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Manny's Senior Bowl Watchlist: Running Back Edition

The Senior Bowl (February 3, 2024 @1PM EST) is just around the corner, and with many fans already itching for April's draft, this Senior Bowl should provide plenty of content. The Reese's Senior Bowl is an annual classic all-star exhibition game for draft-eligible upperclassmen to showcase their skills in front of fans and NFL scouts and executives. This is the first year where both Juniors and Seniors are eligible to participate, so there will be an overwhelming amount of talent with NFL scouts set to take notes.

Earlier this month, I mentioned a few of my favorite WR prospects in the Senior Bowl. You can also check out my favorite CB prospects in the Senior Bowl from the previous week. In this article, I'll point out a few of my favorite Senior Bowl running backs to watch for in this sneaky RB class and what I want to see from them in Mobile.


Marshawn Lloyd, USC

5'9" 210 pounds

Marshawn certainly lives up to his namesake's mindset of just refusing to be brought down. Lloyd averaged an entire 3.97 yards after contact per each rushing attempt. That's in the top 15% of RBs in the nation. Some backs don't even average 3.97 yards per rush attempt!


Not only is he impossible to take down on the first try, but he also has quick feet and efficient vision. Those work in tandem for him to be able to average an electric 7.1 yards per carry in 2023 on 115 carries. PFF also gave him an elusive rating of 177.0 which is near the 99th percentile of RBs this past season.



I mentioned his footwork, but I want to emphasize it because I think it is a pivotal part of his profile. His patient feet allow him to adjust into open lanes and shake away defenders quickly despite his stocky frame. He bounces outside oh so effortlessly. If a defender plugs a lane, he'll just find another one. Those #PatientFeet and quick feet allow him to buy himself some time to find the right one.


What I want to see showcased at the Senior Bowl: Everything I talked about, but most importantly...the feet! I feel like most people know his ability to be shed off contact. However, there's a crowd of people who underestimate his wiggle ability. But once he shakes a few defenders in reps, drills, or game snaps, Lloyd's quick feet will be a stranger to no one.

Kimani Vidal, Troy

5'8" 218 pounds

Kimani Vidal, an amazing name by the way, has a little bit of a different running style than Lloyd. Vidal is a back that will attack a lane with a full head of steam. He won't constantly reset his feet while patiently waiting for blocks, but he'll decisively maneuver his way through lanes and has a knack for bouncing outside as well. His vision is excellent. It led to his 93.8 rushing grade in 2023. The year before he posted an amazing 85.8 rushing grade. Nothing fluke about Kimani.


Being a 5'8" 218-pound back, he's often referred to as bowling or wrecking ball, and it does show with his ability to fight off contact but do not be fooled. Vidal has incredible burst and balance for his size. He's not a "home-run hitter/lightning in a bottle" explosive, but he's "shot out of a cannon" explosive. He had 19 carries of 15+ yards in 2023 which was tied for 21st in the entire nation. He was able to average an amazing 5.6 yards per carry even with an enormous workload at almost 300 carries in 14 games. That led to an outstanding elusive rating of 118.9.



I briefly touched on his ability to fight off contact, he averaged a whole 3.58 yards after contact. This 3.58 yards after contact is well inside the top 35 percentile in this incoming RB class. On top of everything, he's scheme-versatile. He excelled in both zone and gap runs, as he posted elite grades in both (86.0 and 91.8 respectively) in 2023.


What I want to see showcased at the Senior Bowl: I want that excellent vision to be fully displayed in Mobile. Maybe not as much so during practice during the week, but I'm fully expecting at least one 15-yard burst during the Senior Bowl game itself. Get used to the name Kimani Vidal.

Jaylen Wright, Tennessee

5'11" 210 pounds

Wright helped form a strong RB room with his counterparts Small and Sampson at Tennessee. In 2023 he posted a rushing grade of 91.0, which is an improvement on a still-good rushing grade of 80.3 in 2022. Wright has shown a little mix of both running styles. He's showcased plenty of times the patient feet of Lloyd, and he's also showcased his burst and decisiveness using his vision like Vidal plenty of times as well. He is a bit taller in frame than both at 5'11", so he doesn't have the lateral quickness to constantly bounce outside like Vidal and even Lloyd to some extent.


His strengths are running downhill straight into the second level, where all he needs is to shed off one tackler before breaking it for another big gain. His footwork behind the line of scrimmage and lower body strength allow him to break those big gains and gain even more after contact. He keeps his legs churning and arm tackles will not bring him down. This man averaged a whopping 4.35 yards after contact per carry.



I said earlier he may not have the same lateral quickness as the other top RBs, but that doesn't mean he isn't fast. Wright has a deceptive second gear once he breaks into the next level. It makes him exciting to watch because all it takes is one slipped tackle for him to be a home-run hitter. He has back-to-back seasons of having 80+-yard TD runs that showcased exactly that. Like Vidal, Wright demonstrated to be elite in both gap and zone runs, as he posted a grade of 85.0 in gap runs and 88.8 in zone runs.


What I want to see showcased at the Senior Bowl: I want to see Wright showcase both his physicality and his patience. His burst and home-run ability will attract many of course, but if Wright can show that he has the footwork to be a strong north/south runner that can make defenders miss with a move and by shedding them off, it could allow teams to overlook any lateral quickness concerns.


Thanks for reading my Senior Bowl Watchlist: Running Back edition! Stay tuned for the next position group. Follow me on X (@CommanderSZN), and I'll follow you back!


(all grades according to PFF)

 

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