There are hundreds of stories being told during the planning and anticipation of the 2017 NFL Draft. Today we will be looking at a scouting report for junior running back Elijah Hood, North Carolina Tar Heels.
RB-Elijah Hood, North Carolina 6’ 220 lbs.
There are some truly impressive character players entering this year’s draft and Hood is near or at the top of that category. He is a former Eagle Scout that helped renovate his church in his youth and was a member of the US Army High School All-American team. Because I’m a high school football coach and educator by trade, let’s break down what I saw in the five games I reviewed of the junior back: 2016 contests versus Georgia Tech, FSU, Virginia, and Georgia along with a 2015 game against Duke. Most of these game videos are available via draftbreakdown.com. These are my thoughts:
Cons: The runner is coming off a less than impressive 2016 season finishing with less carries (145 compared to 219 in 2015), less rushing yards (858 versus 1463 in 2015), less touchdowns (8 against 17 in 2015), but he did manage to increase his receptions (25 from 13 in 2015). His decrease in production this past season seems due to multiple factors: the back missed two games (one concussion related and his bowl game was due to “multiple injuries”), and the emergence of soon-to-be NFL top ten draft selection, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, which changed the focus of the offense from run first to a more dynamic multi-weaponed approach. To cement my Trubisky point, Hood did not receive more than 18 carries in any game last season compared to three games with 20+ carries in 2015. Athletically the former Tar Heel does not have the foot frequency to change directions quickly like smaller backs and lacks a second gear in the open field.
Pros: Other than Leonard Fournette, Hood might be the most physical, brutal runner in the 2017 draft class. He runs inside to outside with a big powerful balanced frame that relishes contact. The back likes to stiff-arm/swat away defenders and always tries to be the lowest man when creating contact with his low center of gravity. His trunk strength is impressive (squatted 635 lbs. in July of 2016), because he continues to keep his legs churning while running behind his pads to gain leverage especially in short yardage work. This isn’t to say that the running back is a plodder; on the contrary Hood hurdles over small piles of players, shows short area burst, spins out of contact, and finds the cutback lane with regularity. In the passing game, the former Tar Heel is a solid pass blocker who anchors well and has an explosive punch. He has soft hands, shields the pigskin from defenders, and looks great on screens that show off his field vision to read blockers downfield.
Overall impressions: Hood could be this year’s Jordan Howard aka a big back that probably won’t begin the year with a starting job, but has the grittiness and power to move up the depth charts as his NFL experience grows. I believe the young back will carve out a short yardage back role on a team with a quicker, smaller bodied runner, so a late second round selection in him could be a nice fantasy investment. The former Tar Heel is sitting just outside my top ten rookie backs.
Thanks for reading. I will continue to discuss my scouting reports with you throughout the next few months, so keep checking the site for more content. Please check out my other content as well. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndrewMiley.