From now until the 2017 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#19 Donnel Pumphrey / RB / San Diego State 5’8 180 lbs
– Tremendous burst and acceleration to line of scrimmage
– Has a good feel for navigating through running lanes
– Able to change direction with ease
– Always a threat to score
– Lateral cuts are almost impossible to defend
– Smart runner with great vision
– Bounces off more tackles than you would expect
– Not afraid to block in pass protection
– Size presents many durability concerns
– Will get caught from behind in a foot race
– Easy to stuff running up the middle
– Size hinders momentum, not able to push pile forward
– Raw receiver that could use some more polish
– 2016: 349 carries, 2133 yards, 6.1 ypc, 17 TDs
– All time leading rusher in NCAA Division I history with 6405 yards
– Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year in both 2016 and 2015
– 99 receptions for 1039 yards and 5 TDs in 4 seasons at San Diego State
– 9th all time in FBS History with 62 rushing touchdowns
– Became a father during his senior year of high school
At 5’8 and 180-pounds, Donnel Pumphrey could draw dangerous comparisons to former Pittsburgh Steelers player Dri Archer. This would not be a fair comparison though, as Pumphrey offers more durability, pass protection and understanding of the running game than Archer ever did. After watching tape on Pumphrey, a fairer comparison would be Philadelphia Eagles running back Darren Sproles. Like Sproles, Pumphrey is undersized for his position but plays with elite burst, vision and agility to create yardage.
I do not think I have to say much about Pumphrey’s ability to change direction because sometimes I struggle to put into words how impressive his agility is. Pumphrey can put his foot in the ground and change direction within an instant, giving new meaning to the term ankle breaker in the world of football.
California’s Cameron Saffle knows all too well about the feeling of having his ankles broken at the hands of Pumphrey. Saffle (#51) has backside duties on this play but his priorities as a defender change after a confrontation with Pumphrey. After Pumphrey plants his foot and cuts outside, Saffle biggest obstacle is no longer catching the San Diego State running back but trying to stay on his feet.
More of the same here against Fresno State, as Pumphrey maneuvers out of harms way and is able to turn in a positive result on the play.
Besides, his lightning quick agility, majority of Pumphrey’s yardage is a result of his vision and ability to navigate his way through running lanes. Watching Pumphrey on film, the running back shows a great understanding of how his blocks are developing and how the defense will react. If the space is provided, Pumphrey can use this to produce a big play, something that he did frequently at San Diego State.
Pumphrey notices Houston linebacker Steven Taylor (#41) creeping into the A gap and then bounces behind his fullback, setting up a foot race down the sideline. Pumphrey’s vision is so impressive that it almost acts like an additional blocker.
The biggest knock on Pumphrey’s future is without a doubt his size. While the NFL has carved out great talent in Sproles, it has also routinely chewed up other small sized running backs. While Pumphrey did break more tackles than I expected on film, which will only help his stock, he was limited to the space provided to him. Powering through a congested line of scrimmage is not Pumphrey’s strong suit. Even running with a full head of steam does not seem enough for Pumphrey to scrap out necessary yardage.
Here is Pumphrey shot out of a cannon with his sight set on crossing the goal line. In full, the run looks like a car crash, with Pumphrey running full speed into a wall, crumbling on impact. The wall in this case is the Fresno State defenders who despite being at a weakness in momentum, win the battle by flattening Pumphrey on impact.
Pumphrey’s NFL success and draft stock comes down to finding the right scheme and fit. The San Diego State product is not going to cause much damage in the trenches, leaving the ways to utilize his skill set as a battle of predictability. An offensive coordinator must balance Pumphrey’s play in a way that will not give away how he intends to use him. While teams like the San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles have had success doing this with Sproles, the Steelers struggled finding ways to be unpredictable with Archer. For this reason alone, I cannot see the Steelers taking a flyer on a player like Pumphrey. Look for a team to take Pumphrey during the third-fourth rounds in hopes of utilizing him as a change of pace back.
Projection: Late Day Two – Day Three
Games Watched: vs Fresno State, vs Houston, vs Cal, vs Wyoming, vs Nevada