2024 Skill Position Draft Reviews Part 5

With part 5 of this series ballooning out to 14 profiles, it was decided to split these remaining profiles into two separate parts. This part will present the remaining studied RBs from the 2024 class, while part 6 will present the remaining pass catchers (WRs/ TEs). The majority of players in these two posts weren’t studied quite as in depth as those from previous parts, largely due to lacking quality film (and in a few cases due to lacking time). As before, the players in this portion are not ranked or tiered, merely loosely grouped together in somewhat descending order. The last part of this series (now part 7) will rank/ tier all the studied players and take a holistic look at the entire class.

Frank Gore Jr (lateral oriented posterior dominant) presents an interesting profile– one that may suggest career success hugely outweighing his UDFA status, but with some important caveats. Gore Jr is the third and final RB from this class to show full efficiency in lumbar areas (lateral posterior) which in general suggests feature back capable rushing (due to lumbar muscles that return fully to rest after each contraction, allowing for high level control and relatively consistent performance/ durability). And indeed, Gore Jr shows very high level burst and good run power/ contact balance. However, Gore is an undersized posterior dominant back– something of an anachronism; his fully efficient areas are those that relate to leg drive, yet his size diminishes the impact of his forceful legs. Furthermore, while Gore Jr shows excellent burst and powerful changes of direction via those fully efficient lateral posterior areas, his anterior lumbar areas do not appear especially efficient. So Gore Jr bursts quickly through the hole and can make defenders miss via powerful lateral changes of direction, but his long speed is gated by those somewhat lacking anterior areas, as is his quickness in pass blocking or after making a reception. Gore also doesn’t show great thoracic efficiency for making difficult catches and seems unlikely to become a high level threat out of the backfield. So while Gore Jr presents an intriguingly high level profile as a runner due to his full lumbar efficiency, his size diminishes his power, and he is likely neither fast nor elusive enough (nor a strong enough receiver) to become a high level satellite back. Had he landed in a barren backfield it’s still likely that Gore Jr would have ascended the depth chart on the strength of his burst– as a pure runner and occasional receiver, he appears to be quite high level (particularly given his size). But having been signed by the same team that drafted arguably the most talented all around RB in the 2024 draft (Ray Davis), and with James Cook as an excellent in house receiving/ space back, it seems unlikely that Gore Jr will carve out a meaningful early role, barring injury.

Jonathon Brooks (lateral oriented anterior dominant) profiles as an explosive space/ receiving back who shows excellent systemic efficiency, with particularly well developed/ efficient lateral anterior and medial posterior lumbar areas. But critically, Brooks does not show any areas of full lumbar efficiency and appears to lack the sort of nuanced leg control (and quickness to the hole) of fully efficient anterior dominant runners. In particular, Brooks appears to lack sufficient lumbar independence– Brooks takes a beat to get his feet moving, both behind the line and after making an elusive move. Once he gets going, Brooks shows very good speed, some quality moves, and good run power. Likewise, Brooks shows soft hands and the ability to maintain speed while making receptions– given a reasonably clear runway, Brooks can pick up big chunks as a receiver. As an overall athlete, Brooks appears to be quite high level. The issue is that Brooks’s lumbar areas do not appear independent enough for him to continue his feet/ momentum whenever forceful systemic action is taken– there are far too many extra beats while the system resets towards the lumbar, both at the beginning of the play and after making moves. As such, it seems unlikely that Brooks will become a high level every down back, and may therefore disappoint relative to expectations.

Marshawn Lloyd (medial centric anterior dominant) shows the sort of balanced efficient lumbar system that may lead to periods of success as a starter, even without showing any areas of full efficiency. Lloyd shows reasonably high levels of efficiency system wide, with quality hands and a large catch radius for a running back (high levels of thoracic efficiency), quick feet and good elusive moves, plus good burst and the speed to outrun the defense deep. Like the other RBs on this list who do not show full lumbar efficiency in any areas, Lloyd’s movements lack the elite suddenness characteristic of fully efficient runners– for example Lloyd does not show the quickness to the hole of Corum, the disarming acceleration of Davis, or the instant burst of Gore Jr. But Lloyd’s toolkit is complete enough (particularly quickness and long speed) that he may succeed nevertheless. The one other caveat that applies to all non fully efficient runners is that Lloyd is more likely to incur overuse injuries if given a full workload. However, Lloyd’s balanced profile should provide at least some protection against such injuries, given that no one area is generating a disproportionate amount of force. Overall a quick runner/ all-around threat who may find some success as a starter for as long as he is able to stay healthy.

Trey Benson (lateral oriented posterior dominant) shows such explosive lateral burst (and high end overall athleticism and size) that he may also find success as a starter despite not showing any areas of full lumbar efficiency. While Benson doesn’t show elite short area quickness, he shows reasonably quick feet for a posterior dominant back, and after taking a short beat to get moving, hits the hole reasonably quickly. However, it is once his lateral posterior areas take over that he shows his true value, via explosive lateral burst and high end long speed (and excellent contact balance once up to speed). In particular, Benson appears to be a perfect fit in a wide zone scheme– the ‘one cut and go’ style allows Benson to burst laterally through the hole with those highly efficient lateral posterior lumbar areas, and on such runs Benson hits the hole quickly and with powerful burst. Likewise, Benson appears to be a high end weapon on screens– he shows very high level thoracic efficiency for a RB, catches the ball fluidly and while maintaining speed, and once out in space as a runner (again, once those lateral posterior lumbar areas take over), Benson is extremely hard to get to the ground. Benson’s upright running style and lack of full efficiency may predict future injury issues (and the potential to wear down with heavy usage). But having landed in a perfect situation (in a traditional wide zone scheme in Arizona) Benson seems likely to become very productive for as long as he is fresh and healthy.

Jaylen Wright (medial centric posterior dominant) appears to be the sort of back who, if schemed into space or given a clear runway, can be a home run threat on any given play, and yet who also manages to keep forward momentum even in tight spaces. Wright shows similar levels of efficiency overall to Lloyd and Benson, but is almost certainly the fastest of these backs running straight ahead, and his contact balance also appears to be reasonably high level. While his lateral posterior areas don’t appear particularly efficient, Wright makes up for lacking powerful lateral burst with a highly effective jump cut, using instead his highly efficient/ favored medial posterior areas to power his sudden changes of direction– using this jump cut, Wright is often able to elude backfield tacklers and beat the defense to the corner. Similarly, Wright shows an effective spin move, and in combination with his other moves and good contact balance, Wright can be quite difficult to tackle. Wright also shows long efficient arms for an RB and while he doesn’t appear to run particularly crisp routes, did sometimes line up wide or in the slot at Tennessee. Wright doesn’t always appear to read the hole correctly, and without great lateral burst can sometimes arrive late to a hole in the wider gaps. But overall, Wright appears to be a highly effective back running straight ahead (and home run threat in space), who seems likely to become quite productive in Miami (as a complement to their other speedy backs) given how effectively Mike McDaniel isolates his backs in space.

Blake Watson (medial centric posterior dominant) profiles as a silky smooth receiving back who may surprise with some strong production in Denver. Watson was seemingly largely ignored by the draft community and as such there is very little usable tape available to build a profile. So this will be a somewhat shallower analysis than preferred. Nevertheless, Watson showed a notably well balanced and efficient profile on his scarce available college tape, including very high thoracic efficiency/ development for a RB, with soft hands and a large catch radius (which is somewhat unsurprising given that he is a converted WR). What is more surprising given Watson’s background is his smoothness as a runner, including very good acceleration, excellent speed (4.39 at his pro day), and good contact balance (particularly for someone with his level of speed). Although when taking a handoff, Watson appears to take just a bit longer to hit the hole than desired (likely a result of a posterior orientation without any areas of full lumbar efficiency), once the hole is hit, Watson shows his quick acceleration and high end speed. And critically for a receiving back, Watson appears to be able to make elusive moves without losing speed, including while making a reception. There are very few extra beats taken– both as a runner making moves and as a receiver heading upfield after catching– and it’s this constant smooth forward momentum that seems likely to make Watson a very effective space/ receiving back in the NFL. Few backs can continue accelerating while evading a tackle or making a catch (which is a testament to Watson’s very well rounded/ efficient system) and it may make Watson an excellent fit for Payton’s space back/ joker position. As an older prospect, Watson likely shouldn’t be expected to meaningfully improve his athletic skillset. But he may be arriving to Denver with a skillset ready-made for immediate satellite back production.

Tyrone Tracy (medial centric anterior dominant) shows a combination of highly efficient/ effective anterior lumbar areas with worryingly taut posterior areas. In practice, Tracy appears to be one of the most shifty yet bursty runners in the class, with excellent short area quickness and very quick acceleration/ burst– the sort of runner who quickly generates chunk gains and always seems to elude the first tackler. In addition, Tracy, being a converted WR, shows excellent thoracic efficiency for a RB and makes smooth easy catches in space. The issue however is that, unlike fully efficient runners, Tracy isn’t generating that near instant burst via lower body independence. Instead, Tracy’s entire posterior system appears extremely tightly borrowed against towards his favored anterior lumbar areas– in essence, Tracy’s burst appears to be so exceptional because everything moves as one, and is lending its force. Tracy’s whole rear side– his whole posterior system– is extremely tight when he runs, tied to the forward pull of his legs. While extremely effective to date, this is also almost certainly a highly unsustainable mechanic– with so little independence and so many areas being borrowed against, a large workload will very likely lead to extremely high levels of stress on areas that are chronically taut and unable to release between motions/ runs. Any kind of sustained workload will almost certainly lead to overuse injuries over time (and contact injuries may also lessen Tracy’s effectiveness when areas are no longer able to be borrowed against due to injury). As a result, Tracy seems likely to excel initially and/ or if his workload is light. But as a starter, it seems very likely that Tracy will be unable to withstand a full workload without losing effectiveness and or becoming injured.