Blazing 40 at Combine Could Vault RB Lache Seastrunk into 1st Round of NFL Draft

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Blazing 40 at Combine Could Vault RB Lache Seastrunk into 1st Round of NFL Draft
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The collegiate career of Baylor running back Lache Seastrunk is a study in contrasts.

Immense physical talent clouded by off-the-field turmoil. Fantastic performances followed by disappearing acts.

Given the yo-yo that led Seastrunk from Texas to Oregon and then back to Texas, it's not a big surprise that entering this week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis there are a number of questions surrounding the 5'9", 201-pound back.

If Seastrunk answers those questions with the sub 4.3-second 40-yard dash he told Fox Sports 1 (via Mike Huguenin of NFL.com) he plans to run, Seastrunk may run right past the other running backs in the 2014 NFL draft and into the first round.

 

The Long Road Home

Seastrunk had a very successful collegiate career at Baylor, which is pretty remarkable given that he wasn't supposed to play there at all.

Seastrunk, who Rivals.com ranked third among all running backs in 2010, was heavily recruited by a number of schools, but chose to make the trek north to play for Chip Kelly at the University of Oregon.

However, after redshirting as a freshman, Seastrunk asked for and was granted his release, heading back home to the state of Texas by transferring to Baylor.

Many pointed to the NCAA investigation swirling around Seastrunk—Oregon's use of a Texas scouting service—as the reason for the switch. Seastrunk and Kelly maintained that his motivations were strictly personal, with the young tailback telling the Associated Press via ESPN: "I know I haven't committed anything wrong."

Seastrunk, who was never accused of any wrongdoing, got off to a slow start with the Bears, failing to top 60 rushing yards during the first seven games of 2012. However, a 17-carry, 103-yard effort against Kansas opened the door for a white-hot second half of the season that included 185 yards against then-No. 1 Kansas State.

Lache Seastrunk Career Stats
Year Att. Yards Avg. TD
2012 131 1012 7.7 7
2013 158 1177 7.4 11

per CFBStats

Entering the 2013 campaign, Seastrunk wasn't shy about his goals, according to The Sporting News (via ESPN):

I'm going to win the Heisman. I'm going to win it in 2013. If I don't, I'm going to get very close. I'm shooting for that goal. I will gladly say it.I feel like there's no back who can do what I do. I know I'm the fastest back in the country. I know I'm the best back in the country. Nobody's going to work harder.

Seastrunk didn't reach his goal of winning the Heisman, but by season's end he had picked up a career-high 1,177 yards, making him the first running back in Baylor history with consecutive 1,000-yard years.

 

A Wealth of Physical Talent

One thing becomes apparent pretty quickly while watching game tape of Seastrunk in action.

The young man is fast.

Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller ranks Seastrunk outside the top-five tailbacks in this year's class, but Miller is also quick to concede Seastrunk "could be the first back off the board when the draft rolls around in May. That's how talented he is."

The reason? Speed, plain and simple.

The team that drafts the former Baylor Bear will get a ton of speed. Seastrunk loves to attack the defense outside the tackle box, where he has the wiggle room to make tacklers miss and the jets to run away from the rest of the defense. Give him daylight, and he's gone. He'll find that opening on a run or pass out of the backfield. He's fast, he's versatile and his open-field vision is upper tier. Not bad, right?

Miller's colleague Ryan Lownes agreed, calling Seastrunk a "tremendous physical specimen [and] incredibly smooth and athletic runner" who compares to LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Simply put, give Seastrunk a football and a hole to run through, and he's a very dangerous man.

However, for all those physical gifts there is also more than one hole in Seastrunk's game.

Dane Brugler of CBS Sports points out that Seastrunk is prone to spending too much time running laterally, looking for the home run rather than taking the base hit.

"[Seastrunk] Relies too much on east-west runs and doesn't have ideal vision," Brugler said, "drawbacks that have stood out."

Lache Seastrunk 2014 NFL Draft Rankings
Ranker/Site RB Rank OVR Rank Proj. Round
Matt Miller/Bleacher Report 8 97 3-4
Rob Rang/CBS Sports 7 91 3
Todd McShay/ESPN 9 122 4
Eric Galko/Optimum Scouting 6 63* 3
Charlie Campbell/Walter Football 5 67 2-3

*QBs not included

It's an assessment Huguenin shares:

Seastrunk's speed and elusiveness make him a big-play threat, but he frequently is guilty of trying to look for the big play rather than just taking what he can get. He has good balance and can stop and start quickly, but some scouts question his vision and patience. His receiving ability is a concern (he had zero receptions in 2013 after just nine in '12), and his blocking is a question, too. In addition, his production lagged as the 2013 season progressed and Baylor played tougher foes; he had eight touchdowns in the first four games but just three the rest of the way.

Take the good, add the bad and throw in a handful of other ball-carriers with similar overall draft grades, and you have the recipe for a combine where several running backs have a lot on the line.

 

The Need for Speed

Unfortunately for Seastrunk, it will be hard for him to change minds in Indy, at least where the "flaws" in his game are concerned.

Breaking tackles and protecting the passer aren't exactly featured in the drills at the combine, after all.

With that said, if Seastrunk can follow through with his pledge, you can bet some NFL teams are going to seriously rethink Seastrunk's "pros" vs. the "cons."

According to Huguenin, since the NFL moved to electronic timing at the combine in 1999, only 11 players have run the 40-yard dash in less than 4.3 seconds.

Not one of those players weighed more than 200 pounds. (Chris Johnson was 195 pounds when he reeled off the 40 time that earned him the nickname "CJ4.24" back in 2008.)

Fastest Combine 40-Yard Dashes Since 1999
Time Year Player Weight
4.24 1999 Rondel Menendez 192
4.24 2008 Chris Johnson 195
4.26 2005 Jerome Mathis 184
4.26 2005 Stanford Routt 193
4.27 2013 Marquise Goodwin 181
4.28 1999 Champ Bailey 192
4.28 2010 Jacoby Ford 190
4.28 2011 DeMarcus Van Dyke 187
4.29 2005 Fabian Washington 188
4.29 2008 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 184
4.29 2012 Josh Robinson 199

Per NFL.com

If Seastrunk can run that fast at that size, it raises a very interesting dilemma for coaches. The inability to pass protect can become "we can teach him how to block in a hurry" when the upside is that off the charts.

What round should Lache Seastrunk be drafted in?

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Frankly, at the end of the day, the odds of Seastrunk (or any running back, for that matter) being drafted in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft aren't very good.

The position has become devalued on draft day, the class is deep, and no ball-carrier has established himself as this year's clear-cut RB numero uno.

However, if Seastrunk hammers home his sky-high upside with a historic day on the track at Lucas Oil Stadium, then all bets are off.

Back in 2008, Chris Johnson entered the combine ranked seventh among running backs according to the NFL Network's Mike Mayock. He was projected as a second or third-round pick.

The rest, as they say, is history.

 

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