The annual NFL Draft is still an inexact science every single year, and this year will prove to be no different. All too often NFL scouts and general managers get caught up in the statistics of potential prospects. It is a common result for NFL fans and mock draft enthusiasts to get fixed on a player's time in the 40-yard dash or how many reps he can lift of 225 pounds. While these measurements are indeed important, they don't necessarily tell the entire story.
The Wonderlic Test is used on prospects to determine the mental capacity of being able to resolve challenging problems in a short amount of time. Still, these statistics and test results often don't reveal all of the facts. There never has been and never will be a test that proves to be undeniably accurate in projecting how successful a player will make the transition from the college level into the professional level. Until the perfect error-proof test comes along the NFL Draft will continue to be a gamble. For every offensive bust such as quarterback Ryan Leaf, running back Lawrence Phillips and wide receiver J.J. Stokes, there is someone who can also mention quarterback Tom Brady, running back Terrell Davis and tight end Shannon Sharpe.
At this time it is anybody's guess as to who will draft Ohio State running back Antonio Pittman. Regardless of who chooses Pittman, they will be getting a talented athlete, a person of character and someone who is family oriented.
Pittman has a tattoo in memory of his brother who passed away several years ago that still serves him as motivation to continually improve both in terms of football and life as well. As if he wasn't already motivated enough, he has stated that providing for his young daughter served as one of his reasons for bypassing his senior season.
Despite suffering from a nagging turf toe injury during Pittman's senior season at Buchtel High School (Akron, Ohio) the elusive runner ran for 1,300 yards and won All-Ohio honors. Once Pittman proceeded to college he had to adjust to the much more talented level of competition.
As a freshman Pittman was effective as a backup to starter Lydell Ross by gaining 381 yards rushing. Before his sophomore season Pittman invested much more time in the weight room and film room to improve to have a chance at being a starter. His sophomore season was his most productive yardage-wise as he gained 1,331 yards and seven touchdowns. During his junior season he would have another successful campaign by producing 1,233 yards and doubling his touchdown production with 14 scores.
In his three seasons at Ohio State, Pittman's average per carry was consistently more than 5.0 yards per carry. Pittman joined former Buckeye running backs Archie Griffin, Vince Workman and Keith Byars as only the fourth sophomore to gain over 1,000 yards in a season.
Due to Pittman's excellent vision, he is a good straight-ahead runner but is also elusive enough to effectively run the counter and draw plays. Pittman is versatile in that he can run with or without a lead blocker. He is shifty and elusive in traffic but also patient enough to set up his blockers well.
Running with attitude, as if he has a grudge, along with a solid stiff-arm, often helps Pittman against poor tacklers and going down against the first defender. His innate balance and body lean makes him a serious threat inside the red zone.
Pittman possesses adequate breakaway speed, being clocked at 4.51 during the team's Pro Day. It is his initial acceleration and quickness that helps him avoid major hits. He runs well in congestion by squirting through holes on the inside between the tackles and can bounce to the outside when gaps break down or close. His toughness is evident by his willingness to initiate contact and reluctance to run out of bounds.
Pittman is a smart football player who many have said only gets better during a game. His ability to secure the ball is unique in how he often fights for extra yardage. He has lost two of four fumbles in 557 touches.
Pittman is an acceptable blocker but isn't the type that will "wow" someone with his abilities in this department.
The most glaring and common aspect most refer to is Pittman's lack of ideal size for a starter at the professional level. At 5-foot-11, 207 pounds, he is not built to withstand the excessive punishment dealt to franchise-type running backs. Instead, he would probably benefit from being a third-down back and special teams return man until he bulks up.
Pittman should not be counted on to carry a team exclusively on his back while he develops and adjusts to the NFL way of life. As a rookie he would best be served working in a rotation and situational plays.
While Pittman is a willing blocker, it is definitely one thing he will have to work on improving just for the chance to see the field in his rookie season. He is merely average at catching the ball, and it will depend upon what offense he plays in that will determine how much he must improve his route running.
Despite decent leg drive and respectable effort, Pittman often tries to overpower defenders and loses. While some players run like they are physically bigger than their stature dictates, Pittman sometimes does this to a fault. Furthermore, once in the open field he runs too upright for many scouts' tastes.
Despite being "football smart," as many would describe him, Pittman isn't known to be a hard worker in the "extra hours" department.
The consensus has University of Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson and University of California running back Marshawn Lynch listed as the top two rookie rushers in the draft this year. Pittman has primarily been listed by the majority of prognosticators anywhere from the third- to 10th-best ball carrier.
KFFL ranks Pittman as sixth-best back right now, which could change in the coming weeks, of course. The primary reasoning for his current ranking is that we feel he is too close to being in the mold of now-retired NFL running back Tiki Barber during his early years - not capable of being an immediate, fulltime contributor to a position that has a short shelf life, thus devaluing his long-term worth.
It is arguable that Pittman would have benefited from returning to Ohio State for his senior season, which successful could have generated more interest from NFL teams to draft him in 2008.
While Peterson and Lynch figure to go in the first round, it is unclear where to project Pittman at this point. It would be a shock to see him slide into the fifth round, but his value is most likely found by NFL scouts in the late third round through the middle of the fourth.