B/R NFL 1,000: A Scout's Guide to Grading Running Backs

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 15, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - NOVEMBER 27:  LeSean McCoy #25 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the New England Patriots at Lincoln Financial Field on November 27, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Today's NFL requires a running back who is equally dangerous running, catching and blocking. If you can't do all three, don't expect to be on the field for all three downs.

Finding a true three-tool back isn't easy, but that's the job scouts face when looking through college ranks and pro teams for featured backs and specialists to fit their schemes. What do we look for in a running back?



A good running back must have the quickness and balance to change direction as a runner, blocker and route-runner. Added in here, that hip flexibility to make defenders miss in space or to plant and cut on a dime is equally important.


Ball Protection

Put simply, how well does the player hold onto the ball?



Burst is the amount of speed and force generated in the first five yards of a player's movement.



A judge of how well the player catches the football, in terms of technique and actual production. When catching the football we look for arm extension, open fingers and the ball caught with the player's hands, and then tucked in before running.


Pass Block

Pass-blocking for a running back refers to the player's ability to recognize and pick up a pass rush. Fullbacks must be strong enough to meet an edge rusher head on and thwart a rush. We're looking for technique—balance, strength, point of impact—as well as production.



How strong the player is, not only in terms of bench presses, but in on-field strength.


Route Running

A grade of the player's understanding and ability to run effective routes.



Contrary to burst, speed is the player's ability to accelerate and run away from defenders. 



It doesn't matter how fast you are if you can't find the right hole and seam to run through.



A player's 2011 injury status. Not only looking at actual injuries, but time missed to injury.



The cumulative score of the 10 traits above, all wrapped up in one score. This sets the player's place in the position ranking and, ultimately, in the B/R NFL 1,000 ranking across all positions.