Leading up to the 2011 NFL Draft, I will be examining the top pro prospects from the University of Nebraska.
Today's prospect is running back Roy Helu. I named Helu one of my top five potential sleepers last week, but wanted to take a more in-depth look at his resume.
Running back Roy Helu is a rather interesting prospect to examine. He comes from a football powerhouse, in a major conference, where he produced big-time numbers. He also boasts an elite combination of size and speed.
However, he has been graded out by some scouting services (such as ESPN) as a fifth-round talent. These things do not really appear to add up, so let's take a closer look.
As a physical specimen, Roy Helu is just about all you can ask for from the running back position. At just a shade under six-feet tall and 220 pounds, he has ideal size to take the inherent punishment in being an every down back in the NFL.
Even at that size, his speed and agility measurables matched up with the best of the best at the NFL combine.
Helu ran a 4.4 40-yard dash (the best RB time was a 4.37), put up a 6.67 in the three-cone drill (the best RB time was 6.66) and he put up a position best 4.01 in the 20-yard shuttle. Helu's vertical and broad jumps were both above average as well.
Roy Helu is not just some workout warrior, though.
In four years as a Cornhusker, Helu accumulated over 3,400 yards, good enough for fourth on the Huskers' all-time rushing leaders list. In his last two years on campus, he topped 1,000 yards each season despite splitting carries with fellow running back Rex Burkhead and quarterback Taylor Martinez.
Helu also showed the ability to take over a ball game, specifically when Nebraska and Missouri met last year. Against the Tigers, Helu exploded for 307 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 11 yards per carry.
On the season, he rushed for 75 yards or more in a game eight times, despite receiving over 20 carries just twice.
All of these things would indicate that Roy Helu should be hearing his named called early on in the NFL draft, yet he still carries a fifth-round grade. Let's try to figure out why that is.
One of the biggest concerns about Helu is his durability. He has dealt with shoulder, ankle and hamstring injuries over the past few years that limited his playing time.
To Helu's credit, most of the time he did his best to play through these injuries; however, they nonetheless often made him somewhat ineffective despite his willingness to fight through the pain.
Another question about Helu involves his strength. As a bigger back, that should not be a problem, but at the NFL combine, Helu put up a position-worst 11 reps on the bench press.
This, in addition to pre-existing concerns about his ability to push the pile and absorb contact have led to concerns that Helu does not play as big as his size would indicate.
Since I named Roy Helu as one of my possible sleepers, obviously I think he is going to do well in the NFL. In addition to his exceptional size and speed combination, he is also considered a hard worker and model citizen as he is very active in the community.
Helu will have to answer questions about his pad level and running stronger, but I believe he can and he will. In my opinion, Roy Helu will be next in the line of extremely productive running backs who were taken in the later rounds of the draft.
Projected Draft Position: Fourth round. Helu's performance at the combine should make a team pull the trigger a little earlier than originally expected.