Positives: Vereen has impressive burst for a running back. He may not have elite straight line speed, but he has good burst, change of direction ability and makes clean cuts. He has good footwork and doesn’t waste steps as a runner when changing directions. He has good vision and would be a good fit in a zone blocking scheme because of his ability to find cut-back lanes. Runs patiently and lets his blocks develop. He runs with better power than I expected him to, he runs with good pad level and he has shown the ability to run through arm tackles from much bigger players. He shows good leg drive and consistently falls forward when he is finally wrapped up, but I have seen him break multiple tackles in one run more than one time. He flashes a stiff arm which could be an effective weapon in the NFL though I didn’t see it from him often. Vereen is also a very effective receiver out of the backfield. He is good catching passes in the flat, he runs wheel routes effectively and is also split out as a receiver at times. He has very reliable hands and has made some pretty impressive catches in the games that I have watched. Vereen is also very well rounded in that he has shown competence when picking up blitzes and when pass protecting. He doesn’t have any injury concerns and seems to be pretty tough and durable.
Negatives: Vereen doesn’t have game-breaking straight line speed, which limits his explosiveness and his potential value as a 3rd down back since he won’t be ripping off huge chunks of yardage any time he gets a seam in the NFL. He has good vision, but at times he dances in the backfield a bit while he waits for his blocks to set up and occasionally is almost too patient. I found these instances to be rare though. Vereen may run with surprising power for his size but he isn’t a power back and I don’t think he will ever run over people with any consistency in the NFL. He can run through arm tackles and continue to drive his legs, but that’s about it. Because of his lack of speed he won’t be able to bounce runs to the outside in the NFL and that is something he would occasionally do at Cal with some success, but that won’t happen in the NFL against faster, more athletic defenses.
Overall: I really like Vereen’s game. I think he has good enough burst, change of direction ability and vision to be an effective runner in the NFL. His ability to catch the ball well out of the backfield really helps him and I think that whoever drafts him will be pleasantly surprised with how well he pass protects for a rookie running back. I don’t think he will be a rookie of the year candidate or anything, but I do think he will contribute significantly as a rookie for whoever drafts him barring unforeseen injury. He can contribute as a runner, receiver and pass blocker. Depending on the scheme I think he could even be an every down starter in the NFL. I think a zone blocking scheme would be good for him, or a team that passes a lot on offense. That would highlight his vision as well as his receiving ability out of the backfield. I could see him as an ideal candidate for the Packers somewhere in round two considering his vision, athleticism and receiving ability.
Projection: Mid 2nd/Early 3rd. I think he will go somewhere between pick 50 and pick 70. I would think it would be in the 50-60 range, but it all depends on who is willing to take a RB that high considering the depth of this RB class. I really think that one of the playoff teams like the Colts, Patriots or Packers could be very interested in Vereen in this range.
1-poor, 2-weak, 3-above average, 4-very good, 5-elite
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