Last week, we talked with our good friend Greg Cosell of NFL Films and ESPN's NFL Matchup about the 2012 draft class of quarterbacks, and we're back to discuss this draft's class of running backs and receivers. First, Greg and I talked about the changing role of running backs in today's NFL, and how it affects current drafts.
"It's gradual, but it's come to fruition that the game is more about multiple receiver sets," Greg opined. "So, teams don't line up automatically on first down now in what we call base offensive personnel with a so-called feature back. When teams did that, the back would carry the ball 20-plus times in a given game, and you needed a back who was capable of doing that. there are a lot of talented backs, but running the ball on a weekly basis 20-pplus times per game required a lot of attributes beyond just pure physical skill."
And speaking of physical skill, we started with Greg's assessment of the man he called the best player in this draft class, and the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson -- Alabama's Trent Richardson.
"He's incredibly powerful, first of all. He's naturally powerful. He can run through contact, and he's very quick laterally. He can stick his foot in the ground and accelerate. I'm a firm believer that it's more important to be a great NFL back, to have lateral explosion as opposed to vertical explosion. In fact, I would argue that top-end speed -- which is the only thing that Richardson is theoretically lacking -- is way down the list of important attributes for a feature back."
We then moved to Doug Martin of Boise State, and the palette of skills that could have Martin playing that feature-back role in the right offense.
"The thing that struck me watching the Boise games was that Martin has the running mentality of a feature back. He's an aggressive, urgent, downhill runner. He's got natural toughness and physicality to him -- he moves the pile. He might be short, but he's not small, and there's a big difference there. He's another guy I thought had excellent short-area burst."
We also discussed Virginia Tech's David Wilson, Miami's Lamar Miller, Washington's Chris Polk, Cincinnati's Isaiah Pead, and Oregon's LaMichael James.
When it came to receivers, the two top guys were the opening topics of discussion -- Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State, and Notre Dame's Michael Floyd.
Greg on Blackmon:
"I like Justin Blackmon, and I'm trying to figure out who I could truly compare him to. He's not Andre Johnson or Calvin Johnson when they came out of college. I personally don't even think he's Larry Fitzgerald when he came out of college. So, he may go top-5, 6, 7, 8, and that's fine - that's just a function of this given draft. But I don't think he's that level of prospect. Now, he could go into this pass-heavy NFL and catch 90 balls as a rookie ... I like him, but I'm not blown away by him. I don't think he's an explosive mover; I think he's more measured and methodical. He's got very good size, and he makes difficult catches. But I wouldn't call him an explosive wide receiver who will tilt coverage in the NFL."
Greg on Floyd:
"Overall, believe it or not, I like Floyd better than Blackmon. Is he better? I'm not suggesting that Floyd should be the third pick in the draft; I'm just talking about the players. I think he's a naturally quicker athlete than Blackmon. He's got a little more quick-twitch to him. I wouldn't say that either guy is what you'd call vertically explosive -- but both of them, because of their size and their strides, will be deceptive vertical receivers."
The discussion of Baylor's Kendall Wright opened the box on a subject Greg recently wrote about on the NFL Films Blog -- the increased importance of the slot receiver in today's NFL. From there, we talked about LSU's Rueben Randle, Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, and South Carolina's Alshon Jeffrey.
As always with everything involving Greg Cosell, this podcast is a must-listen for those fans of advanced tape analysis. Subscribe to the Shutdown Corner iTunes link (in iTunes, go to "Advanced/Subscribe to Podcast," and paste this link in: http://ysportspods.podbean.com/category/shutdown/feed/). You can also use the link below to either left-click and listen, or right-click to save to your computer.