INDIANAPOLIS — Teams that are in search of top-end talent at running back are out of luck if they're looking to the 2014 NFL draft. If they don't mind waiting to grab a serviceable back after the first round, though, there are plenty of options.
Auburn running back Tre Mason is near the top of the list of those options.
On Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium, Mason had an opportunity to put his athleticism on display for NFL scouts to see. He had a solid if unspectacular finish in the 40-yard dash, but he dazzled in displays of his explosiveness in the vertical jump and broad jump.
Here's a complete rundown of his combine numbers.
|Height||Weight||Arm length||Hand size||40-yard dash||Vertical jump||Broad jump||20-yd shuttle|
|5'8"||207 pounds||30"||9"||4.50 seconds||38.5" *||126" *||4.15 sec.|
Source: NFL.com (*top-five performance at RB)
His official time of a 4.5-second 40-yard dash is not what he was hoping for (he had previously said he was hoping to run in the 4.3 range), but it's not surprising; according to CBS Sports' scouting report of Mason, he "is a one-speed runner who lacks an elite second gear to pull away."
He may not be a home run hitter out of the backfield, but as a running back who does not rely wholly on his speed, the 40-yard-dash time should not be terribly concerning.
Mason is about as well-rounded as they come. His versatility is his real strong suit, and he has caught the eye of former NFL running back LaDainian Tomlinson:
It's hard to show off versatility at the combine, where it's all about athleticism, so while his combine workout may not move the needle very much, NFL front offices probably already have a good idea about how they feel about Mason as a fit for their teams.
There's little question about his ability—he was voted the SEC Player of the Year in 2013—but the 40-yard-dash time shouldn't completely destroy his stock. From this perspective, his performances in the vertical jump and broad jump were promising signs of his explosiveness and burst.
That explosive nature serves him well for his style of running. Via CBS Sports:
Unlike many 'smallish' backs, the compactly-built Mason doesn't waste a lot of time dancing behind the line of scrimmage. Quick feet. He's a decisive, one-cut runner who attacks the hole, whether it comes as a running back or as a returner.
One current NFL running back was impressed enough by his performance at the combine that he moved him to the No. 1 spot on his running back big board:
Tre Mason is now the number 1 back I didn't know he was moving like that...— Anthony Dixon (@Boobie24Dixon) February 23, 2014
Everyone has been searching to compare players to current members of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, and Mason was not shy about bringing up the name of Seattle's hard-nosed runner.
"If I had to compare, it would probably be somebody like Marshawn Lynch, along the lines of that," he said on Saturday. "I can beat you inside, outside, anyway. Over you, through you, around you, find a way to get six points."
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, however, has a different comparison in mind: Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice.
So, while Mason's combine numbers likely were not enough to move him into the first round, his all-around game and pro-readiness would make him a smart choice for a team in need of a running back early in the second round.