Tyjae Spears (Tulane)
Tyjae Spears did everything for the Green Wave offense. He is everything that the Bengals need from the running back position. He can do it all. He is a good receiver and runner. More importantly for the Bengals, when it comes to minimizing the loss of Perine, he is a great blocker.
Spears is smart and knows how to pick up the blitz. He knows to block the inside rusher when facing multiple defenders and executes his assignment well as he did versus UCF. He is fast to recognize when and which offensive linemen need help when they are beaten. He doesn’t hesitate when pass-blocking versus defensive tackles. Once he is engaged, he bodies up and anchors extremely well for a running back.
He is also a good and willing lead blocker when he needs to be like he showed against Memphis on a QB fake handoff dive for a touchdown. In fact, Spears was used as a lead blocker on designed quarterback runs on multiple occasions during the year. He was also the lead blocker on some wide receiver jet sweeps. You can do that when your running back is an effective and willing blocker. It is a nice dimension to add to the offensive game plan.
The University of Cincinnati Bearcats fans got to witness all of these aspects of Spears’ game up close and personal. We also got to see him used as a Wildcat QB several times versus the home team Bearcats.
Spears got pushed back by a blitzer versus UCF which got the QB hit as he was throwing the ball. Running backs are not going to win every battle. However, he definitely won most of the time.
You can tell that Tulane focused on their running backs and tight ends pass blocking. They did it often and they were good at it. You don’t have to follow Tulane football to know that their offensive coaching staff screams something like, “If you can’t pass block, you can’t play running back or tight end here.” They all played that way. It jumps out to anyone watching their games.
Spears is an excellent runner as well. There is no hesitation or false steps when a hole opens up in front of him. He hits the opening fast and explodes into the secondary. A lot of his big runs are between the tackles. Even when there is nowhere to go, he diagnoses it quickly and puts his shoulders down.
The young running back finished last season with 1,581 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Those numbers were good for fifth and third best in the nation, respectively.
One of the most surprising things about the combine was Spears’ 40 time. He was timed at 4.54. He looks and plays faster. Watching him, you would think he would run in the low 4.4s or high 4.3s. However, his vertical (top 93%)and broad jump (top 88%) numbers speak to his explosiveness.
PFF has Spears ranked 99th overall. NFL Draft Buzz's overall rank has him up from 97.9 a couple of weeks ago to 86.7. ESPN puts him at 66 overall.
If the Bengals covet Spears, and they should, they might not want to wait until the 92nd overall pick to select him. However, with Brown more than likely still on the board, it may be a chance they are willing to take.
The Cincinnati Bengals will, more than likely, take a running back at some point during the draft. Hopefully, the player they select is someone who the team can count on early, not only to produce in the run game but also help Joe Burrow stay upright in the pocket the way Perine did.
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