2016 NFL Draft Prospect Preview: RB Devontae Booker, Utah UtesTurron Davenport, FBGP Analyst ________
Many say that the running back position is becoming devalued in the NFL. That may be the case to an extent but the same can’t be said for college football. A running back being on the Heisman Trophy watch list has become an annual occurrence. One of the backs that are on the watch list this year is University of Utah running back Devontae Booker. He has drawn comparisons to Marshawn Lynch and has been referred to as “Baby Beast Mode.” The question is, are those comparisons accurate?
Booker has the ability to break tackles and can gain yards with a sharp cut back. He is a tough runner that is hard to bring down. While Booker is pretty adept at running between the tackles, he is not as good of a runner when it comes to running outside the tackles.
Here is an example of a where there is room for improvement for Booker:
The play is designed to get Booker outside. The first thing that he has to do is beat the defensive end to the outside where the receivers are blocking for him. The defensive end is left unblocked as it’s an expectation for Booker to be able to get past him. Booker has the defensive end beat but hesitates slightly which allows the linebacker to track him down. Booker has to trust his speed to get outside rather than hesitate. The split second cost him here.
This play shows Booker at his best. He sees that the inside running lanes are stuffed. He instinctively cuts it back where there is space to run. Booker is a strong running back that will run through arm tackles. A weak attempt by the defensive back results in a broken tackle by Booker on his way to the end zone.
It takes an elite back to be worthy of a Heisman trophy mention. One of the traits of a top notch back is the ability to make a defender miss. Here you see Booker run outside with no hesitation and he beats the outside contain of the defense. The safety (#38) comes down to make the tackle and Booker doesn’t give him any kind of move to make him miss. This tackle by the safety can be used in a coach’s tackling video. If Booker makes him miss, there is a strong possibility that he scores the touchdown. This is what makes the difference between a short gain and a long touchdown run, making a defender miss.
There is no doubt that Booker is a tough runner. He definitely breaks his share of tackles. This is one of those runs that led to some of the Marshawn Lynch comparisons. He jumps into the hole and breaks three tackles.
Booker rushed for over 1,500 yards last year. His coaching staff has not hesitated to say that they could envision him rushing for 2,000 yards this year. Booker will get a very high amount of carries and produce a lot of what we call volume yards. In order for him to rush for that many yards, it will be important for him to develop a better ability to turn long runs into touchdown runs. There were quite a few runs in which he got tracked down from behind. It will be interesting seeing if he could finish more runs in the same fashion as he did below against Washington State.