He may be one of the smallest prospects in the NFL draft this year, but don't overlook Robbie Rouse. He's a tough, quick back who was a record-setting back for Fresno State after getting out of Ryan Matthews' shadow.
While his size and speed were adequate enough for the Mountain West Conference competition, what role will he find himself in at the NFL level? This is the biggest question Rouse faces moving forward with his football career.
+ Great agility, very shifty with shoulder fakes
+ Solid balance and vision hitting holes
+ Catches and runs routes well
+ Extremely productive in college
- Very undersized
- Not as explosive as size may dictate
- Doesn't pass block well
- Where does he fit in the NFL?
Rouse comes in at a short 5'6" but with 190 pounds of muscle packed onto his compact frame. He ran only a 4.80 40-yard dash and 4.25 20-yard shuttle, which lends itself to talk about a lack of explosion.
He did put up 15 reps on the bench and had a solid 114-inch broad jump, which means there's definitely some upper-body and core strength there, too.
Rouse is a fiesty, competitive back who doesn't let his size become a disadvantage. He lowers his pads through holes and runs hard, and he will always fight and usually gain an extra yard or two after contact.
He was a team captain and leader of the program over at Fresno State. He will be the last player to wear David Carr's No. 8, which will be retired before next season.
Rouse was asked to line up all over the place for Fresno State. He took handoffs from under center and out of the shotgun, going to both sides of the field. He also caught some passes both out of the backfield and as a slot receiver.
Rouse is extremely quick and is what I like to call an "active" runner. He uses a lot of head fakes and quick jolts of movement while he's running, and he puts his hand on his blocker's backs as he looks upfield and tries to set up a defender for a miss.
But he isn't particularly explosive, and his acceleration isn't anywhere near what one would expect from such a short back. He does change directions smoothly, and he makes defenders miss in space all the time.
Rouse is extremely powerful for his height, which actually makes sense when you look at his weight compared to that 5'6" frame. He is built very low to the ground and is willing to lower his shoulder and bulldoze through arm tackles when he is on the move.
But he lacks that explosion between the tackles and can get caught going through holes pretty easily if he doesn't have room to make a move and get the defender off balance.
Rouse owns Fresno State's career record for career rushing yards with 4,647. He amassed over 600 total carries in the past two seasons alone. He has no significant history of injuries and saw his play elevate as his college career went on instead of deteriorate.
Potential NFL Role
This is the biggest question with Rouse. His size lends comparisons to Darren Sproles, but he isn't as explosive and doesn't catch the ball quite as well.
So where will he end up? Most likely, as a third running back on a team like the Patriots who have a wide open offense. He could be used as a Danny Woodhead-type player, and that's where a team will get the most value out of him.
NFL Draft Projection
Seventh round, although he could sneak into the end of the sixth.