By LARRY VAUGHT
Benny Snell opted to give up his final season at Kentucky after becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher last year and helping UK win 10 games, including the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day.
Yet it seems Snell just keeps dropping in the mock drafts — something that former UK running back Anthony White first alerted me about two years ago when he said Snell’s lack of “explosive” speed could be a problem with NFL personnel. Apparently he was right because the consensus now seems to be that Snell will be a mid-round to late-round pick when the draft starts Thursday in Nashville.
Only three running backs — Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris of Alabama along with David Montgomery of Iowa state — are ranked by CBS Sports among the top 70 players in the draft. That shows the low value teams have on running backs compared to receivers — 11 are ranked in the top 70 by CBS.
Here is the evaluation of Snell that NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein posted:
“Downhill grinder with an ability to create for himself with his vision and power, but lacking desired level of elusiveness and burst as an NFL runner. Snell is a touchdown hog whose scores were often earned and rarely given. Teams will like his toughness, size and instincts, but he must improve has blitz pickup to counter his athletic limitations. He needs to find the right fit to become an average running back.”
NFL draft analyst Jesse Reed has Snell listed as one of his “diamonds in the rough” going into the draft. He wrote this:
“Even in a draft that is devoid of generational talent at running back, Snell is being touted by most as a late-round pick. Given his production at Kentucky — 4,089 yards and 48 touchdowns from scrimmage the past three years — that’s pretty crazy. Snell doesn’t possess elite speed and isn’t going to juke defenders out of their shoes. He’s a powerhouse who relies on patience and blocking up front, yet he did break off some huge runs despite that. So, he’ll be a bit scheme-dependent. But in the right scheme he could become an impact player as a rookie.”
So if this holds, Snell will go to the NFL with the same chip on his shoulder that he brought to Kentucky when home state Ohio State and other top football powers told him he wasn’t good enough to play for them.
Snell might not be the fastest or most elusive running back but he runs hard, has been durable and scores touchdowns — three traits that made UK fans love him and could let him surprise many in the NFL just like he did in the SEC.