Here is my Scouting Report for John Clay. I still have one more game to watch of him, plus the TCU-Wisconsin Bowl game, but I have seen enough of him and scouted him in enough games to get a good feel for him as a prospect. This isn’t a finalized Scouting Report, but it is definitely close. So, enjoy one of my first nearly-finalized Scouting Reports of the year!
Positives: Clay has great size for a RB and is very powerfully built. He has above average speed for his size and when healthy he can rumble for some nice runs. He runs through arm tackles effectively, he always falls forward for additional yardage, and has good leg drive. He is definitely durable enough to be a feature back and has been a very dependable running back for the Badgers for the past two seasons. He seems to have pretty good vision and usually can find a cut-back lane if there is one. He also does a good job of getting himself going North/South and does not dance around in the backfield. He gets what he can get on most every snap.
Negatives: Clay does not strike me as an every down back in the NFL. He has little experience as a 3rd down back, as a receiver out of the backfield or as a blocker in pass protection. He is almost always out of the game on 3rd down unless it is a short yardage situation. Also, in the games I have watched of him I have not watched him initiate contact or try to run over people for additional yardage. He is not quite the power back you would expect him to be judging by his size and how many carries and yards he racks up. He also does not seem to have much of a burst or a second gear when he runs. This might have to do with him being overweight (he is listed at 255, but I would not be surprised if he was at 260+) but he runs mostly at one speed, and does not seem to have a second gear to turn on the jets for longer runs at times, nor does he have much of a burst to make a cut and hit the hole when he sees it. Again, it is really all at one speed.
Overall: I like Clay as a running back prospect, but I’d really like to see him go back to school, drop some weight and work on his pass blocking and hands. The trouble is, Wisconsin has two other quality backs waiting in line behind him in Montee Ball and James White, so his touches might be taken away from him even more than they were this year if he comes back. He is probably as good as he is going to get in college considering the limited opportunities he would have to grow next year, so he will have to hope for a team to draft him and use him as a rotational back while he works on his weaknesses. I think to be truly effective as a runner he will have to get down to 245, preferably 240 pounds. I think it would be interesting to see how much more burst he would have, plus it would mean less wear and tear on his ankles which he has had problems with in the past (two surgeries this past summer).
Projection: I would project Clay as a 4th round pick right now. He is a one-dimensional running back at this point, and unless he drops a significant amount of weight (depending on his actual weight right now) he won’t ever be totally dependable as a feature back in the NFL. And his hands and blocking are significant weaknesses right now that he needs to work on before he will ever have a shot at being a 3-down back in the NFL. In reality, I think his ceiling is splitting carries with a faster RB and wearing down the defense with shorter runs since he doesn’t have much break-away speed, then letting the speed back carve up the defense after he wears them down. He may have a couple 1,000 yard seasons in him, but only if he drops that weight and works on his hands and pass blocking.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average,4-very good, 5-elite
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think!