Sean Tucker Must Not Die
After a phenomenal 2021 season in which running back Sean Tucker broke the Syracuse single season rushing record (formerly held by Joe Morris), Tucker's stock was soaring. Entering the 2022 season, he was considered to be a Heisman Trophy candidate. Oliver Hodgkinson wrote an NFL draft profile about Tucker prior to the 2022 season, suggesting that Tucker could be as high as a 1st round pick and that he could be next RB taken after Bijan Robinson.
In the first half of the very first game of the 2022 season, Tucker suffered an apparent leg injury. Hobbled, he returned to action later in that contest. He also had to exit other 2022 games due to injury. Despite those nagging ailments, Tucker still managed to reach the 1,000 yard mark in 2022, but his Heisman Trophy campaign quickly fizzled and his NFL draft stock slipped. Instead of being ranked as a late 1st to early 2nd prospect, Tucker is typically listed as a Day 3 RB.
Has the bloom fallen off of Tucker's rose? Was he overrated after his great 2021 season? Or is he now one of the best RB values in the draft, a potential secret superstar?
Tucker's evaluation was the single most difficult assignment I've attempted to tackle in the 2023 draft. Tucker's injuries were never officially disclosed, I have no idea what types of injuries he suffered or when they happened. Trying to figure out what happened to Tucker is like trying to guess the ending to a murder mystery novel.
I don't know the answer to the mystery. I don't think it even happened in 2022, I think something happened during the 2021 season, but I can't tell when or how it happened. Something changed in the middle of that year and Tucker didn't look the same.
Tucker's dramatic dropoff is reminiscent of the career of Jarrett Patterson, the Notre Dame center/guard who was very good years ago, but after a number of injuries he wasn't the same. I grade the 2022 version of Sean Tucker as an UDFA, maybe a late round prospect. The healthy version was saw in the 2020 to early 2021 timeframe was a much better prospect, probably in the Day 2 range.
Where should Sean Tucker be drafted? Should he even be drafted at all? I have no clue, because I have a strong suspicion that it depends on the medical evaluation. If he was just beat up by temporary injuries that will heal with rest or minor surgery, then an NFL team could bank on the upside potential. Tucker could be a draft sleeper. If he has some type of chronic or permanent damage where he either can't play at the same level he did before he got hurt or is at substantial risk of getting hurt again even if he rehabs, he could get pushed way down the draft board or even not be worth taking in any round.
Rams Get a Gift, Cowboys Backslide
Early in Steven Jackson's final season at Oregon State, he suffered a knee injury. He continued to play that year, but his yards per carry average fell to 4.4 after being 5.3 the prior season. Jackson had minor knee surgery after the season, which is believed to have been the key reason for his slide in the 2004 NFL draft. Projected as a top 5 to 10 draft pick, Jackson wasn't taken until slot 24 by the Rams.
SJax had a whopping 669 rushing attempts over his final 2 years in college. He took plenty of punishment, wear on the tires. Jackson piled up yardage against weaker opponents, but was contained by the better teams in the Pac 10 conference. Against 4 of the top opponents he faced in 2003, Jackson only ran for 2.9 yards per carry. So, while SJax was a fantastic prospect with great pass catching ability, a rare blend of both size, speed and brute power, there were both durability and production questions that might have scared off NFL teams.
The Dallas Cowboys at pick 22 were expected to take Jackson, because they had a huge need at RB. Instead they traded with the Bills, acquiring a future 1st round pick, Marcus Spears, now an ESPN TV analyst. The Bills drafted a QB, JP Losman. After moving down to the 2nd round, Dallas took the 5th RB off the board, Julius Jones from Notre Dame. Jones was a super hyped high school recruit. Before he even started playing college ball, Jones had been projected to be a future number one overall pick in the draft. You could say he was an earlier version of Reggie Bush. Jones had an inconsistent career at Notre Dame, but finished strong his final season, gaining momentum heading into the draft.
The Bengals held the 24th slot. The Rams moved up from 26 to get Jackson and though they only moved 2 places, it cost them a 4th round pick. The Bengals drafted the 2nd RB off the board, Chris Perry from Michigan, at 26. With the 4th round pick they drafted an OT, Stacy Andrews. For years, Andrews was supposed to be the long term right tackle for the Bengals. Whitworth (drafted in 2006) supposedly didn't have good enough foot quickness to play left tackle. If Andrews was going to be the RT and Whit couldn't play LT, it seemed logical to just keep Whit at G, not even try to make him a starting OT. The Bengals franchise tagged Andrews in 2008. At the very end of that season, Andrews tore his ACL. That injury was part of a series of events that led to Whitworth becoming the permanent starting LT for the Bengals in 2009, his 4th NFL season.
In hindsight, the Bengals made a bad choice trading down, but at the time you can see how the trade seemed justifiable. They potentially could have gotten both a starting RB and a starting RT, instead of just a starting RB.
Similar reasoning explains the trade by the Cowboys. They thought Julius Jones was going to be good, so why not get both a starting RB and an extra 1st round pick (which presumably would land another good starter), instead of just getting a RB who already has durability issues with his knee?
Jones had flashes of success for Dallas early in his career, but was hampered by injuries. He also had a habit of constantly trying to bounce runs outside. Jones was initially the starting RB and Marion Barber (4th round 2005) was his backup, but over time Barber passed Jones on the depth chart. Dallas allowed Jones to leave in FA in 2008.
To replace Jones, the Cowboys drafted another RB, Felix Jones, in the 1st round in 2008. Dallas got this pick as part of the Brady Quinn trade. In 2007, Quinn had a famous draft day slide, forcing him to uncomfortably wait in the green room. The Browns traded up from slot 36 (the same one held by the Rams in 2023) to get Quinn at pick 22, giving Dallas a future 1st round pick. Felix Jones spent 5 years with Dallas, so he wasn't an outright bust, but he also was never their starting RB.
I've never understood why Dallas used that 2008 1st rounder on a RB. To me, it made no sense in terms of long term roster building. At the time, Dallas had a very strong roster and believed that they were on the brink of winning a Super Bowl. They went 13-3 in 2007, suffering an unexpected and frustrating upset loss to the eventual Super Bowl champs, the NY Giants, in the divisional round. Jerry Jones was only focused on the immediate short term. Four slots after Jones was taken, Duane Brown, a very good left tackle, was drafted by the Houston Texans.
The 2008 Cowboys got off to a slow start. In the middle of the season, they made an "All In" move with the infamous Roy Williams trade, giving up multiple picks, including a 1st rounder in 2009. They also signed Williams to a new contract. Going all in didn't work and the Cowboys failed to even qualify for the playoffs. In a must win situation the final week of the regular season, Dallas was obliterated at home by the Eagles, 44-6, finishing 9-7 on the season.
Among the players the Cowboys potentially could have taken with that 2009 1st round pick were Alex Mack and Eric Wood, both of whom would become very good centers. Mack in his prime was arguably the best center in the NFL. Trying to make up for not having that 1st rounder, Dallas decided to trade down from their 2nd round slot in the 2009 draft. This move allowed them to acquire an extra 4th round pick, giving them a total of 5 selections in the top 120 slots, with a total of 12 picks. It also led to what has been described as one of the worst drafts in the history of the franchise. The slot they traded out from became Andy Levitre, a good and versatile offensive lineman. They also could have taken LeSean McCoy at that slot, who instead went to the division rival Eagles. With just a very small trade up in the 2nd round, Dallas could have landed Max Unger, who would go on to become an elite center.
The damage done by the Roy Williams all in move and the 2009 trade down decision had big implications for the following years. Dallas failed to win more than 8 games in any season from 2010 through 2012. In my opinion, Dallas only turned the tide once they began hitting on early draft picks for top offensive linemen, starting with Tyron Smith in 2011, Travis Frederick in 2013, then Zack Martin in 2014.
Early on, it wasn't clear that Steven Jackson would be the best RB from the 2004 draft. Kevin Jones was an electric player at Virginia Tech. He reportedly had 4.2 speed, though at the Combine he weighed 227 pounds and ran 4.38 seconds in the 40. In my opinion, if Kevin Jones were in the 2023 draft, he'd be the very first RB off the board. In other words, all the 2023 RBs would go after at least the top 3 guys from the 2004 draft.
Jones had a great 1st season for the Detroit Lions with 1,133 rushing yards, but a string of injuries derailed his promising career. He never again had 1,000 yards or averaged 4 yards per carry.
My NFL comp for Tucker comes from the 2004 NFL draft running back class. Obviously, it isn't Steven Jackson. Who will it be?
Name: Sean Tucker. Early entrant, true junior. Turns 22 years old in October.
Size: Listed 5'10'' tall, 210 pounds. Per NFLDraftBlitz: 5'8 3/4'' tall, 208 pounds. Per NFLDB 9 1/4'' hands, 29 7/8'' arms, 73 3/4'' wing, 4.54 sec (40 time). He looks short to me, so I'd bet he doesn't measure 5'10'' tall. I have no clue what his true 40 time is and once you read this entire profile, it will become apparent why this is an open question.
3 star recruit from Maryland. Sprinter on track team in high school, ran track for Syracuse during indoor winter track season 2021-2022, with a personal best in the 60 meters of 6.90 seconds.
As a true freshman in 2020, he was projected to be about 5th on the depth chart entering the year, but the top 2 RBs opted out, then the 3rd RB got injured early in the season. On a team that only won 1 game all year, Tucker was one of the only bright spots.
In 2021, Tucker started 12 games and had nearly 1,500 rushing yards, setting the school record for most rushing yards in a single season. Had a PFF rushing grade of 87.0. Was one of the top RBs in the country in terms of rate of forcing missed tackles and also good at yards after contact.
Had apparent leg injury in 2nd quarter of first game of 2022 season. In 5th game of season was shaken up again, but able to walk off the field. Two weeks later, he reportedly was seen limping during the 1st half, but continued to play. His injuries were undisclosed, so I don't know any additional details.
2020 (9 games, 7 starts): 137-626-4 (4.6 ave) 8-113 receiving, 1 fumble
2021 (12 starts): 246-1,496-12 (6.1 ave), 20-255-2 receiving, 2 fumbles
2022 (12 starts): 206-1,060-11 (5.1 ave), 36-254-2 receiving, 2 fumbles
5 career fumbles, one per every 131 touch, an average rate. As far as I know, he has no experience as a kick or punt returner and didn't play on special teams. There's another Cuse guy who wears the same number as Tucker who plays special teams and was used as a blocker, but I think he's a defensive back, I don't think that's Tucker on the ST unit. It was difficult for me to tell from the camera angle.
My previous profile was on Nolan Smith, who is a reporter's best friend when it comes to interviews. Tucker is the exact opposite. He is so uncomfortable, soft spoken and reserved, he gives the media almost nothing in his answers to questions. Like watching Ricky Bobby from Talladega Nights do an interview. I don't know what to do with my hands right now.
ESPN 9th RB, 148th overall (5th rd)
CBSSports 9th RB, 115th (4th rd)
PFF 4th RB, 75th (3rd rd).
Drafttek 11th RB, 137th (Late 4th rd)
Shane Hallam 58th (Late 2nd rd)
Brian Bosarge 42nd (2nd rd)
PFN 11th RB, 100th (4th rd)
NFLDB 8th RB, 105th (4th rd)
Not all draft experts were high on Tucker after his 2021 season. Mel Kiper only ranked Tucker as the 8th best RB entering the 2022 season, which is almost exactly the same as Tucker's current ranking on most boards. So, it is possible the 2022 season had zero impact on Tucker's stock on the draft boards or on NFL team boards. For obvious reasons, teams almost never disclose how they view certain prospects. All the GMs were probably laughing at the media last year when Malik Willis was projected as the 2nd overall pick, then didn't get selected until the 3rd round.
TDN (Joe Marino): Quick accelerator with breakaway speed. Home run threat. Light on feet, quick and nimble. Balanced while stringing together dynamic moves. Feet never stop through contact. Excellent ball security. Struggled with processing and technique in pass protection. Body catches and drops. In 2022, didn't hit holes with conviction, only modest success surviving contact and in short yardage. Felix Jones NFL comp, 4th round grade.
NFLDB: Quality receiver, soft hands. Quickness and vision of return specialist. Good lateral quickness, initial burst. Very good feel with above average vision and patience. Doesn't have elite burst to be constant big play threat. Slight build, not going to grind out yardage between tackles. Lacks power, high pad level. Too indecisive and hesitant at LOS. Not elite speed, won't outrun NFL defenders like he did in college.
NFLDraftBlitz: Among the best in draft as a pure runner. Solid body control, changes direction well, nifty cutback. Good power, rarely goes down on first contact. Patient, reads blocks well, excellent vision. Good hands. Estimated 4.5 speed, not going to outrun secondary on big runs. Slow acceleration for a RB, but adequate for NFL. Poor pass blocking, defenders worked through him like melted butter. Willing blocker, but needs coaching. 2nd round projection, immediate starter.
PFN (in August 2022): Rare speed, once in daylight LBs and DBs have no shot at catching him. Vision, low center of gravity, elusive, rarely tackled by 1st contact. Handled high workload. Difficult to force him to fumble, takes pride in ball security. Willing blocker. Has YAC potential as a receiver. Lacks power. Some drops. Lacks pass protection technique. An outside zone RB, but scheme versatile. Early 2nd round projection, but possibly 1st with Bijan Robinson with a strong 2022 season.
Before you even read a single word that I have to say, isn't it obvious that these various draft profiles are completely inconsistent with one another, sometimes even internally inconsistent? Is he fast or is he slow? Does he have soft hands or does he drop passes? Does he have good power or lack power? Does he lack burst or does he have great acceleration? At first I didn't understand what was going on. Now, after watching a bunch of games on Tucker, I think I get the crux of the problem. It was a mystery that needed to be unraveled. I don't even think I solved all the missing pieces, but at least I have a feel for the general gist of why Tucker is such a confusing prospect to describe and rank.
To fully understand why Sean Tucker either was a very good NFL prospect and still might be an NFL star, you have to go back and watch the games that happened in 2020 and the very beginning of his 2021 season. Just completely ignore his 2022 games. As I mentioned before, I would grade the 2022 version of Tucker as an UDFA, maybe a late round prospect at best. I'll list all of those weaknesses below, if nothing else for the sake of completeness. Even if they were due to some type of injury, we still need to know what he looks like when he isn't 100%.
Just like the draft experts, many of the things I'll say about Tucker are going to be complete contradictions. In one paragraph I'll write something, then in a later paragraph I'll say the exact opposite. That's what his game tape shows. Like I said, it was like he was 2 different players. Really good when he looked healthy. Not very good after he presumably was hurt.
Excellent, quick bursts of speed behind the LOS. DE swims over the C before the RB even gets the handoff. RB suddenly shoots forward after getting the ball, escaping the DE's tackle attempt. Broke arm tackle at LOS, then shows a nice speed burst on 22 yard TD run.
Perhaps my favorite run came from 2020. Explodes through the LOS, taking advantage of blockers eliminating both LBs by picking up run blitz and trap block on the 2nd LB. Has wiggle to angle to the side and beat the first safety, then makes sharp cut upfield. The 2nd safety tries to dive at his legs, but he makes a half hurdle jump while maintaining speed, keeps his balance and then uses another burst of speed to pull away from the pursuing defenders and make a house call for a 40 yard TD.
Light on feet, fluid change of directions. Able to make 2 legged hop over diving tackle attempts. Sharp cuts, good contact balance with lower body strength to stay up and fight for yards after initial contact. Links together moves.
When he was healthy, he was an effective short yardage runner, because his short area bust allowed him to hit the LOS with good forward momentum and low pad level.
Smooth acceleration. Better leg drive and quick, sudden feet when he was healthy. Quick, sharp cuts.
When healthy, way more fluid as a pass receiver turning around and making breaks in the route, then turning his body after the catch to run upfield. Completely different level of receiving threat between good and bad versions.
Flashed sticky hands on catch. A couple plays, showed intelligent movement trying to uncover when the QB extended play out of pocket.
Had good pad level when healthy. This makes me suspicious, because not only could he not run with the same speed and agility after he was hurt, it was like he didn't even have the same flexibility to just lean forward slightly more to get his pads down consistently. To me, that's more than just a sprained ankle or a normal bump or bruise. Made me think there was more to the story than just a typical, run of the mill, RB injury.
Muscular upper body, bulging leg muscles with thick thighs and calves. Even though he ran track, he's not one of those thin and lightweight speed demons who look like they would break on the football field the first time they got tackled.
Instantly switches ball to proper hand, the best RB in the draft that I've watched so far this year at this element. Does it early on instead of waiting until the last moment. Fluid and quick with the transfer, not segmented movement that exposes the ball. Can switch it to what is technically his inside hand when he anticipates the defender hitting him from the outside. Switches ball to other hand when he decides to reverse field and go in the opposite direction.
When he anticipates hits in heavy traffic, shows ability to tuck ball away and cover it up with 2 hands. I have some issues with how he carries the ball, but this might be improved with some coaching and practice. He has the necessary innate body control to have solid ball security, I just think his technique gets sloppy and inconsistent.
At times, the blocking from his OL was absolutely terrible. Some plays on his tape, the guy has no chance, there is no place to go or he's immediately tackled in the backfield.
Even after his injuries, able to lower his pads at 2nd level and can drive forward for extra yards after contact. Sufficient contact balance to gain yards by diving forward or with nice 2nd effort runs after contact.
Lost lateral agility in 2022, but still was able to make defenders miss with head and shoulder fakes.
There are several plays in the Cuse playbook where it is a designed misdirection, requiring Tucker to start going in one direction, then reverse and go the other way and he seemed to be fine executing those types of plays even in 2022.
The slow version of Tucker was still fast enough at times. On wheel route vs EDGE defender, he was 5 yards past the defender and could have had a critical 52 yard TD catch late in the 4th quarter of a close game, but the QB's pass was terrible. Wheel route on 3rd down. Flashes outstanding open field burst, blows by the DB, he's gone, pulling away from the DB who is stumbling off balance, wide open. Could have been an 80 yard TD catch, but off target pass by QB misses him.
Lost upper body flexibility in 2022, but was adequate to turn and make basic catches in the flat.
Carries out fakes at acceptable level. Sometimes carries out fake juke move after the mesh point, which adds to the deception. On critical 3rd down late in 4th, faked like he was pass blocking, then slipped by LB, wide open, but QB under pressure couldn't throw him the ball.
Good effort and awareness when pulling G not able to pass block DE, RB after play action fake delivers 2 handed shove and pushes the DE past back of pocket, preventing sack, almost resulting in nearly 20 yard completion.
Poor pass blocker overall, but there was one play in all the games I watched, where he actually did a really nice job mirroring the defender, sliding his feet laterally, sustained the block.
Played through injuries during 2022 season. In one game I watched, seemed to noticeably lose speed after he got hurt in the 2nd quarter of the game. I'm not aware of any info regarding Tucker having a major season ending type injury in his career.
Very productive college RB, had nearly 250 carries in 2021 in 12 games, so used in a feature back role.
Number of receptions went up each season in college.
Early entrant, about a year younger than an average prospect.
Played in read option scheme. The scheme didn't require him to pass block often and threat of QB running influenced how the defense played runs.
His ability to burst melted away after he got hurt. In 2022, had build up speed. Very average initial burst. Doesn't carry enough momentum into the hole. Even if there is a wide open lane and nothing for him to read, just hit the gas and go, lacks burst getting through the opening. Super slow getting trying to get through diagonal lanes to the outside in 2022, allowing the hole to close on him. You can't survive as an NFL RB with so little burst, even if you don't possess long speed in the open field, you have to be fast enough to get through the hole at the LOS. If you can't even do that, those guys get cut from the roster.
On plays even early in 2021, didn't have home run speed in open field. He'd get caught from behind or angled out of bounds. Wide zone to the right. The MLB blitzes up the middle, effectively taking himself out of the action. The TE to the right drives his defender backwards into the path of the weakside LB, a 2 for 1 block. The WR absolutely destroys a DB coming up in run support. Result is gaping space for the RB. By my count, it took the RB 12 steps to accelerate to full speed, but then he immediately slows down to get by a defender, requiring him to try to accelerate again. He turns his head and sees pursuit coming from inside, but doesn't have an extra gear to burn the pursuit angle, run out of bounds at the 24 yard line when it probably should have gone for almost a 75 yard TD. Outside run, bounces outside to angle towards his blocking WRs, then turns upfield. From the moment that he decides to bounce it, not until about his 10th step was he up to full speed.
Jared Verse is a DE fro FSU who might have been a 1st round pick if he had entered the 2023 draft, but he stayed in college. In 2021, Verse played for Albany. NFLDB lists Verse as having a 4.59 sec 40 time, SI has it at 4.80 seconds and NFLDraftscout has it at 4.72 seconds. I haven't studied Verse, so I have no idea is actual speed. When Tucker played against Albany, he broke a run towards the left sideline. Verse is on the backside of the play to the right of the formation. At first, Verse is just jogging, but when the RB breaks into the open, Verse sprints full effort. Tucker scores a 55 yard TD, but Verse almost catches him from behind near the end of this run. Let's just assume for discussion that Verse is a 4.59 second player, the fastest of the 3 reported speeds. That is super fast for a DE. But, it isn't fast for a RB. A RB who is out ahead of the DE and is in a race situation should be able to pull away from the DE, the DE from behind shouldn't be able to run down the RB. If Sean Tucker is only just as fast as Verse (perhaps even slightly slower), that means that Tucker is not a fast RB. His effective speed might only be in the 4.6 range. That's a very surprising result for a guy who was an indoor track team sprinter. He ran 60 meters indoors for track. So, how is it possible for him not to be faster over a 55 yard run? Seems very odd. You'd think he'd be a 4.3 or at the most a 4.4 second speed guy, but that's not actually how he looks on the football field. For whatever reason, the track speed doesn't translate. Keep in mind, the Albany game was the 3rd game of the 2021 season, way before the 2022 injuries started to accumulate.
RG climbs up to LB and pushes him back into safety who is gambling near the box to try to stop the run. At this instant, based on how the players are positioned on the field, a fast RB should have been able to burst through the huge lane, accelerated and cut directly upfield for a long TD. As Tucker breaks into the open, he realizes he doesn't have enough speed to make it, so instead of "going for it" and trying to hit the opening, he hits the brakes, looking to cut back. Not only does this result in an immediate tackle, but it nearly caused a serious injury to his WR who was blocking downfield. RB violently crashes into the back of the WR's legs. Very easily could have been a broken leg, knee injury or some other major leg injury, just very lucky that instead of the WR's foot getting caught underneath, the impact was so forceful it knocked the WR's leg out of harms way and the WR falls backwards.
Looked slow on a 51 yard TD run. Slow on a 40 yard run going around the outside. The DT tries to backdoor and a LB blitz is picked up by the center, resulting in the sea parting, a huge hole. The RB shows excellent initial burst and beats the safety, now there is nothing but green grass between him and the end zone, 55 yards to go, the CB is even with him, but doesn't have an angle, RB shows no burst to pull away and gets tackled by the CB 15 yards later. For a RB with great speed, that should have been a long TD.
Below average size and bulk. When he lost his short area burst, he wasn't effective as a short yardage or power runner. Couldn't hit the LOS with sufficient forward momentum.
Has very little stiff arm ability. Doesn't even attempt to use arm to shove defenders down or away in situations where it is warranted and necessary to win in the hole or in space 1 vs 1 or to shrug off diving arm tackles to his legs. Gap run up middle, the RT washes down the DT, but the DT uses a spin countermove to go back in the direction of the run. If the RB uses his off hand to push away DT's arm or chest, you'd think the RB would be able to get past this guy and since the puller took out the LB, the next defender would have been the deep safety, but the DT wraps up the RB and it is only a 4 yard gain.
Similar to Mitchell, the East Carolina RB, instead of stiff arming the defender, he'll sometimes angle 90 degrees sideways to try to escape the tackle attempt, but this doesn't always work. Sometimes he gets away, but other times the defender trips him up from behind.
Fumbled when defender behind him slapped down on ball, knocking it out of his hand, the ball was exposed as it was pointed directly forward, not high and tight to his chest. Nearly had another fumble when it from side, ball exposed exactly the same way. Ball exposed as he gets to hole at LOS, so the DE nearly rips it right out of his hand as he's going by. When he tries to create or run fast, the point of the ball lowers, there is separation from his body and the nose of the ball is 90 degrees forward.
Fumbled a pitch from the QB that was on his hands. Had a play that I don't think counted as a fumble where the ball gets ripped out of his hand near the end, maybe he was ruled down by contact, looked like maybe he injured his hand or finger on this play.
As career went on, displayed very limited wiggle. Very tight hips. Went from being dynamic and making sharp cuts to not being able to make explosive lateral cuts. His limited jump cut ability prevented him from making escapes against early penetration into backfield. Wide zone run, the LB shoots the gap on run blitz, RB unable to evade or break the tackle, TFL. His guard gets creased, RB can't jump to the side, so RB just slams into the back of his guard. Sometimes loses balance and slips trying to cut, even playing indoors in dome on turf field. Gets snared by arm tackles near the LOS. Not elusive in space 1 vs 1 after catching passes. Straight line runner at 3rd level, doesn't have skills to dodge and weave without losing speed in the open field.
Gap run and RB bounces outside. Trying to turn upfield, he wastes steps in his cut, 3 pitter patter steps instead of putting foot in ground. Result is he loses substantial speed and forward momentum.
Nice lane as the RG climbs up to the LB at 2nd level. RB needs to cut off of this block and break into the 3rd level, but RB's hips are so tight he cannot angle wide enough, he runs directly into the LB. He gains 7 yards on this play, but there was more left on the field if he had just been able to go a little wider and gotten past the LB.
Ghost motion by WR, defensive formation congested within 10 yards of LOS and the MLB blitzes up the middle. The gamble by the defense exposes them, because it is a run by the RB in the opposite direction of the WR's motion, leaving the RB 1 vs 1 against the S defending the edge. If the RB beats the S, this play might have gone for a 55 yard TD. The RB gets tripped up by an arm tackle at the LOS, almost no gain.
Short, dump pass to the RB moving along the LOS towards the sideline. At the moment he catches the ball and turns his head to look upfield, there is just under 10 yards of distance between himself and the DB. He takes 6 steps from this moment until initial contact from the DB. A very basic cut is all that would have been necessary to beat the DB, but RB just runs in a straight line, gets tripped up, goes down 2 yards short of the first down.
LB run blitz, hits blocking FB, traffic jam near LOS. All the RB has to do is jump cut to the side and there is a nice hole to the right. Tucker's hips are tight, he collides with his FB, loses his balance and falls down at the LOS, no gain.
Huge lane, free to 3rd level, only S to beat, but RB decelerates as he tries to juke, making him easier to tackle, still 16 yards, but for an elite RB this might have gone for a 75 yard TD.
His eyes don't appear to keep track of 2nd level LBs as he's getting the handoff, so he doesn't anticipate immediate penetration into the backfield. Instead of evading them, he'll go directly into the LB. Blitz by LB beats the block by his lead fullback, RB just runs directly into the LB in the backfield. S races up in support, RB up the middle runs straight forward as if he has no plan on how to beat the S, slammed in the thigh pad, only 1 yard gain, but should have been more, because LG picks up LB run blitz then shoves the LB inside to widen the gap, so there is good space for RB to make a move, but no plan for beating the S.
Wide zone run to the L, the MLB is attacking on a run blitz with the LG climbing. The RB on this play should know before he even gets the ball from the QB that he should cut inside of the LG. The C makes a nice seal block on the DT. The RB presses too far to the outside, surprised as the LB crashes into the backfield, stops in time to make the LB miss and go flying by, but in doing so he now has lost almost all of his momentum and speed. This brief delay might not seem like a big deal, because the LB missed the TFL, but it wastes the good block by the C, because by the time the RB gets going upfield, the DT has continued to flow playside. Instead of the RB breaking through the gap, the space closes and the RB runs directly into the back of the C. The play should have gone for at least 5 yards and the first down, but instead only about a 1 yard gain and IMO it all started with the eyes of the RB not processing how to adjust his run based on the immediate post-snap movement of the MLB at the 2nd level.
Zone run to right, cross blitz by LBs. The RB is so focused on the RG's block that he doesn't notice the LB penetrating until finally the RB's head turns and he sees the LB very late, not in position to break tackle.
Very bad at pass blocking. Got run over by RB on blitz up the middle. Poor chip blocks, weak even when he connects and sometimes completely whiffs. Even when he sees a blitz coming, sometimes he doesn't have sufficient lateral quickness and range to intercept the blitz. Doesn't sustain pass blocks, can be easily shoved off. Doesn't protect blocking angle, not only does he have athletic limitations, but it is like his radar is broken, he doesn't understand how to position his body so that he stays between the QB and the defender. Lousy cut block attempts that aren't going to be acceptable in the NFL. Sees slot CB blitz with plenty of time to get into position, yet somehow completely whiffs as CB goes inside, QB flushed from pocket. Whiffed on LB so badly, I honestly thought that it was a screen pass and that the RB was just faking the block. Blasted backwards in pass pro.
Poor awareness and technique as pass blocker. So focused on trying to help TE pass block, he allows the green dog blitzer to be 100% free to QB. Overran his landmark, the DE easily goes past him and sacks the QB. Twist by NT and DE, the RB isn't at proper depth, so he's not in position to help the LG. Waits back in pocket for LB blitzer, doesn't step up to the LOS to stuff the blitz. Small, with limited length for blocking duties, his outside edges are soft as a blocker, easy for the defender to go around him, his feet stop and he looks like a human turnstile. On QB bootleg, RB overruns landmark, completely whiffing on block attempt on LB. He sees LB coming off the edge, but his technique is so poor he can't get square to the LB, only a very weak shoulder hit on his block attempt. LB completely ran over him in pass pro. Not fast scanning with his eyes back and forth. Twist up front, RB appears to get surprised by the DT, totally smashed backwards.
Distracted by fake blitzes. Safety fakes blitz coming from deep. The RB looks at the S and is late to react to LB blitz in A gap, QB pressured. 3 man loop, LB fakes blitz, the RB is distracted by the LB and is late to react to the loop. Another 3 man loop with a fake LB blitz, the RB misses the looper and big hit on QB. If I were a DC and saw this, I'd just keep calling the same game up front over and over and over, until the RB proved he could read it, otherwise there's going to be a pass rusher 100% free to the QB every single time.
3rd down pass play, 3 man loop by defense. When the RB sees the LB moving to the outside, he doesn't properly scan with his eyes, so when the DE crashes inside and creases the RT, the RB is late to recognize the danger, giving up QB pressure. 6 pass rushers vs 6 blockers, the protection call appears to be a full slide, but the RT messes up and doesn't block anyone. The RB standing to the right of the QB is a split second late to recognize the problem, so instead of covering up the RT's mistake, the DE pressures the QB. RG is clearly in trouble, but the RB is late to recognize and by this point he's not at proper depth to do anything at all.
Was 100% blind to slot defender blitz from his side of the formation. The QB gets destroyed as he releases the pass. This play actually resulted in a long TD pass, but a slit second different and not only could the team have missed the TD, but the QB could have been injured.
Twist up front, I can't tell if he doesn't see the DE until late or if his shoulder block was just very weak, but the DE goes right past him, then the RB panics and desperately tries to reach out and grab the DE. Clear holding penalty if he had made the grab, but he misses and only comes up with air, because the DE is already past him.
Average vision. Wide zone to the left, the RG and C double team the NT, driving him way out of the gap, the proper read is for the RB to cut behind the RG, but the RB stays frontside and goes directly into congestion, still able to gain 5 yards with great 2nd effort on the run.
Zone run to left, the DE has to respect the QB on read option play, there is a split second opportunity for the RB to break it and gash the defense with cutback. Unbalanced line, so I'll call him the RT even though maybe technically a G, the RB should cut behind this blocker. RB's read and footwork fail him behind the LOS, he goes to the wrong side of the RT, directly into a LB and gets stuffed.
Duo run up middle, blitz by LB. Proper read is for RB to go to the left of the C, but RB immediately cuts to the right, and he's trapped, there is no place to run in that direction, it is a TFL. Unlike other plays on his tape, that's not the OL's fault, that is on the RB, the play should have gone for positive yardage, but the RB literally went the wrong way.
Gap run to the right, the weak side of the formation. Pulling LG kick out blocks. The MLB and the strong side LB cross blitz. The RT and RG wash down the DT, pushing him backwards into the path of the MLB. The pulling TE blocks the strong side LB who changed gaps with the MLB. This play has a chance, due to that nice block by the RT and RG. The RB should be 1 vs 1 on the S, he needs to cut to the right of the TE and beat the S, that's the RB's responsibility to win against the first unblocked defender. Could be a big gain. The RB cuts to the left of the TE, directly into the LB and gets stuffed near the LOS.
Inside zone, RB should be patient and give C time to climb to MLB, then cut off of the C's block, but RB immediately accelerates after handoff and when MLB ducks inside of the C the RB smacks directly into the LB, forward progress completely halted, then swarmed by the other defenders, one yard short of the first down.
6 defenders in box, fullhouse backfield, zone run to right. Sift block takes out the backside DT, the LT climbs to the 2nd level, the threat of the QB holds the backside DE. Great combo block by the LG and C washes down the other DT and the LG climbs up to the LB. The threat of the deep back holds the defenders to the right side of the formation. Tucker is one of the upbacks and gets the handoff. All the RB has to do is run between the C and the LG. Not only would he have broken past the LOS, but the climbing LT could have blocked the safety. The play potentially could have gone for a long TD. Instead of reading the blocks properly and using the combo block by the C and LG, the RB tries to bounce it all the way outside the RT, which makes zero sense, because the DE has outside leverage on the RT. In order to get around the DE, the RB has to run backwards one yard. RB gets strung out towards the sideline and picks up 2 yards. This play had the potential to be a 50 yard TD run.
Wide zone to the left. Due to read option, 2 of the DL temporarily chase the QB and the MLB looks at the QB to see if he has the ball, making him late to flow in the direction of the RB. The LT and LG completely destroy the DE, I can't believe how far they pushed that guy wide out of the gap. The TE gets the OLB. The hole is so big between the DE and the DT that you literally could have fit all 5 members of the offensive line at proper splits within the opening, just a crazy huge hole. RB should put his foot in the ground, burst upfield, beat the MLB and the only defender who would have been left would have been the safety. Since the S is deep and towards the outside, RB would have had a nice opportunity to attack the S with a 2 way go, potentially ripping off a very long TD run. The RB presses towards the outside for some reason, then takes 5 pitter patter steps trying to cut, losing speed, nearly colliding into the back of the LG. He wasted so much space and time that he can't even go frontside of the MLB, he tries to cut back behind the MLB and gets chopped down by an arm tackle. It is a 5 yard gain, but could have been bigger.
Bounces outside too much. There's a run where he gains 6 yards, but I wanted him to gain 3 yards. Wide zone, the safety is trying to contain the edge. When the RB sees the S, he really should play it safe and cut inside, get upfield and just take the moderate gain, the S will tackle him, but RB has the angle to fall forward and should gain about 3 yards. Instead, the RB bounces it by running backwards, going from the LOS to 2 yards behind the LOS, goes around the safety and makes it to the sideline to pick up 6 yards. Okay, that worked in college, but at the NFL level that S is typically going to be more athletic and when you try to bounce against a defender who has outside leverage like that, it will cause a TFL, the RB just gets strung out towards the sideline and the pursuit by the other defenders from deep or from the inside will get to you before you can turn the corner. This happened even in some of his Syracuse games, he'd try to bounce outside, but couldn't make it and go down at the LOS. Instead of staying close to his blocker and just trying to plow forward for a couple of yards he'd in effect give up those yards on a bad gamble to try for a longer run.
Perhaps due to inconsistent performance by his OL, Tucker has been conditioned to bounce runs to the outside and rely on speed to outrun defenders to the corner. This is a bad habit, because he's not really that fast in comparison to NFL level talent.
Not enough leg drive and size to hammer it up the middle and push pile forward for tough yards, which limits his value as a power runner or short yardage runner. Lack of lower body strength also prevents him from getting out of arm tackles and other tackles that visually appear to be "breakable". There's a play from 2001 where he needs 1 more yard to get to the first down and a power RB would generally get there, but he's not able to drag the defender forward to get to the marker. Gets dragged down or chopped down by moderate hits, not even the heavy tackles that would stop any RB.
Fake on counter runs isn't deceptive.
In 2022, didn't release out of backfield into his route with enough tempo and speed. This is another issue with his lack of short area burst. Went from showing good potential as route runner to in 2022 being a poor route runner. Just as his tight hips inhibit him in making explosive lateral cuts as a runner, he couldn't make sudden and sharp cuts at the top of the route. Ineffective running an angle route. Limited value on anything other than a basic screen, outlet to flat or on a straight wheel route, though sometimes Cuse tried to have him split out wide or run other routes. On pivot route, 2 extra pitter patter steps on break.
Tried to sell fake on pivot route, but since he couldn't flip his hips fluidly or sink his hips into breaks, his body positioning wasn't convincing to sell the fake and make it deceptive, which makes him easier to cover. When motioned out wide, doesn't sell upfield fake prior to returning towards QB for a screen pass.
Terrible drop on pass right on his hands. Wide pitch (notice this is a run play, not a pass) that is perfect, right on his hands and he drops the ball, took his eyes off it to peek upfield too early. Stationary target, just the safety outlet in flat and QB throws him the ball, right in chest, super easy catch and he drops it. In frustration, he bangs his forehead on the turf, mad at himself. RB goes up the sideline on a wheel route. RB isn't open, but for some reason QB still throws the ball. I don't understand why, but even though the RB's helmet is turned back towards the QB, he has no idea the pass is coming. The defender makes the interception. Even as the defender catches the ball and falls to the ground, the RB is still looking around, he has no idea what just happened.
Not great at catching high passes above his shoulder pad level. Short, doesn't have leaping ability, average effective catch radius. Unable to bail out QB when passes miss high.
I don't recall ever seeing a RB mess up a flea flicker before, but his pitch back to the QB was terrible, messing up the timing of the play. All you have to do is pitch the ball 5 yards straight backwards. WR is behind the CB, but since the RB's pitch was poor the pass is very late and severely underthrown, there is a PI on the CB who crashes into the WR, and but for this penalty the pass would have been intercepted by the 2nd DB.
In 2022, instead of fluidly getting upfield after catching a pass, sometimes he had to gather himself first, didn't have immediate one step burst, limiting his YAC potential.
No fluidity and flexibility in 2022.
The 2022 version of Tucker has very limited special teams value.
Completely bottled up in some games, had almost no rushing production. If you look at his 2022 game log, almost all of his yards came in 6 games and the other 6 games he was ineffective. Had one big game in 2022 vs Wagner. In 2021, his stats were boosted by big games against teams like Ohio, Albany and Liberty. Had a huge 200 yard game vs BC in 2021 that I didn't think was impressive and masks potential physical ailments creeping into his performance later in that 2021 season.
Draft Grade and Pro Comp
I have no clue, spin the wheel time again, how about same as Patterson, 5th round. (Julius Jones (2nd round 2004, Dallas Cowboys, Notre Dame) or CJ Anderson (2013 UDFA, Denver Broncos, Cal)
In general, I don't think the Combine is as important as it is portrayed and the way many prospects see it. In this case, I think that Sean Tucker has more riding on the Combine than any other draft prospect I've studied this year. The medical checks, the interviews, the testing events, the on field RB drills, all of those things could have a big impact on his draft stock.
I don't know what to do with a player like this. Early in his career, he looked like a RB with good NFL potential, someone who could compete for a starting RB spot on the Rams. That version might have been graded in the same territory where Jones was drafted by Dallas in 2004. By the end of his career, he looked like a guy who potentially wouldn't even be able to beat out Xavier Jones (UDFA Rams 2020) on the depth chart. Xavier Jones injured his Achilles and is now a street FA, out of the NFL.
Tucker is a risk and reward prospect with both potentially high upside payoff and potentially a complete zero in return if his shelf life as a RB has already expired. Whether and when to take that gamble in the draft or to pass on the opportunity entirely is one of those calls that makes a GM's job challenging. If you were in Snead's seat, what would you do?