With the NFL Combine draft starting today, it seemed a good time to feature one of this classes best rookie runners, Utah’s Devontae Booker. He is a versatile athlete that excels rushing, catching, and when necessary, throwing the ball (one for one in pass attempts for a 25-yard touchdown). After reviewing five of his games against Michigan, California, Washington State (2014), UCLA (2014), and Oregon State (2014), I have a better understanding of what Booker brings to the next level. Here are my thoughts:
RB-Devontae Booker, Utah 5′ 11″ 219 lbs.
Cons: The torn meniscus that he suffered against Arizona this past November may limit his immediate return on investment for the NFL and fantasy teams that draft him (only lifting and interviewing at the Combine). Even before the injury, Booker had some short yardage/power issues despite scoring at least ten touchdowns in his two college seasons. The back was always a one-speed runner and that will probably be more the case with the knee injury. The runner takes what his offensive line blocks for him, tends to bounce many of his rushes outside, and has a bad habit of leaving his feet a lot. There are also bad Rashard Mendenhall traits with him giving his back to the defense (trying to hack squat his way to freedom) and running too high. Booker is a bit old for a rookie (will turn 24 in May) and shows mixed efforts when the ball isn’t in his hands. He could use some work in his average pass blocking, so as not to tip-off defenses.
Pros: When you watch the former Ute, amazing quickness, uncanny balance, and great vision were always front and center. Booker has fast/bouncy feet that start and stop with ease. This attribute makes him a dangerous one-cut runner with tremendous lateral agility which allows him to set defenders up with a spin move or jump cut. The back’s loose hips are prominent when he strings moves on moves in the open: ballet dancer contortions, hurdles, and shoulder shakes. Booker protects the pigskin well, bounces off would-be tacklers, uses an effective stiff-arm, and makes a point to fall forward trying to gain every inch he can.
He is a natural receiver out of the backfield and can line up outside in five wide sets. The back gets out into his routes quickly and catches the ball well in stride with his soft hands. Booker averaged 40 catches a season and can climb the ladder to snag the ball at hits highest point. There are a few great one-handed receptions that he made that make him a dangerous option in PPR leagues. If called upon, he can be a good kick returner with his quicks.
Overall thoughts: There is a lot to like about Booker’s game, if he can overcome his serious knee injury. When I watch him, I am somewhat reminded of Tampa’s Doug Martin with his ability to get small in the hole and patience. A healthy Booker will be in my top five rookie runners; hopefully he can prove that to NFL and fantasy owners alike in the near future.
Thanks for reading.
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