University of California running back Marshawn Lynch has put together a stellar college career. The 2006 Pacific-10 Conference Player of the Year put up great numbers in his junior season. Lynch posted 1,356 rushing yards and scored 11 touchdowns. His 34 receptions were good for 328 yards and four visits to the end zone.
Lynch, 5-foot-11, 217 pounds, played only three seasons for the Golden Bears, but he finished his career as the second all-time leading rusher in school history with 3,230 yards. Lynchs total of 17 games with at least 100 yards rushing is also a school record. He posted a career rushing average of 6.6 yards per carry. In 35 career games, Lynch scored 35 touchdowns.
Cal head coach Jeff Tedford, who runs a pro-style offensive system, has been heaping praise on Lynch for quite some time.
"Marshawn is a tremendous all-around football player. He may be the best all-around player that I have ever seen," Tedford said.
"He can throw it; he can catch it; he can run with it; he can block; he has the size, the strength and the speed. He's got all the tools to be a great back and he continues to mature. He has become more physical. He is a game-breaker; he can make the difference in a game."
Lynch was a highly touted high school prospect coming out of Oakland Tech, in the California Bay Area, and his hype leading up to the draft is equally as intense. Watching Lynch on film, you can see that he is a special player whose complete set of abilities will put him in a great position to succeed at the next level.
Lynch has tremendous field vision. He can locate defensive seams quickly, follow his blockers effectively and wiggle his way into the open field. Quarterbacks always get credit for being able to see the field, read defenses and make quick, decisive plays. Lynch has all of these same qualities. He can rapidly process angles or openings, identify oncoming tacklers and make explosive, well-timed cutbacks in order to take advantage of open space.
Lynch is excellent at making jukes and cutbacks. When the play needs to be turned around to the other side of the field, Lynch has no problems cutting back and finding open space to run. He has a nose for open holes, and his ability to see the entire field allows him to squeak into soft spots in the defense. His capacity to keep his balance helps out tremendously when he cuts back. Lynch isnt going to outright burn defenders in the NFL, but hes a slippery runner who combines power with agility, vision and aggression.
Theres no questioning the fact that Lynch is tough, and his running style can best be described as angry. He keeps his feet moving after initial contact. Although hes not a prototypical bruising power back, Lynch can take a hit, stay on his feet, bounce back and continue running the football. He knows how to finish runs, and he always falls forward. When defenders try to arm-tackle him, Lynch throws out a wicked stiff arm. Lynch is also pretty adept at pass blocking, a skill hell utilize often in the NFL.
Another major plus for Lynch is his polished pass-catching abilities. As University of Southern California head coach Pete Carroll said, "He can catch the ball like crazy."
Lynch is extremely dangerous in the flats. Hes great at catching screen passes and little dump dishes. He can reel the ball in and immediately turn up-field. When Lynch catches the ball in stride, and if he has any space to work with, he can make tacklers miss. In three seasons at Cal, Lynch caught 68 passes for 600 yards. He scored six receiving touchdowns and averaged 8.8 yards per reception. In 558 career touches on offense, Lynch has laid the ball on the ground one time.
With Lynch's great vision, ankle-breaking cutting ability, tough running style and polished pass-catching skills, he is one of the most well-rounded running back prospects to enter the draft in quite some time.
Although Lynch is a complete prospect with NFL-ready abilities, there are still a few areas of his game that could use improvement.
Lynch is quick and agile, but he does not possess awe-inspiring speed. The 2007 NFL Combine will give Lynch an opportunity to showcase his swiftness. If he can run the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds, hell improve his draft stock considerably.
Lynch has a reputation for being a tough runner whos extremely hard to take down. Although his aggressive running style is one of his primary strengths, Lynch has a tendency to run too upright. Breaking tackles while standing straight up is one thing, but in the NFL, tackling techniques will be greatly improved. Stiff-arming college linebackers is much easier than throwing NFL defenders to the ground. In order to get the tough yards needed in short third-down and goal-line situations, Lynch is going to have to keep himself low to the ground. Defenders in the NFL know how to use strength and leverage to stand up ball carriers. If Lynch wants to keep his hard-nosed reputation, hell have to learn how to run the ball with a lower center of gravity.
Since he has such great field vision, Lynch can try to do too much when he carries the ball. Having the ability to make sweeping cutbacks is a plus, but at times, it can also be a detriment. When a running play inside the tackles is designed to generate a three- or four-yard gain, cutting back and bouncing to the outside can lead to loss of yardage. No one can accuse Lynch of dancing around behind the line of scrimmage, but his desire to turn small gains into huge plays can get him into trouble.
Lynch was accused of sexual assault and battery stemming from an alleged altercation that occurred Dec. 13 with his former girlfriend. A restraining order was placed against Lynch, but no charges were ever filed in the case due to insufficient evidence and reported inconsistencies in the woman's story, according to Alameda County senior deputy district attorney Kim Hunter.
With his superior size and speed, University of Okalahoma running back Adrian Peterson has positioned himself as the top running back prospect in the 2007 NFL Draft. Lynch, with his very well-rounded set of skills, will likely be the second running back selected in the draft.
Since the running back-by-committee fad is in full swing in the NFL, elite prospects like Peterson and Lynch will enjoy first-round attention. While Peterson will likely be a top-5 pick, Lynch is a going to be a middle-round selection. The Green Bay Packers may be seeking a running back in the draft. Running back Ahman Green could exit Green Bay via free agency, and if Lynch is still available at pick No. 16, the Packers may grab him.
Perhaps more likely is Lynch sliding to the New York Giants at No. 20 overall to be the heir apparent to retired running back Tiki Barber. This would allow Lynch to share time with running back Brandon Jacobs while learning the ropes.