Zach Line Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Southern Methodist FB
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Former Southern Methodist fullback Zach Line had a great tenure as a featured back. He was able to tie the great Eric Dickerson's school record in total career touchdowns (47) and surpass him in total yardage (4,185).
Line is not the same type of runner as Dickerson, however. He is a great north-south runner but does not possess the same type of speed or agility. Line is very capable of making players miss in the open field due to a nice one-cut move, but is not elusive enough to constantly make defenders whiff.
Benefiting from running out of a spread offense, Line racked up some nice yardage as a featured rusher, but he needs to show that he can be capable of becoming a lead blocker as well.
Even so, Line figures to be an enticing late-round selection for NFL teams with specific needs.
As a rusher, Line is a tremendous north-south runner. He has great burst after the exchange with the quarterback, but also shows patience to stay behind lead blockers and wait for the play to develop.
At 6'1", 232 pounds, Line is a big body and tough to take down with arm tackles. His thick lower half and ever-churning legs give him the drive to get past sloppy tackling.
Line gives great effort throughout the entire run and keeps his legs moving through contact. He finishes runs nicely and is able to gain extra yards after initial contact.
He is great in pass protection and creates a solid base with his lower body which can hold up nicely against larger defenders. Line also has great hands for a larger back, which gives him an added dimension coming out of the backfield as a receiver.
The most difficult things for Line to overcome at the next level are his size and speed. He is considered a fullback for the sake of the draft, but is more of a 'tweener.
He does not possess the skill set of a true fullback due to his lack of experience as a lead blocker. He also does not have the speed to be an elite NFL back or the strength necessary to be a power back.
His stature and lack of pure power will not allow him to take on a role as a short-yardage or goal-line back at the next level.
In the open field, he is not elusive enough to make defenders miss on a consistent basis and possesses poor start-stop ability. His ball security has also been questionable throughout his tenure at SMU.
Due to his size, speed and ability in the passing game, Line would mostly serve as a third-down back at the NFL level.
If he would want to expand his role, he would need to add bulk to his frame. Also, he would need to work with the coaching staff to improve upon his lead-blocking ability.
He will not be a true fullback at the NFL level, but could prove to be a nice hybrid while sharing the backfield with another, more elusive running back.
Line has a reputation for being a great team player.
He defines himself as not only a running back, but as a football player. Line is willing to make moves to different positions and do whatever is asked of him at the NFL level—even if that means stepping out of the limelight.
Line is very competitive and would relish a role in the NFL no matter the position.
June Jones, Line's former head coach at SMU, has great things to say about Line's character. Recently, he had this short line of praise for his former running back:
If Bill Walsh was still alive, Bill Walsh would take this kid right now, and he would be a star. You cannot have too many Zach Lines on your football team, and that's why he's going to make it in the NFL.
The positive outlook for Line is that he will be able to find a fit on most NFL teams.
Whether it is the role of a third-down back, a speedy fullback to block for an elusive running back or an asset in the backfield out of a spread offense, Line can fit these molds.
The role that would best fit Line would be as a third-down back in a spread offense. He would be an instant plug-and-play addition to this scheme. This would allow Line an opportunity to come in and make an immediate impact in the NFL.
The passing game will most likely be Line's biggest asset as he makes the move to the next level.
He is very stout in pass protection, as he allows his thick lower half to anchor him against larger defenders. Line has a great deal of experience in this situation due to the offensive system at SMU.
As a receiver out of the backfield, Line is a very reliable target. He had a career-high 33 receptions in 2012 and a total of 75 over his collegiate career.
These assets are very important if he is to take on a role as a third-down back in the NFL.
Line does possess some decent power as a rusher. He keeps his thick legs churning through contact with defenders and finishes runs with authority.
He is not easy to bring down with arm tackles and keeps his pad level down nicely for a taller running back.
At the NFL level, however, Line will find that he does not have the power necessary to be a true power back. This is why he would best serve as a change-of-pace type of running back.
Where Line lacks power mostly is as a lead blocker. He was not asked to take on this role while in college, and that will hurt his stock slightly while making the transition to the NFL. This is something that he will need to work on immediately at the next level.
With everything that has been said about Line, he seems to be a perfect fit as a third-down back at the NFL level.
Like current NFL running back Brian Leonard, Line will have great use as a reliable addition in the backfield in these situations.
He will be able to contribute in areas such as pass protection, as a short-yardage outlet as a receiver and also as an inside rusher on a draw.
Line should start as this type of role player in the NFL while a coaching staff attempts to develop him into a role in which he could be potentially featured.
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