RB Sean Tucker (Syracuse) and Maintaining A Downhill Focus: Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room

Matt Waldman’s RSP Boiler Room examines 2023 NFL Draft prospect Sean Tucker, the speedy RB prospect from Syracuse who can benefit from developing a better downhill mentality between the tackles.

Speed Kills…

…and immolates running backs who succumb to its seduction. Sean Tucker is a great example. Syracuse’s freshman All-American has the wheels to challenge any secondary in the nation.

In fact, I bet Tucker’s high school take is a compendium of long runs where he carves S’s and Z’s across the length and width of the field, taking the scenic route of the long and winding road through opposing defenses much to the thrill of fans, coaches, and college recruiters.

While amazing to watch at the prep level, most Division-I college running backs have at least a dozen of these runs on their amateur tape as well. Once backs reach the NFL’s minor leagues, it’s time to develop a barometer for when to abandon the S’s and Z’s for the I’s.

For RBs, There Is an “I” in “Team”

In this case, whoever said there is no “I” in “Team” clearly doesn’t know running back play, because “I” stands for a downhill mentality—an north-south attitude that speedsters at the position must develop to move the chains, keep offensive playbooks open, and enhance his team’s chances of scoring.

Too often, speedsters at the position succumb to the temptation—the breathtaking thrill—of outrunning the entire field. Speed made them special in high school, but the degree of speed it takes to have special swiftness as an NFL runner is rare — I’m talking Chris Johnson-Bo Jackson.

Even these two only have a handful of runs where they carved S’s and Z’s into opposing defenses. They too learned that, in most cases, carving “I’s” is the best outcome for themselves and the team.

This downhill focus in space is something that Tucker has to learn to become a mature decision-maker at the position and perform to the highest standard of running back play.

Tucker is not alone in this behavior. The mega-talented Bijan Robinson has moments of self-immolation once he gets past the line of scrimmage. More on that later this week in an upcoming RSP Film Room on the Texas star.

Lacking a strong downhill mentality as a decision-maker is not necessarily a career-killing issue for running back prospects. However, it’s a behavior that can lead to inefficient choices that quietly hurts a pro offense because in the NFL, the margin for error is tighter and it makes every rep carry more weight relative to the college game.

Tucker has excellent promise as a press-and-cut runner (more on this soon). Once he understands how to place a north-south governor on his decision-making in situations that no longer fit his high school memory bank, he won’t leave as much yardage on the field. This will complement his ability to set up creases in traffic.

And of course, if you want to know about the rookies from this draft class, you will find the most in-depth analysis of offensive skill players available (QB, RB, WR, and TE), with the 2022 Rookie Scouting Portfolio for $21.95. 

Matt’s new RSP Dynasty Rankings and Two-Year Projections Package is available for $24.95

If you’re a fantasy owner and interested in purchasing past publications for $9.95 each, the 2012-2020 RSPs also have a Post-Draft Add-on that’s included at no additional charge.  

If you’re a fantasy owner and interested in purchasing past publications for $9.95 each, the 2012-2020 RSPs also have a Post-Draft Add-on that’s included at no additional charge.  

Best yet, proceeds from sales are set aside for a year-end donation to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse of children. 

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