According to NFLDraftScout.com, Jahvid Best is the third-rated running back in the 2010 NFL Draft.
But with Selection, well, weekend rapidly approaching, Best still has a lot to prove.
He’s graded as a potential late-first to mid-second round pick, but as everyone knows, the Combine can make a late-round grade A high pick and a highly-rated prospect drop like a rock.
Let’s find out what the early-entry junior from California has to offer.
5’10”, 195 lbs., 4.42 40-yard dash
2008 (Soph.) Stats: 194 carries for 1580 yards (8.1 YPC) and 15 TD; 27 rec. for 246 yards and one TD
2009 (Junior) Stats: 141 carries for 867 yards (6.1 YPC) and 12 TD; 22 rec. for 213 yards and four TD
Best is a small, speedy back that excelled at Cal from the start.
As a freshman, he had only 221 yards rushing on a team that featured future NFL’ers Justin Forsett and DeSean Jackson. However, he was a special teams ace, being voted All-Pac 10 in that area.
As a sophomore, he took over the lead back role and led the Pac-10 in yards (and finished fifth in the nation) with an impressive 8.1 yards per carry average.
Best looked as if he would be a breakout Heisman candidate in his junior season, but a freaky injury derailed him in late October. A dreadful hit during the Oregon State game left him concussed and suffering a back injury, and he never saw the field again.
All told, he racked up 4,045 all-purpose yards in only 31 games, which is a pretty impressive total.
-Outside Speed: He runs a 4.42, which should be enough said. But Best can routinely beat linebackers to the edge, and if he’s got open space, forget it. He accelerates like no other and has an innate ability to stop on a dime and get back to full speed within nanoseconds.
-Cutbacks: If he were a Denver Bronco in the Mike Shanahan era, he would be a Hall of Fame back. That’s how great of a cut runner Best is. He has amazing agility and can make even ridiculously sharp cuts in tight spaces, a trait that’s only helped by his (lack of) size.
-Receiving: Best has good hands and great body control, which let him easily adjust to over- or under-thrown balls. He also has the lateral quickness to line up out wide on screens.
-Special Teams: Best was second in the Pac-10 in kick return yardage as a freshman and led the league as a sophomore, and he can also return punts in a pinch.
-Inside Ability: Best is only 5’10", 195 lbs., and while he’s not intimidated by tough middle runs, he’s not big enough to “make his own hole” so to speak.
-Blocking: Quite simply, he’s not good. He’s not very strong and doesn’t really provide much of a challenge for even a blitzing DB.
-Tackle breaking: Best has a decent stiff-arm and can elude his way out of a lot of tackles. But once he’s caught, he doesn’t have the leg strength to escape much of anything harder than an arm-tackle—or even much of a drive to pick up a couple more tough yards in that situation.
-Injury Prone: Just the severe concussion he suffered late last season would normally be enough to scare some teams away, as a head injury can look glancing but be career-ending.
Beyond that, though, he missed three games as a freshman with a bad hip, sat out spring practice in 2008 recovering from said injury and then missed spring practice in 2009 due to foot and elbow injuries. He was durable during the season, but in the NFL, those minor injuries can be magnified in a hurry.
Best heads into the combine first and foremost looking to prove he’s past that major concussion.
If he can do that, scouts will see what the Pac-10 saw for three years: That he’s an elusive, elite playmaker on his best days and a serviceable speed back on his worst.
Best can also quell questions if he can put up decent numbers in the bench press, as teams will see what kind of endurance he has in a pure strength situation.
Likewise, he can bump himself up if he does well in the off-tackle reaction and three cone drills, which will show that his head is 100 percent and that he’s running without hesitation.
As a small, speedy back from the Pac-10, Best will draw a lot of comparisons to Reggie Bush–so a team that needs some “Thunder” to go with its “Lightning” could go a long way with Best.
Given his initial late-first/early-second round grade, the teams that would seem to be at the top of the list would fall anywhere between, say, Nos. 25 and 45.
The perfect suitor might be Seattle. They have three picks in the Top 40, and many mocks have them taking CJ Spiller either at No. 6 or No. 14. But if they can get an edge rusher and maybe a quarterback there, they could find Best—who is basically a slightly slower and weaker version of Spiller—sitting there at No. 40 and pick up a steal.
Other highly possible destinations could include San Diego, who choose at No. 28 and may lose Darren Sproles in free agency, or Miami, who might be looking for a successor for Ronnie Brown/Ricky Williams and could potentially use Best as a decoy in the Wildcat.
Lesser but still possible landing spots: Cleveland or Kansas City, to be paired with Jerome Harrison or Jamaal Charles; St. Louis, who needs to try to find a way to take some of the load off Steven Jackson; or Carolina, who could look to do the same for DeAngelo Williams if they can unload Jonathan Stewart for something useful.
This depends on two huge variables: C.J. Spiller and Best’s combine.
Spiller is a variable because various mocks have him going anywhere from No. 6 (to Seattle) possibly all the way down to No. 16 (San Francisco) and beyond. He’s a big playmaker, but running back isn’t a huge need for very many teams, so he could end up going simply when a team runs out of other options.
On Best’s side, if he has an amazing combine and proves he’s 100 percent, he could rocket back up the charts. Likewise, if he performs poorly, he could drop until a team takes a flyer on him in the middle rounds.
If all goes well (Spiller goes high, Best is healthy), he could land as high as that No. 16 pick to San Fran—who would relish a Bay Area-bred weapon.
If all goes poorly (Spiller drops and Best’s combine is iffy), he’s looking at potentially San Francisco at No. 49 (if they don’t get Spiller) or even New England at No. 53.
If all goes right in the middle—look for him to most likely go No. 36 to the Chiefs, No. 38 to the Browns, or at worst No. 40 to the Seahawks.