Starting running back is not a massive area of need after the Seattle Seahawks after the team selected Offense Rookie of the Year runner-up Kenneth Walker lll in the second round of last year’s draft. However, as previously discussed Pete Carroll and John Schneider do not necessarily care about double dipping or positional value. However, with Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer both leaving in free agency, a running back selection early this year cannot be ruled out. If the team decides to wait until Round 3 or later to take a back, Tulane’s Tyjae Spears is a fantastic option.
Games watched - 2022 Cincinnati, SMU, Memphis, UCF
Relative Athletic Score (RAS)
- Biggest strength - home run ability - Spears is a playmaking running back who is capable of taking just about any carry to the house. He has the necessary elusiveness to do so as he features a strong cut move as well as a sidestep which allows him to dodge multiple defenders in the same run. Spears is not slow out of his cuts which allows him to pair them together in short succession. He has breakaway speed in his arsenal as he is able to run away from defenders at every level. Spears has the necessary quickness to beat players to the edge and then immediately turn it up field for a chunk play.
Tyjae Spears is a menace— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) February 21, 2023
Also, the move at the 30 is filthy. Spears hops over his own man, then WHILE IN MID AIR EYEBALLS THE DEFENDER & HITS HIM WITH A DEAD LEG SHAKE AS HE HITS THE GROUND. Defender hesitates & Spears scores. Smooth transition
- Spears has good vision which allows him to see the edge open up on inside runs or diagnose a running lane on the inside when the opposite hole is the designed run gap. There are multiple instances in which a run is called for either the A or B gap on one side and Spears ended up taking it to the B or C gap on the opposite side because of his vision. He is quick to recognize openings and has a natural feel for when holes are going to open up.
- Spears is more than willing to follow his blockers and stay patient behind them rather than running with one speed from start to finish and blowing right by them. He is adept at putting his hand on their back when there is a pulling tight end or guard, which allows him to run the play with a better tempo and maintain his vision throughout.
- Spears has good contact balance as a runner as he routinely is able to bounce off of tackles without losing his center of gravity. After contact, Spears is able to quickly get right back up to his top play speed. He runs with a bendy upper body which allows him to contort his upper half to avoid contact whilst maintaining his play speed.
Shows solid contact balance on this run. pic.twitter.com/Iki8NDAzkg— Nick Penticoff (@NickPenticoff) March 24, 2023
- He does a good job of getting his feet up and forward on breakaway runs to avoid being tripped up from behind.
- Spears’ capabilities as a runner with the ball in his hands translate well to the receiving game. If an offensive coordinator schemes a play to get him the ball in space whether it be via a swing, screen etc. he is a massive yards after catch threat.
- Biggest weakness - power - Spears’ lack of power makes it difficult for him to consistently fall forward as a runner when stood up or when multiple players are bringing him down.
- The only time his vision slipped is when he would force runs to the inside on third and fourth and short. On multiple of those plays Spears is following his blockers, but there are openings that he could’ve hit elsewhere.
- From a ball security standpoint, Spears needs to work on a few things. There are instances in which the ball can travel low down the side of his body rather than keeping it up and tight. Spears also rarely ever moved the ball to his outside hand, routinely keeping it on the inside closer to defenders.
- Spears is an upright runner as he does not get too much bend in his knees. This makes it easier for defenders to gain leverage on him and chop him down.
- As a pass blocker, he struggles to maintain the block throughout the play. He will impact them, stand up to them, but then the majority of the time they will be able to get free to either side after the first point of contact.
- As a route runner, Spears is lacking. He has no refined aspect of his game there and he struggles to run Texas and other routes such as that. On screens Spears needs to run them with a little bit of a better tempo as he does show them a bit too quickly at times.
- He had the occasional concentration drop but for the most part he was able to make fine hands catches.
Floor/ceiling - Spears’ combination of very good toughness and playmaking, good play speed, elusiveness and vision gives him the ceiling of a high end running back. However, his lack of true power, shortcomings as a route runner and ball security questions give him the floor of a low-end starter.
Grade - 6.6 - Low end starter first day of second season - Late second/early third
Grade explanation - Spears has a lot of great capabilities as a runner. However, his lack of power and upright running style does give me slight pause when it comes to how well he will translate to the NFL level. There are concerns about how well he will hold up over the course of an NFL season, but that is not something that overly concerns me because of how he was used at Tulane. If Spears can get a bit more bend in his knees, he might be the biggest day 2 steal in this year’s draft. If not, I still see a starting running back in the NFL.
Schematic fit - Spears is best suited for a zone blocking scheme where his patience and vision as a runner can be fully showcased. He can run in a man blocking scheme as well because of his one line burst to the hole, but he is definitely better suited for a zone scheme.