There’s been quite a buzz surrounding Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr by a good portion of Philadelphia Eagles fans. His name has constantly been mentioned when discussing prospects the team should target in the draft, so as a result he was one of the first running backs in this draft class I decided to look at and study.
At 5’11” 223 lbs, Snell has good size for the position with a thick build, especially in his lower body.
Snell runs with good patience when approaching the line of scrimmage. He’s light on his feet when going from gap to gap looking for a running lane. He shows the awareness and footwork to press the LOS first and look for anything to develop inside first before making cuts to the outside. However, his patience can be a detriment as he often lacks anticipation and decisiveness. He’s better utilized on inside runs than outside runs, and he’s a more effective gap scheme runner than a zone scheme runner.
Snell has a powerful running style and is very strong on contact. Arm tackles won’t bring him down because his legs are too strong, and he has the contact balance to sustain his run or at least fall forward for extra yards. He’s an ideal runner to use in short yardage situations or late in the 4th quarter when closing out games because of his power and ability to consistently gain positive yards. Surprisingly though, he’s not an angry or violent type of runner the way Marshawn Lynch, LeGarette Blount, or even last year’s prospect Derrius Guice is. He doesn’t seek out contact and punish defenders in the same way they do. He’s physical but doesn’t break as many tackles by simply overpowering guys as much as you would assume.
The biggest drawback to Snell’s game though is his lack of speed and explosiveness. Those traits just aren’t present in his skillset. He’s light on his feet and can plant his foot in the ground to make sharp cuts but there’s just no lateral explosion there when he does. When attacking the hole and getting into the 2nd level, he doesn’t have the vertical/linear burst to get to another gear nor does he have good top-end speed to gain separation from linebackers and defensive backs. Snell also has little elusiveness to his game and won’t be mistaken for someone who can shake a defender with jukes, spins, or other agile type moves.
When it comes to the passing game, Snell has shown to already be a very capable blocker in pass protection but he doesn’t really offer much in the receiving department. He’s already good at knowing his blitz pickup assignments and using his strength at the point of attack. There are plays were he not only stands up to blitzers but also throws them aside, which is very impressive and shows he can be trusted to help protect the quarterback. But when it comes to running routes, he hasn’t really shown the capability of running anything outside of swing routes and check downs in the flat. His hands aren’t bad, but it doesn’t always look natural and easy when he’s catching the football. So even though you can leave him in the game on passing downs, you’re limited on what you can do with him as a weapon out of the backfield.
A ton of people pounding the table for Benny Snell as a top 5 RB. I’ll be honest, watching more of him right now & I just don’t see it. Give me the elevator pitch, what am I missing?
— Michael Kist (@MichaelKistNFL) January 30, 2019
Overall, I can understand why some see Snell’s size, strength, and vision become intrigued with him, but he’s just not dynamic enough athletically nor does he force enough missed tackles with his power to create yards for himself. Because of that, I can’t project Snell as a true featured back for an offensive backfield the way some others do. But just because he’s not that high on my board doesn’t mean I completely hate him as a prospect. I do like him as a complimentary piece; someone who can fill a roll in a committee as the “thunder” to someone else’s “lightning”, or be used specifically as a short yardage specialist and closer. In that capacity I believe Snell would be an exceptional player for any team to have.
I’d give Snell an early day 3 grade for draft day as of right now. However, if he tests well at the Combine he absolutely could sneak into day 2 as a 3rd round selection.