Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines University of Georgia running back Zamir White, an NFL prospect with the fundamentals that teams seek from a pro ball carrier.
If you want to learn what I seek from running backs with pro potential, Zamir White’s game serves as a good foundation. Some of you reading this are liable to get carried away with this statement and arrive at the conclusion that I’m saying all NFL running backs must be in the range of 6-0, 215 pounds, and pound the ball between the tackles.
The running back position has the widest range of physical dimensions, styles, and uses among the positions in football. Knowing this, what I highlight that’s positive about White’s game in this week’s RSP Boiler Room is a starting point for what all running backs should be able to do at a basic level of proficiency:
- Run with an ingrained and precise link between their eyes and feet.
- Operate with a stance that encourages balanced running to change direction and work through contact.
- Understand how to use one’s pads to extend through contact.
- Read the leverage of defenders engaged with blockers.
- Patiently manipulate that leverage.
- Possess a balance of patience and urgency to attack creases on plays designed to develop quickly but may not always do so.
- Accelerate within a short area to beat the angles of box defenders within a range of 5-10 yards.
If a running back can perform several of these seven things with baseline proficiency for an NFL player—and this is criteria I have defined in the Rookie Scouting Portfolio publication and is listed in the guide’s glossary every year—it’s likely this player will at least make an NFL practice squad.
If he performs many of these criteria at an above-average level, he’ll likely earn a roster spot and contribute as no worse than a reserve. Few NFL starters, especially productive feature backs, lack any of these skills. If they perform some of them at an average or below-average level, you can expect to discover that they compensate with star-quality skills with some of the criteria that perform well.
This was my first pass at White’s game as I conduct research for the 2021 Rookie Scouting Portfolio. I share these short articles and videos to give you insight into my process with dozens of the 150-200 players I study annually.
White absolutely has the skills to work between the tackles in the NFL. He’s a refined runner between the tackles who displays skill to move efficiently, produce in tight spaces, and manipulate opponents.
It won’t be a shock if some draft analysts study White’s tape (or box scores), see the lack of breakaway runs, and characterize him as a plodder. White has notable acceleration when he has a runway of 5-10 yards and it’s good enough to win in the NFL.
At the very least, White has the goods to contribute and he could deliver behind a productive NFL offensive line. As I continue studying White, I’ll be seeking the presence of skills and traits that increase or decrease his promise as a potential pro.
Based on what I’ve seen thus far, this is a well-built, coordinated, savvy, and physical runner whose style is in the spectrum of backs like Peyton Barber and Jordan Howard on the low-to-middle range of NFL traits and athletic ability, to peak-level Frank Gore and Mark Ingram on the upper range.
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