In Perspective: Marshall Faulk Defensive Back???

Every year the draft brings rookies into the league and many of the prospects have question marks about their game. Pick a player and there’s a criticism: too short, too light, too slow, not muscular enough, didn’t play well against top competition, came from a lesser program, you name it.

This is why I love YouTube as a football fan. With Marshall Faulk heading to Canton this August, I wanted to check out his highlights at San Diego State. The second overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, Faulk was the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year and the Pro Bowl MVP. However just for kicks, watch this highlight package from his years as an Aztec and tell me from a physical standpoint – height (5’10”) and weight (207 lbs.) – and the plays you see on the highlights, whether you would project him as an every down back, much less a Hall of Famer.

There’s no question about his speed and lateral agility, but nowadays Faulk might have been classified as a third-down back.

A video like this one is also why NFL teams should never judge a player based on prepackaged highlights (see my piece Evaluating the Evaluator, which highlights an argument that resulted from Rams GM Charlie Armey trying to push that style of evaluation onto former scout Dave Razzano with QB Alex Smith). Imagine a compilation of highlights like this one where we see very limited evidence of his balance after contact? A GM with Armey’s mentality could intend to show his staff the big-play ability of Faulk with the unintended consequence that Faulk lacked every down skills as a runner.

It sounds like a stretch to say this about Faulk, but remember, major college programs like Nebraska recruited him as a defensive back. Faulk could have never even gotten a whiff of the pros if he didn’t stand his ground and state he’d only play running back.

Just some things to think about when consider the value NFL teams place on the wisdom of major college programs as well as the value of highlight packages….

2 responses to “In Perspective: Marshall Faulk Defensive Back???”

  1. That #47 early on in the clip was sloooooooooooow.
    How would you compare Faulk’s physical presence to backs coming out today? Seventeen years after Faulk came out it would seem that NFL teams look at players of slighter stature differently but do you think that players are stronger and better conditioned now than they were then and thus are more effective/efficient at a given size?

    • I do think conditioning/diet/training continues to get better in the sense that if you’re an athlete who needs to be told what to do every hour of every day then the content of what you’re told is better now than 20 years ago. However, I believe those that were very exercise-savvy early in life (Jim Brown, Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson) probably could have played today and still been dominant. Some might attribute that to genetics, but I think it’s far more than that. I do find it interesting that when I look at Faulk during his collegiate years that he looked more like a cornerback than a running back. It goes to show you that at the age of 21-22, most young men still have room to add “man weight.” He doesn’t “look” in terms of physical dimensions that much different than Chad Spann or Kendall Hunter.

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