Sixth Round: 199th Pick
Notre Dame finished the 2012 season ranked in the AP top five after losing the BCS National Championship Game. Many of the players responsible for getting the team that far are available in the 2013 NFL draft.
While Manti Te'o and Tyler Eifert have the spotlight as possible first-round draft picks, there are many day-three picks from the college looking to make an impact at the next level, one of whom is running back Theo Riddick.
Riddick made his mark in 2012, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards after seeing time primarily as a slot receiver the previous three years. Does his versatility and rushing ability translate to the NFL?
Riddick's biggest strength is his versatility. He was used as a slot receiver his sophomore and junior years, and his career receiving yards are better than his rushing numbers (1,263 vs. 1,169). As a wideout, he has developed great hands and can be used in both roles.
He is not a running back that goes down on the first hit, as he is able to stay upright, and his toughness should translate well to the NFL. His quick feet provide great acceleration and he shows the ability to run past the first batch of defenders.
Beyond that, Riddick has the ability to stop on a dime and change course when needed. He may not be an open-field runner, but if a safety is closing in on him he can easily get past him.
Riddick was never the feature back in college. He split carries with Cierre Wood his senior year, though he did have the yards advantage, 917 to 742. He also does not possess breakaway speed.
For a running back, he does not have a good build, which is leaner than preferred. While he makes up for it in toughness, he will need to bulk up to hang with NFL defenses.
Notably, he was able to perform at parts of his combine due to injury, but his pro day numbers were disappointing. A 40-yard time over 4.6 seconds and Wood easily beating him in everything could be cause for concern.
At 5'10" and 201 pounds, Riddick has ideal height for a running back in the NFL, if a bit on the light side. He ran a 4.63 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day; with his light frame he should have had no difficulty getting under 4.6.
A 32" vertical leap and a broad jump of 9'10" do not showcase any explosiveness, though as noted above that is not where his strengths lie; in short, the raw talent and upside isn't really there.
Riddick plays his position bigger than he is. Despite the 200-pound frame, Riddick can push through the line and power through plays. The fact that he never gives up on a play is a big plus for any team looking at him.
Brian Kelly has generally used spread offenses through his collegiate coaching career, but at Notre Dame there are some elements of a pro style as well, with a mix between shotgun and direct snaps.
What does this mean for Riddick? In short, experience in both types of systems should help him. A west coast offense would utilize him quite well due to his experience as both a runner up the middle and a slot receiver, though a pro-style offense may be preferable due to his toughness.
When behind the line of scrimmage, Riddick is able to read the movements of the defensive line well. He is able to spot any holes that show up and run through them. Generally, Notre Dame's offensive line did not run downfield, so it remains to be seen if he can follow blockers at the next level.
In the receiving game, he reacts well to cuts, and is able to quickly figure out what's ahead of him after the catch. His vision isn't as good in the open field, but it doesn't need to be when there's generally one defender to get past.
Riddick is well-suited to the passing game despite RB being his natural position. At his pro day he did not look all that great at wide receiver. It's one performance compared to years of tape, but it's a concern nonetheless.
In games, he is available for quick routes and serves as an out options. As noted, he has more receiving yards than rushing yards, and while I like him better as a runner, you can't discount 120 career receptions.
Between the Tackles
Running between the tackles as opposed to around the edges is Riddick's strength in the running game, no question. When running up the middle, he breaks tackles, and in the BYU game during his senior year, he was able to break his way out of an entire pile to earn a big gain.
More importantly, he is able to spot the holes in the defensive line quickly and modify his strides accordingly. He runs low, and is able to push the pile if he is unable to find a hole to run through.
Elusiveness is not a quality that is in Riddick's favor due to his running style In the open field. He does not have the raw speed or moves to outrun defenders, and if they catch up to him 30 yards downfieldl, he's not going to evade them.
That being said, within the action Riddick makes the best of his footwork and juke technique, though he doesn't have a spin move to go with it. He prefers leading in rather than moving around the defender, so he can still get the all-important yards after contact, it's just not from his elusiveness.
In a word, Riddick's power is deceptive. He's not going to overpower defenders in the open field, but between the tackles he can push the pile forward.
His stiff arm is decent at best, but he's able to move his legs to work his way out of low tackles. He also leads in with his shoulder, and in using that run style, is able to power through defenders quite well.
If a defender tackles him head on, then he will drop, but he can drag bodies behind him or from the side for a few extra yards without seeming to slow down.
Versatility / Future Role
There are three areas in the NFL that Riddick could end up in, and all three fit his skill set quite well. Worst case scenario, he can be used on special teams where his toughness will provide some good plays.
He could also be a third-down back, someone who can gain three yards on a short-yardage third down. This is where he would be at his best, as he's able to push the pile and get those extra yards when needed.
Lastly, there's always the possibility of a team wanting a wide receiver/running back hybrid, whether it's used in the Wildcat or a different system. While it would not be a prominent role, Riddick could be plugged in as someone who could do both.
Projection / Team Fits
When it comes to a special teams player who can be used as an occasional RB/WR combination at the next level, that's something any team could use.
He is projected as a fifth- or sixth-round pick, but after watching the film and studying him, I consider him to be a firm fourth-round talent. There's no question he will be drafted as he would be a great special teams player, even if he doesn't make the cut as a running back.