Sticking with the pattern of scouting reports thus far, I will double-up on the running back position by focusing on one of the top prospects at the position, Trent Richardson of the University of Alabama.
Richardson is viewed by many as the top prospect at his position because of his ability on the football field. He has a unique blend of size and power to go along with an abusing running style. While these characteristics contribute to his sky-high stock, they are not the only ones.
So join me as I further delve into the game of the man his teammates call "The Beast."
When it comes to size, Richardson checks in at roughly 5'11" and a healthy 225 pounds. This sounds like the ideal size of a running back; in my opinion, Richardon's weight in particular is a number that catches the eye of talent evaluators because it means that he is able to withstand the beating that he will take with each carry at the next level, thus making him a "workhorse."
He attained this size through the constant work—which is said to be somewhat legendary—he put in at the weight room.
Richardson has worked very hard in the weight room. He's built himself up so well that Alabama strength coach Scott Cochran, who's known as one of the best in all of football, had to slow down the Tide runner's workload—like his bench press, which is merely 475 pounds, and his squat, which is over 600 pounds and shows up in his lower half of the body.
Schematically speaking, Richardson fits right into the NFL after taking carries out of both shotgun sets as well as the traditional set, which features him in the "home" alignment. The "home" alignment is commonly referred to when the back sets up behind the quarterback in an I-formation set.
In both of these formations, he's been utilized in run concepts that show up in the NFL, such as Power—a concept that has the backside guard pulling and lead blocking for the tailback.
Perhaps not as fast as some of the other talent coming out in 2012, he still does show the ability to explode into the open field and pick up chunk yardage, which NFL scouts are heavily seeking nowadays.
His long gainers in the open field come from his patience in letting blockers develop and set up blocks prior to hitting the hole at full speed. When he does this, he creates running lanes for himself and then gets into the open field, where his vision comes into play.
Ironically, his strength is his power, in my opinion, and the reason for this is his lower half of the body.
Richardson's lower half is thick as tree trunks; consequently, he's able to run through arm tackles. He consistently breaks the tackles of defenders who try to go low to tackle him. Moreover, he shows the ability to dip his pad level, absorb contact from defenders and continue running with the ball.
Lateral Agility and Balance
Lateral agility is one of the most important traits of a running back. It's an area that Richardson excels in. He shows the ability to make sudden cuts around the line of scrimmage and in the open field.
His ability to make sudden cuts around the line of scrimmage and make defenders miss is very important when it comes to projecting his transition to the next level because the running lanes are smaller.
Also, when he gets into the open field, he does an excellent job of taking quality angles to put defenders in poor situations to make a tackle.
When it comes to balance, Richardson is top-notch, which is really fascinating to me, considering he backed up Mark Ingram last season, who also had great balance. This seems like a trend at Alabama, and Richardson certainly showed his, often being able to pick up yards after contact by keeping his pads over his feet and keeping a strong base. These two things help keep him balanced when absorbing contact.
Vision and Instincts
Vision is key in all skill positions, whether its a quarterback who is dropping back and needs to see the entire field to deliver the ball, or a running back who needs to find the cutback lane that is created by a fast-flowing defense.
The latter is what can be seen by the Florida-born Trent Richardson. He shows patience in his running style that is key in letting his blocks develop and then following that up with a quality burst into the hole that is created by blocks or himself, which is witnessed at the 1:02 mark in the highlight video.
As can be seen, he shows the ability to find the lane to the backside in the run concept, something that not all runners can find.
That is the number of fumbles lost that Richardson has in his career. Here's another number:
This is the amount of carries he's had since that last fumble.
I think so too.
Richardson does a good job of of securing the ball when receiving contact; he rarely puts it on the ground, with the aforementioned lone fumble in 614 carries. If a running back puts the ball on the ground, he can be rendered useless, but that's not the case here.
Running backs have to be versatile nowadays to pose as a bigger threat to the defense. It's not just screen passes out of the backfield that running backs have to do; it's also lining up out of the backfield where they have to run short routes and get open—something I don't envision Richardson having a problem with.
He shows soft hands and full extension when catching the ball, as well as the ability to adjust to the ball location. This is important to note because not every pass is ideal, especially when a quarterback is under duress and has to check the ball down to his outlet, which Richardson often would be.
To stay on the field on all three downs, you must be able to protect the quarterback from pass rushers by executing a chip block or as often seen with backs, a cut block. Richardson can do both and do them well because, like Oregon's LaMichael James, he's very tough, strong and competitive.
He is very strong in the upper and lower body, which enables him to "anchor" in pass protection when taking on a defender. He sinks his feet into the ground, gets a strong base and drops his hips to administer the cut block on a defender. And when asked to chip a pass rusher, he does a good job of lowering his shoulder and jarring the defender back into the inside, where the offensive tackle sits.
Is Richardson worthy of a first round pick?
When all the characteristics of Alabama running back Trent Richardson are put together, they create a special talent.
Richardson is one of the best running backs to come out in recent years because of his blend of power and quickness. He is able to win in the short area against defenders around the line of scrimmage as well as run through arm tackles prior to making them miss in the open field—a scary sight.
I expect him to go in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, possibly as high as fifth-overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.