We’re all fascinated by 7th round pick Bryce Brown, the RB from Tennessee/Kansas State/his parents house.
Amy Domowitch’s dad recently wrote a good column on Bryce and his bizarre situation.
Today Matt Waldman, a draft analyst and good football writer, has a piece up on Brown and his RB skills.
* * * * *
I have yet to dig out a Tennessee tape from 2009 so I can watch him in-depth. I was able to watch some Bryce Brown highlights on YouTube.
The key to being a good RB is: 1. vision 2. good footwork.
You need vision so that you can read your blocks and also read the defense. RBs make things look easy when they run and there aren’t defenders in that area. How many times has a fan yelled “Even I could run through that hole!”? What so many don’t realize is that the RB has to choose the right gap to run through.
A RB without vision can still get you plenty of 3 and 4 yard runs, but he will struggle to deliver big plays. Good RBs read the defense and see cutback lanes. They find creases. People love to compare football to chess. Imagine if all the pieces were moving at once and you had to know which space to move to. You’d need to be able to see where the pieces are and to anticipate where they will be.
As for footwork, this is also critical. A RB with 4.25 speed is no good if he can’t cut or move laterally. Same thing for a 250-pound battering ram. If a RB can only go straight, he will have severe limitations.
You want to see a RB that can move laterally. That requires footwork and body control. You want a RB with quick feet. If he has good moves, but they’re slow, he’s useless in the NFL.
Cutting ability is part of footwork. A good RB must be able to make good cuts. Shady McCoy makes great cuts. He’s special in that regard. You’d love every RB to do that, but it isn’t realistic. Think about Correll Buckhalter in 2006-2008. He was able to cut, but wasn’t anywhere close to dynamic. That’s the kind of minimum ability a RB should have.
In the video above, Bryce Brown shows both vision and footwork. That is very, very encouraging. Some elite high school backs rely on speed or elusiveness to produce great results. Those guys get to college and struggle when defenders are no longer overwhelmed. Brown only had 104 college carries, but he did show NFL ability.
I was surprised to see Brown catch the ball so smoothly. He looked natural at plucking the ball on the move. I’m sure this is something that Andy Reid loved when he watched Brown’s hit tape. NFL RBs must be able to run and catch. They also must be able to block. I do not know if Brown has much experience at this or can do it.
One of the things I liked most about the Brown video was that he stayed square to the LOS and ran behind his pads. 225-pound RBs are no good when they run sideways (parallel to the LOS). Brown showed an understanding of this. When running wide he would turn his shoulders for a second to get where he wanted, but immediately then squared up to the line. This helps with his vision, but also gives him the chance to run over tacklers.
Some people get confused by the phrase “running behind your pads”. This refers to a RB using his shoulder pads to take on defenders. If the RB is turned to the side or if he is upright, his shoulder pads do him no good. He is easy to tackle. If a RB gets low and runs straight, his body is behind his shoulder pads and he will generate maximum force when making contact with tacklers. Think Walter Payton, Earl Campbell.
The goal isn’t to bulldoze every defender, but you want to be able to break tackles. The worst thing you can say about a RB is that he goes down on first contact. He’d rather hear you talk about his mom or sister than to have that said.
Brown showed the ability to get behind his pads and knock back tacklers in the video. He’s not necessarily a power runner, but he seems to understand that he’s 225 pounds and can use his size to his advantage at times.
While that video is fun to watch, remember that it is highlights. I need to watch games to get a better feel for Brown. I just haven’t had the time to dig up the tapes and watch them. Even then, Brown was just a backup RB so I still won’t come away knowing enough about him. Bryce will be a mystery until we see him at Lehigh in live drills where he’s facing elite competition.
The more I think about the pick, the more I like it. Brown may struggle on and off the field here and get cut. That is a very real possibility. I still think spending a 7th round pick on a mid round talent (at least) was a good gamble. He isn’t violent. His former coaches don’t hate him. He wasn’t kicked out of school. Brown has some maturity issues to deal with, but he might be a good fit for pro football. He doesn’t have to worry about going to class. All he has to do is play football. Can he do it?