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Taking advantage of a larger UDFA class: Running Backs

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Relative of a former Patriot great may be a big sleeper.

Continued from the previous post

Same premise. Different position today.

It is considered that it is relatively easier to find quality contributors at running back from UDFA pool than other positions (most familiar names to Patriots fan base would be BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Brandon Bolden. Danny Woodhead was a former UDFA as well). With historically deep upcoming RB class, the trend seems to continue this year. Due to current logjam at the position even without Mike Gillslee or Damien Williams, it is more likely UDFA signees this year will get DJ Foster-ed aiming for contributing in upcoming years. Nonetheless, with Burkhead, White and Lewis all hitting free agency at the end of this year, don't be surprised if BB grooms their potential successors on the bottom of the roster or practice squad.

Marcus Cox (Appalachian State):

Cox is a cousin of a dude named Willie McGinest. Yes, that Willie McGinest. Because their body type and position are vastly different, from evaluation standpoint, it really doesn't mean much (While having him on the team would definitely evoke special emotion, my own Hank must remind you Joseph Fauria never panned out here). But if you see his film, you quickly realize this guy deserves recognition of his own. I was particularly impressed by his performance against Tennessee, arguably the best competition App. State faced last year.

Several things you can see: 1) He has great vision and decisiveness, he always finds a right lane and he explodes thru it. 2) Maybe it is a deception from 1) but he does seem to have nice acceleration. Definitely not a build up speed guy a la Blount. 3) Always keeps his legs churning and as result, more often than not break arms tackles which makes him look more powerful than he statue indicates. 3) Pass blocking is work-in-progress but not horrendous. On per with other college RBs. 4) Not as extensive route tree as bona fide 3-rd down back, but does have decent enough experience as pass catcher with seemingly more than adequate hands.

Intrigued, I decided to dig deeper and some numbers I found explain why he would go undrafted.

1) His workout numbers are...not pretty. This may mean he is a better football player than number indicate. Or his intangibles can no longer cover it up at the NFL level.

2) He dominated not so great competition level. I am not so worried about his ability since he was fairly productive when App. State faced much better team, especially that usually meant his OLs were significantly out matched. However, en route, the team gave him whooping 901 carries (plus 91 receptions) in his 4 year span. That is a lot of tread on tire.

- from Dane Brugler's scouting report.

3) His fumbling rate is one of the worst among this year's draftable RBs. HOWEVER, HERE IS A CAVEAT. Wait for a sec before you go with another Stevan Ridley reference. 13 of his 19 career fumbles came during his first two years of four (2013 with 5 and 2014 with 8). He cut it down to 4 in 2015 and 2 in 2016. With him showing progress, I give it a pass.

With proper seasoning, he has a potential to grow into a RB whom can be used in any downs without tipping the D# intents of plays, though not the level of likes of Matt Forte or Jammal Charles in their prime. Due to his heavy workload during college, it is probably better to rotate him in and out, which actually perfectly fits with Patriots' RBC approach. His shelf life may be short and he may not be excellent in anything but a solid all rounder for some time is still great value from an UDFA RB.

Scouting Reports

Dane Brugler (CBS)

SUMMARY: A former two-star recruit, Cox, who is the cousin of former NFL linebacker Willie McGinest, became the first player in Appalachian State history to rushfor 1,000+ yards in four straight seasons and leaves Boone with most of the career rushing marks in the school’s record books. After career-bests as a junior, he battled a leg injury as a senior, but rushed for a personal best 6.4 yards per carry in 2016. An upright, leggy runner, Cox is an average speed and burst athlete, but makes smart decisions, trusting his vision and running decisive through holes. He does a great job following daylight on outside zones with a strong plant foot and enough juice to out-pace the first wave. He needs to better lower his pads and drive his feet at contact and ball security has been an issue with 19 career fumbles. Overall, Cox’s longer legs and average athleticism work against him, but he is a quick-thinker with receiving traits and the patience ideal for a zone-blocking.

Lance Zierlein (NFL.com)

Tion Green (Cincinnati):

Tion Green is a sleeper of sleepers considering Brugler ranks him as 78th best RB of this year. He is a type of a player I would make my own cut out videos like I used to do since Draftbreakdown has no video of him while there are plenty of full game videos of Univ. of Cincinnati on youtube. Unfortunately, I have no time to do so this year (blame my school) so I will compromise with highlights (at least that show his upside) and link to full game videos.

Warning: these highlight reels are with NSFW background musics.

Cincinnati vs Miami 2015

Cincinnati vs BYU 2016

Cincinnati vs USF 2016

At 6'00" 230lb, he is built like a power back but does surprisingly good wiggle in open field / route running pass catching ability for his size. He runs violent and can break a lot of tackles especially after he gains momentum. He is productive in goal line situation, but in games I watched, he is inconsistent if not a bit underwhelming in regular 3rd or 4th and 1s. Not horrendous in pass pro and has upside due to his size). His production number suffered a lot due to UC's RBC approach, but full games showed he actually play ST extensively already, which is a major plus if you are at the bottom of depth chart. Like Cox, he has potential to be a solid do it all RB (Or he may turn into another Brandon Bolden who are really MEH at everything except pass pro, enigmatically underwhelming as a short yardage guy relative to his size but can play ST, which is still a decent value for an UDFA RB).

Scouting Report

STRENGTHS

BOTTOM LINE

When the rubber hits the road, Green is going to be more of a grinder than a creator as a runner. With that said, he does have good foot quickness and he's not a tight-hipped runner, so he might be a fit for a team looking for a big, one-cut runner. Green isn't going to make defenders miss that often, but he does flash some three-down potential and could make a 53-man roster if he can pull his weight on special teams.
Big frame, but not overly bulky. Has ability to run to his size with good collision balance. Tough runner who spent a majority of his carries between the tackles. Can tear through arm tackles and averaged more yards after contact than before contact. Possesses adequate vision and makes good reads on outside zone plays. Has nimble, one-cut footwork to stick and go downhill. Able to make sharp cuts with good ankle flexion. Route running matters to him. Has ability out of backfield and can gain separation out of breaks against linebackers. Flashes some ability in pass protection. Has coverage ability on special teams.

WEAKNESSES

Production has been below average in college. Lacks explosiveness. Playing style lends itself to a grinder mentality. Lacks the functional speed to consistently beat flowing linebackers around the corner. Face-up runner with difficulties getting skinny through tight quarters. Decisiveness and pace of his runs will both have to accelerate. Premature finisher who looks to cover and duck his helmet rather than seek out additional moves on second level. Runs between tackles like he's afraid to fumble.

SOURCES TELL US

"I like him better than some of the backs who were invited to the combine. I'm surprised he didn't get an invite with his size. He's got a chance to make it if he can show something on (special) teams in camp." - AFC national scout