My first post in this series of underrated qualities that I like in football players was focused on QB’s, and you can read through that post if you scroll down to the one below this write-up. Now I will focus on RB’s.
Scouting the RB position is still a bit new to me, so I am still learning the nuances of it. It is a tricky position to scout in my opinion because there is usually an expectation that a RB will be able to come in and contribute immediately. Oftentimes (at least relative to other positions) this is the case, but not always obviously. But there are lots of components to a RB’s potential success: His size, speed, agility, vision, strength, power and hands. That makes it hard to find qualities that I think are underrated in Running Backs, but I came up with a few that I like.
First and foremost, I like RB’s that finish runs. There is nothing I like seeing more than a RB heading towards the sideline with a defender closing in if I know he is a tough runner. This is because it means he may very well lower his shoulder and fight for an extra few yards and it usually means a collision with a DB. But RB’s that finish their runs like this run hard and they rarely get tackled for loss, and if they do it isn’t because of a lack of effort. It’s because it was largely unavoidable because of a let-down from their offensive line. My point is, that guys that run hard like this aren’t common but I think it is a great quality for a RB to have. Obviously RB’s who don’t finish runs hard like this can still have an awful lot of success, but most of them are speed backs. I can’t stand watching powerfully built backs who finish runs like speed backs. Guys like that make me wary. Jonathan Dwyer was one, and though he dropped in the draft largely because of his positive drug test at the combine, I think this played a role in his low draft grade. I don’t know of many RB’s that are built powerfully and don’t finish runs that have gone on to fail in the NFL versus those who finish their runs, but I would much prefer to have a powerful guy who runs hard than a powerful guy who doesn’t take full advantage of his power. Those who do are more effective on a down to down basis, in short yardage situations and in goal line situations. But I don’t remember reading that Dwyer didn’t finish runs powerfully as often as he should, and I don’t think it is something that is discussed as much as it should be. That is one reason why I wanted to bring it up here.
The second thing I thought of was how well RB’s do in pass protection, and particularly in blitz pick-up. This is something that a lot of college RB’s struggle with and it’s something that most draftable prospects learn how to do once they make it to the NFL. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an underrated quality in a RB. A lot of RB’s are very good at what they like doing best, running with the ball or catching it out of the backfield. But you can’t be a true every down back until you put in as much effort as a pass blocker as you do as a runner or a receiver. A running back who can chip a DE who came free and buy his QB time to find a receiver downfield or give him a second to check down to him in the flat can prove incredibly valuable. And a RB who can pick up a blitzing linebacker, pop him and neutralize him long enough for his QB to deliver a pass or scramble out of harms way is a very valuable commodity. And the quicker a RB learns to pass block and pick up blitzing defenders the quicker he will be on the field on 3rd down, and the sooner he will be considered an “every down” back. In an age of so much specialization, backfields with multiple capable running backs (one power and one speed back, for instance) and 3 or 4 wide receiver sets, having the ability to pick up a blitz as a RB is as valuable as ever. Especially with all of the intricate blitzing schemes that defensive coordinators have been cooking up.
So those are my underrated qualities in RB’s: Finishing runs tough, avoiding tackles for loss, pass blocking and blitz pick-up.
Thanks for reading, hopefully you found this interesting. If you think you have a good underrated quality for this position or any other position that I write about, comment and I will reply as soon as I see it!