2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: San Jose St RB Tyler Ervin

As we delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Steelers are likely to have interest in.

We bring you one of the draft’s sleepers. San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin.

#7 Tyler Ervin/RB San Jose St: 5’9 192

The Good

– Tougher runner than size/narrative would indicate, capable and trusted to run between the tackles
– Shows burst off his cut, capable of planting off his left or right foot
– Explosive, dynamic runner who gets to speed quickly and was able to run away from LBs and DBs even when defender had the angle
– Decisive runner, especially on zone concepts, who makes decision after three steps, plants, and gets upfield
– Runs hard into the teeth of a defense and tougher to bring down than anticipated
– Overall, reads the field well and shows plus vision, capable of reading hat of DL and cutting appropriately
– A patient runner who follows his blocks well
– Extensive return experience in the kick and punt game and lined up as a WR, player you can play everywhere and get creative with, getting him in space and creating splash plays
– Gives effort in pass protection despite natural shortcomings, will get square and take on bigger players, doesn’t shy away from the challenge
– 9 1/4 inch hands are bigger than you’d assume and overall, average to above average

The Bad

– Will always get knocked for his size and not viewed as a feature back, some teams probably won’t have a defined plan for him, hurting his value
– Obviously, not a relatively strong runner and won’t run through many tackles downhill, fights for tough yards but isn’t going to push many piles
– Despite effort, marginal pass protector who is better off releasing than staying in to block in most cases, forcing linebacker to peel out or act as hot route on blitz
– Appears more comfortable on zone concepts than power, seems to prefer rhythm of zone steps and sometimes misses his lane and isn’t as explosive downhill on gap/iso runs
– Dealt with injury issues early in college career, keeping doubt over size and ability to hold up in the NFL


– Listed at 177 pounds on team website but told me he played in 184 range all season long, added some additional weight for Senior Bowl
– 2014 and 2015 team MVP and served as captain last year
– 2015: 1600 yards rushing (5.4 YPC) with 45 catches, 15 total offensive touchdowns
– 23.9 yards per kick return, one punt return TD in seven attempts
– Five career special teams touchdowns (three kick, two punt)
– Came to SJSU as true hybrid player, running back, return specialist, and defensive back freshman year
– Suffered ankle injury in first game of 2013 season and sat out rest of season, missed four games with right shoulder injury in 2012

Tape Breakdown

Ervin is going to get overlooked in a pretty talented running back class with guys like Derrick Henry and Ezekiel Elliot. Look at him, heck, I stood next to him down at Mobile, and you might not see much of a prospect.

The main overall point for Ervin’s game is this: looks are deceiving. He plays much bigger and though he’ll never be a feature back, he can be a defined runner in the NFL.

You might see Dri Archer. But I see a completely different back. Archer couldn’t – wouldn’t – run inside the tackles. Ervin is the total opposite. He can cut into the teeth of a defense and I’d wager most of his runs were between the tackles and guards. He’s not going to drag defenders across the field, but he’s not going to crumble like a house of cards either.

Watch him fall off this big lick by the safety, twisting forward and picking up another yard. It might just be one yard but it illustrates a player who has a chip, in mindset and on tape.

But when we’re talking Ervin, we’re talking about his big play ability. The guy can scoot. So to wet your palate, here’s an example of him just running away from everybody. The New Mexico safety has the angle here but Ervin just blows past en route to a huge gain.

We can talk about speed and splash plays, all that fun stuff. But running backs win with their feet and eyes. Everything else is just a consequence. Ervin has both. Excellent zone runner who is decsivie. On zone runs, you’re looking for the back to take three steps after the handoff and on that final, third step, make a decision, plant, cut, and either bang, bend, or bring the run. That’s all dependent on how the defensive line reacts.

Watch him on this zone run. Handoff to the left, on his third step, he plants with his left foot, cuts in-between the two defensive lineman, and finishes the run by lowering his pad level and falling forward.

That’s what I like about his game. It’s decisive, it’s explosive, and it’s physical.

While he is a willing pass protector, I actually watched him square up to the towering Carl Nassib at the Senior Bowl and go toe-to-toe with a linebacker in an individual drill. But because he’s on the small side, he’s going to struggle.

After being faked the handoff against Oregon State, he plays with a poor base, feet not parallel, and the blitzing linebacker just steamrolls through.

And here, on this power run, he just seems hesitant to hit the hole. Saw it a couple times on gap schemes. Vision and explosiveness just isn’t as good.

Ervin, of course, will not be the marquee name in this year’s draft. But so many running backs have been unheralded guys from the mid, later rounds or even undrafted players. Think of a guy like Dion Lewis, who Ervin actually compares to pretty well. A 5th rounder in 2011, who basically fell out of the league, but stormed back onto the main stage this year with the New England Patriots. Those guys can succeed. So can Ervin, with hopefully a slightly less bumpy path than Lewis.

Projection: Late 3rd-Early 4th

Games Watched: at Oregon St, at Auburn, vs New Mexico, Senior Bowl

Previous Player Profiles
Hunter HenryEli AppleLaquon TreadwellDadi NicolasKendall Fuller
Deion JonesJihad WardKevin PetersonVonn BellMichael Caputo
Andrew BillingsMackensie Alexander

About the Author

Alex Kozora
Full-time blogger from mom's basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.
  • Tom Jackson

    Looks like an interesting guy. Obviously he isn’t a workhorse back but maybe a change of pace runner. My question would be if he can catch the ball and how good you think he is as a returner? If he has both of those things he’s maybe a 4th RND guy but if not I doubt he will go before the 6th and maybe not at all. Just because of size, would he be a little bigger and more physicle his stock would be way higher. Ah and a second question, how was his ball security? Any issues?

  • thomas hmmmm

    Hmmmm when I read the title I was thinking this guy would be a Return guy.. Unless the RB can return punts and kickoffs then I don’t see a point in taking another RB when the ones we have are capable of being a RB.

  • PittsburghSports

    I just can’t fathom the Steelers even considering a RB with one of their top picks. I could see a 7th rd pick being spent on a return guy though.

  • StrengthOfVictory

    I’m actually in favor of drafting a RB in 2016 as the (hopefully) longer-term backup to Bell. (This assumes, of course, value at the position rather than reaching.)

    D-Will is only under contract for one more season, and after his strong showing in 2015, will the Steelers be willing to re-sign him for (possibly) more than what they initially paid? Will another team be willing to offer him more by dangling the chance at a starting job in front of him—with, say, a rookie backing him up?

  • PittsburghSports

    I would bet money D Will finishes his career here, however long that may be.

  • NinjaMountie

    Not someone I would want to take that early considering our lack of picks but he’s an intriguing prospect. I agree, he doesn’t look anything like Archer. He actually looks bigger than his size and more importantly he behaves like a RB.
    Can he return punts and Kickoffs? Maybe an Eric Metcalf type player.

  • Tom Jackson

    And it’s not like Toussaint and Todman haven’t shown they could be solid back ups. With that in mind and the lack of our 5th & 6th RND picks I don’t see us drafting RB like people already said on here. Just maybe if we just resign one of those two and the guy has return skills.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yeah I figure RB is at the very bottom of their list.

  • Alex Kozora

    Yes. Was their starting kick and punt returner.

  • PittsburghSports

    Fitz is back. I don’t know if Todman will be, but he’d be the 4th RB and that spots usually for the practice squad if our guys are healthy. I’m sure we’ll bring in a few UDFAs to compete in camp. They’ll all be competing with Fitz though, so they better bring something to the table like return skills.

  • Tom Jackson

    Well Todman is a capable returner though IIR, so he could get on the team based on that. Although the steelers didn’t seem to think that highly of it in 2015.

  • PittsburghSports

    Who’s hated more by Steelers fans? Dri Archer or Willie Reid?

  • Alex Kozora



  • PittsburghSports


  • Mechanix

    I remember when they selected Willie Reid that was when they also selected Santonio Holmes. That was the time that Antwaan Randle El got his big contract with the Redskins, so I remember someone saying that they used two draft picks to replace Antwaan Randle El. That’s kind of funny looking back on that now.

  • NinjaMountie

    I don’t hate Archer. I did, however, hit the stump for his release since the beginning of the year. That’s not hate…I just didn’t have a use for him. I truly wish him the best in his future endeavors with other teams and I hope he finds a place in the league….it just wasn’t as a Steeler.

  • tequila0341

    Vontaze Burfict.

  • LucasY59

    exactly the point I wanted to make, The Steelers dont have 5th and 6th rd picks so those first 4 are Very Valuable (they always are, but with the luck the Steelers have with 6th rd picks, they can allow for a bigger margin for error on the 3rd and 4th picks) this yr all 4 early picks need to be guys that can really help the team and fill holes. the double (maybe triple, if they can get a comp) 7th rd picks are the ones they can gamble a bit on

  • PittsburghSports

    Yeah was just discussing this draft the other day, and had completely forgotten about Reid. We actually drafted him higher than Archer, and he did much less on the field, but the internet wasn’t quite the same back then, so you rarely ever hear Reid’s name mentioned.
    Steelers traded their 3rd and 4th picks to move up in rd 1 to get Holmes, and then traded their 2nd rd pick to get two 3rd rd picks, where we selected big mouth Anthony Smith and then Reid.

  • PittsburghSports

    I just think it’s a funny comparison. Almost identical, in fact.

  • LucasY59

    I am interested in a late rd RB draft pick, I dont think they have the Luxury of using one of the top 4 picks at the RB position. If Ervin falls to the 7th rd (because of his size, and the level of competition he played against in college being the main factors in his fall) I could see him being the pick (wish he was a little bit better in pass pro)

    The guy that I have as a Target for the 7th rd RB, is a guy that played WR last season… DJ Foster out of Arizona St, was a pretty decent RB his early yrs in college, switched to WR (to improve his chances of being drafted and partially to help the team I think) so I think he would fit with what the Steelers like to do with their RBs (catch passes out of the backfield) I think the switch to WR did not do him any favors as far as the Draft goes and he will be available in the 7th or maybe even as a UDFA

  • Alex Kozora

    Yeah, that’s the one big reason I went with Archer, in all seriousness. Ask ten Steelers’ fans who he was and I bet only 2 or 3 remember him. Maybe the same will be the case for Archer in 10 years.

  • Luc Polglaze

    Ervin is such an interesting guy to me. He’s a lighter/scatback mold guy that ran between the colleges well and consistently in college. He’s a fun study.

    If I’m in an NFL war room, I don’t think I’d take Ervin without a defined, set-out plan for a way to use him. Not saying that as a knock, they just need to figure out what he’s going to be for them.

  • igloojoe

    All I remember was every preseason, sportscasters spoke of him like he was going to be the next big thing, and then come season time, he was injured.

  • Big White

    Looks good! Size is not a big issue for me as a fan because versatility means so much more today than in year’s past. With DeAngelo only locked up through 16′, the Steelers will almost certainly entertain the thought.

  • Big White

    Chris Rainey.

  • jujudoublestuff

    How about Perkins Alex?