Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio showcases why Detroit Lions running back LeGarrette Blount continues eluding the label of “plodder.”
LeGarrette Blount ran a 4.7-second, 40-yard dash and a 4.49-second 20-yard shuttle. When it comes to speed and acceleration grades in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio, both performances are reserve-caliber metrics for the running back position.
Long speed in a running back is overrated. It should be placed near the bottom of the list of important physical traits. A higher priority should be given to a ballcarrier’s acceleration and change of direction quickness, which is vital to far more attempts.
What we overlook about Blount is that his speed and acceleration are still NFL-caliber — even if they aren’t impressive by NFL standards. Long speed and acceleration are only a fraction of what helps a running back earn yardage — or even elude defenders.
Blount’s 3-Cone drill was an impressive 6.85 seconds, which is elite time for a running back or a receiver. The 3-Cone drill approximates the stop-start and change-of-direction quickness we see from running backs as they set up creases and elude defenders. It requires precision footwork and mobility in the hips and legs.
Mobility is another underrated asset for a running back. The more mobile a runner is with moving his hips, the quicker he can change direction, the more fluidly he can avoid contact from difficult angles, and the faster he can come to a stop.
Just like route running, stopping fast is more important than running fast.
Watch Blount in the open field fake out the Chargers safety, crossing the body of the opponent after setting the defender up with a move. This is mobility, quickness, footwork, and balance.
When evaluating players, segmenting individual metrics often gives too much weight to that metric. At the same time, composite scores can be troublesome if they seeking a one-size-fits-all number and not accounting for various archetypes of athletes at each position based on various size ranges and positional roles.
Blount’s elite change of direction quickness, uncommon mobility, strength, and footwork, maximize the effectiveness of acceleration and speed that are otherwise simply baseline level to play the position in the league. It’s like recently retired wide receiver Steve Smith’s leaping, strength, and stride length compensating for his lack of height as a vertical receiver.
The right combinations of traits and skills can make a player better than isolated numbers may indicate — especially when accounting for the physical dimensions of the player within the analysis.
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