend on when it's time to suit up.


Not everyone may agree, but I like a running back that runs with strength and power.

Cowboys Draft - NFL Draft: What To Look For In RB Prospects 2The nature of the running back position comes with knowing that the players going to be hit at one point or another. It is a contact sport after all and the RB position might just be the most physical one.

When scouting a RB prospect I like to look for a player that plays with power and strength. I don't want a running back that has a difficult time breaking a tackle.

Some of the most successful running backs in the league are the ones that are good at picking up yards after contact or can be relied upon to pick up those short yard situations.

It may be just my preference, but I want to running back that is difficult to bring down.

Third-down Capabilities

This trait in particular could determine whether or not a running back prospect can play early and often in the NFL.

With the league changing to be more passer friendly, running backs are expected to be capable receivers and pass protectors if they want to be an every down back in the NFL.

College running backs are sometimes difficult to scout in this area because of the popularity of the spread offense, especially when it comes to pass protection. Most of them simply aren't asked to do it very often and have to be coached up once they are drafted.

Third-down capabilities aren't a deal breaker by any means, because a lot of teams have gone to a running back rotation, which allows rookie running backs a little bit more time to develop their skill set.


Scouting the running back position is one of the is easier positions to analyze in my opinion, but you have to remember to look at each and every play the prospect is involved in, not just the highlight films.

The position really comes down to whether or not the player can see the hole and explode through that running lane.

One of my favorite running back prospects in the 2016 draft class is Louisiana Tech's Kenneth Dixon.

With the exception of Ezekiel Elliott, Dixon is perhaps the most complete running back in the draft class and has all of the traits mentioned to step in immediately and contribute in the rushing game.

Level C2/C3 quadriplegic. College graduate with a bachelors degree in sports and health sciences-concentration sports management. Sports enthusiast. Dallas Cowboys fanatic. Lover of life with a glass half-full point of view.

NFL Draft

2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott

Sean Martin



2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott
(Photo by Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire)

With more pressing needs on offense at guard and wide receiver, and defensively at DE or LB, the Cowboys' concerning lack of proven ability at safety has taken a backseat in this offseason's roster build. With the expectation that new Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard will elevate the play of the entire Cowboys' secondary, the team is doing their due diligence on safeties available in the 2018 NFL Draft - starting with Texas' DeShon Elliott.

Josh Norris on Twitter

It appears Texas S DeShon Elliott is visiting the #Cowboys today

With 63 tackles and six interceptions in his final season at Texas, Elliott took full advantage of being a starter in the Big 12 for the first time in his career, flying onto the NFL Draft scene.

Elliott is a well-balanced, average athlete with the upside to be targeted late in April's draft and make a difference.

If they had to play a game tomorrow, the Cowboys would be rolling with Jeff Heath, Xavier Woods, and Kavon Frazier at safety.

Finding an expanded role this season for Frazier should be a priority in Dallas, as should supplementing Heath and Woods with additional talent. DeShon Elliott would fit this group well, along with the Cowboys' scheme, given his range and disruptive ability.

Should Jourdan Lewis, Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and now Byron Jones help the Cowboys reach their full potential at CB, the Cowboys safeties will not be tested in single coverage up the field often. This is an area that Elliott was exploited in at Texas plenty of times, performing better as a true free safety or second-level player.

Continuing to add young talent at the right price is key to the Cowboys' ongoing rebuild on defense, now visiting with a local safety prospect that should be available to them in the later rounds. Texas' DeShon Elliott is officially a name to consider come draft week in Dallas.

Tell us what you think about "2018 NFL Draft: Dallas Cowboys Meeting with Texas Safety DeShon Elliott" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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NFL Draft

Cowboys Draft: PSU WR DaeSean Hamilton Fits Cowboys’ “Type”

Kevin Brady



Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

Last week, I detailed what the Cowboys tend to look for when drafting a wide receiver. In terms of a combine profile, Dallas clearly has a "type" of wide-out they like to target.

The Cowboys certainly need to upgrade their receiving corps, but with the plethora of other holes to fill, they may not be able to do so until the 3rd or 4th round. Luckily for the Cowboys, there is at least one receiver which both fits their profile and should be available early on day three.

That player is Penn State wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton.

Kevin Brady on Twitter

Working on something for @InsideTheStarDC... here's the height, weight, 40 time, and 3 cone for every WR DAL has taken since 2010.

First, let's re-examine what the Cowboys like to look for. As you can see from the above graphic, the Cowboys draft targets all seem to fit a similar profile. If we treat Dez Bryant as their "ideal" draft pick, the trends become even clearer. Dallas wants to find a wide-out who is about 6'1" 205 pounds, runs nearly a 4.5 40 yard dash, and about a 6.9 three come time.

DeaSean Hamilton, coincidentally, is 6'1" 203 pounds, ran a 4.47 40 yard dash at the Penn State pro day, and ran a 6.84 three cone at the combine. Penn State's all time receptions leader stole the show at the 2018 Senior Bowl, putting all of "Draft Twitter" on notice to his talent.

An efficient and smooth route runner, Hamilton looks natural coming in and out of breaks, creating separation with his precise routes. The Cowboys don't have many receivers on their roster who can win with their route running, and adding a player like Hamilton would greatly help third year quarterback Dak Prescott moving forward.

With the ability to play in the slot, as well as potentially being a Z receiver for the Cowboys and a replacement for Terrance Williams, Hamilton would be an excellent draft target in the third or fourth round. And, keeping in mind how nicely he fits their typical draft profile, I'd expect Dallas to target Hamilton during the 2018 NFL Draft.

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NFL Draft

Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts Address Needs at 3 Different Positions

Sean Martin



Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts Address Needs at 3 Different Positions

"Tier two" of NFL Free Agency is here, meaning the Dallas Cowboys can set their sights on adding depth and filling the holes left by departed FAs Anthony Hitchens and Jonathan Cooper.

It may take another week for mock drafts to reflect the losses of both starters by the Cowboys, but the ongoing draft process does not slow down at any point. A few of the names the Cowboys will bring in for pre-draft 30 visits have already been released, and this week's roundup of national mock drafts continues to address the overall needs on this Dallas roster.

CBS Sports: Calvin Ridley, WR - Alabama

CBS Sports' R.J. White:

"Ridley's stock is down after an unimpressive combine, but the Cowboys decided to use one of their predraft visits on the talented wideout, who might not fall any further than this pick. Considering wide receiver is one of the team's biggest needs, they could jump at the chance to draft Ridley, who could eventually take over the No. 1 role if the Cowboys move on from Dez Bryant next offseason, which would save them more than $12 million on the cap."


The Dallas Cowboys will be meeting with free agent WR Allen Hurns today, a tangible second receiver that could immediately upgrade Terrance Williams' position. Hurns, unlike the lesser-known pass catchers the Cowboys looked at previously in free agency, may have enough talent entering his fifth season to take Calvin Ridley out of consideration in the first round.

For now, Ridley should absolutely remain in the conversation as this draft's top receiver. Frequently finding his way to the Cowboys in many post-Combine mock drafts, the Alabama star is just getting started in reaching his football potential and becoming an option for Dak Prescott on the outside.

Draft Wire: Vita Vea, DT - Washington

USA Today Draft Wire's Jacob Infante:

"Vea could realistically go higher than No. 19, but there may not be a ton of teams willing to draft a nose tackle early on in the draft. Vea’s much different from the average nose tackle, though, which is something the Cowboys would see firsthand if they were to pick him."


The hype for Vita Vea as a prospective Dallas Cowboys target has died down ever since Stephen Jones mentioned the team's preference to find 1T DTs with the traits to also rush the passer as a 3T. Simply being "different from the average nose tackle," as Infante writes here, may not be enough for Vea to be selected at 19th overall by the Cowboys.

Should the Cowboys be surprisingly wiped out at both guard and linebacker on their board, considering a rare prospect like Vea and the impact he could make in Rod Marinelli's scheme could become much more realistic though.

An investment like Vea at nose tackle feels like the safest way for the Cowboys to protect their franchise tag investment on DE DeMarcus Lawrence - while also potentially boosting the play of Maliek Collins and David Irving inside at DT.

Drafttek: Isaiah Wynn, G - Georgia

Drafttek's Long Ball:

"... Isaiah Wynn played LOT for the SEC Champion and National Champion runner-up Georgia Bulldogs. Bill O'Brien's South coaching staff moved Wynn inside and he was easily the most impressive interior OL prospect during practice sessions..."


This would be one of the highest value picks the Dallas Cowboys could make at 19th overall. As it stands today, this team is in need of a starting left guard they can trust, which Isaiah Wynn can be from day one at the next level.

Despite their clear need up front, using another first round pick on an offensive lineman will surely generate some eyes rolls around Dallas on draft night. As if his mauling style of play and NFL-ready build aren't enough for the Cowboys to sell their fans on Wynn, his flexibility to provide needed depth at OT puts this Georgia product over the top.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Recent trades by the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills to shake up the draft order may just be scratching the surface for the run of quarterbacks that takes place annually atop each draft. With as many as five QBs coming off the board prior to the Cowboys' first pick, their ability to add a quality starter at a position of need looks good.

Exactly what these positions of need will be by the end of free agency, and which prospects fill needs in Dallas, will update weekly as we continue to prepare you for the 2018 NFL Draft here at Inside The Star.

Tell us what you think about "Dallas Cowboys Mock Drafts Address Needs at 3 Different Positions" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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