Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines a common issue with college and NFL running back development with Miami’s Mark Walton.
Every good running back must develop craft to accompany their physical skill, or they will not become competent professionals. Last week, I examined brains over brawn. This week, it’s brains over burst.
Miami’s Mark Walton remains the model for this examination. An underrated prospect to begin the 2017 season, Walton had season-ending ankle surgery, which means he’ll likely return to school. [Update: Walton declared for the NFL Draft in December.] It makes Walton a perfect back to feature in a series of videos highlighting common issues with running back development.
Most fans and media (and even former professionals) characterize running back as a heavily instinctive position.
The more I study the position in depth, the less I feel this is an accurate statement. An”instinctive” play is usually the product of intensive preparation that allows the player to react productively at such a high speed of processing that it appears instinctive.
For the Sunday fan who just wants to enjoy the game, this isn’t important. For a player, scout, writer, analyst, or competitive fantasy owner, making these small distinctions is the correct path towards discerning refined talent that has a greater likelihood of producing immediately from the impressive athlete who teases us.
As impressive as Walton has been as a sophomore and junior, his tape reveals a player still refining his game. This video highlights a run where Walton understands the design of the blocking scheme and makes the correct read, but he does not maximize the potential of the play.
The result is a below-average gain if examining his process and outcome through the lens of a refined NFL back. This is a common flaw with many running backs, who don’t press a crease to its fullest extent.
For all of you Miami and Walton fans, this is sophomore tape used as a broader example to highlight a common issue with running back play in general. This is not a definitive scouting report on Walton’s NFL prospects.
There are plenty of NFL backs who had to learn the same things during their first and second seasons in the league. Here’s an example of a refined press and cut from veteran Matt Forte.
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