January 23, 2010

Even though the NFL season is still ongoing, it is never too early to start looking at some of the prospects for the upcoming 2010 draft. In this article, we look at Jahvid Best, the Cal running back who recently declared for the NFL Draft as a junior.

Undoubtedly 2009 was disappointing for Jahvid Best, whose season ended abruptly after a spectacular touchdown run against Oregon State on November 7, 2009. Few will forget Best's horrific fall from at least 8 feet off the ground on to his back and neck that left him unconscious on the field in that game. As the Cal running back never played another down the rest of the season, it is a fair assumption that NFL teams may be concerned both with his durability and the scope of his head and back injuries.


To be sure Best suffered through several injuries at Cal that limited his playing time over his 3 years. His Freshman year, he backed up Justin Forsett (now with the Seattle Seahawks) and suffered an injury early in the season that limited him to only 29 carries.

During his Sophomore season, Best missed some time with a dislocated elbow and other nagging injuries. And of course, this past year Best suffered concussions on back-to-back weeks before his season ended.

While Best has undoubtedly been injured, many of his injuries have been of the "freakish" variety. Most notably his elbow injury and the fall he sustained are not injuries that typically happen with running backs in the NFL. Although one could conclude that he is uncommonly brittle, it may also mean that Best has just been unlucky.

Furthermore, it was proven that at least with his elbow injury, Best was quite capable of both playing effectively while injured and recovering. He finished his Sophomore season exceptionally strong while wearing an elbow brace, going for 698 yards rushing in his final three games.


With his relatively small stature (5'10", 195 pounds) scouts undoubtedly will question whether Best can take the pounding over a tough 16-week season. In fact, it is true that Best was never a true "workhorse" running back who carried the ball 30 times per game. In Cal's two-back system he often split the carries with fellow running back Shane Vereen, despite the fact that Best averaged considerably more yards per carry.

Best also has definite areas to work on, such as pass protection.

However, some have foolishly suggested that this will mean he will drop to as low as a 3rd round pick in the NFL Draft. That should not be the case.


Any discussion of Jahvid Best's pro potential must begin with his exceptional speed. In high school, he was a track star and was the California State 100 Meters champion, running a time of 10.31. As a senior at Richmond High School, he shattered Bay Area high school football records running for 3,325 yards and scoring 48 touchdowns. At Cal, despite injuries he averaged 7.3 yards/carry.

Regardless of all the hypothetical speculation about his toughness and durability, scout's should not and will not ignore the most relevant criteria to determine NFL readiness: the actual game film.

In his shortened three seasons at Cal, Jahvid Best probably has compiled the most impressive highlight reel of anyone entering the NFL Draft this season. The speed, elusiveness, and big play ability is impossible to miss when watching his performances. When Best is running in the open field, everyone else appears to be playing at half-speed. Simply put, that quality is unique and any NFL team would be a fool to believe that he can't do the same thing on the next level.


Best's dynamic running style has often prompted observers to compare him to former USC and current Saints running back Reggie Bush. In many ways, that comparison works to his detriment, as Bush has been an effective punt returner in the NFL, but an unqualified disappointment as a running back.

Best indeed has great speed like Bush, and it will be fun to see what kind of 40 yard dash time he puts up at the combines. Like Bush, Best also displays an impressive ability to catch the ball out the backfield, and his shortened junior season indicated just how effective he had become in that capacity.

But there are several reasons to believe that Best will not be as big a "bust" as Bush has been in the NFL, beginning with the obvious fact that Best is not expected to be picked nearly as high as Bush was, so any team that selects him will have significantly lower expectations.

But aside from that, Best also has largely made a name for himself running the football. Unlike Bush, he is not really known for his return skills, although he was very effective as a kickoff returner his Sophomore season, his success as a running back has defined his role more clearly. While Bush's "all-purpose yards" stats were startling, his actual rushing statistics were essentially equivalent to Best's.

Further, while Bush certainly had his share of highlight-reel plays, he also had the benefit on playing at USC for one of the best offensive teams of all-time. With Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart at quarterback, future pros Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett at wideout, a stacked offensive line, as well as a "power" running back in LenDale White, the Trojans had quite a supporting cast to focus the attention away from Bush.

Best on the other hand, played three seasons at Cal for an offense with an ineffective, and at times, downright non-existent passing game. Although he had All-American center Alex Mack during his Sophomore season, during much of his career the Cal offensive line was injury-riddled and inconsistent. By his junior season, it was well-known that Cal was going to heavily rely on him, and defenses regularly stacked the box just to shut him down. Thus, if he plays on an NFL team with a solid passing game, his big-play ability may be able to shine even more.

Lastly, unlike Bush, Best has a strong reputation as a humble, team-first player. While Bush's flashy lifestyle, attitude, and potentially unethical behavior have helped define his tenure at USC, Best is quite the opposite.

As a Freshman, Best was the team's most valuable special teams player, leading the punt coverage unit and eagerly looking to contribute in that capacity. (That mentality also should address some of the "toughness" issues as well.)

While Best has had many big games at Cal, he always took the time to compliment his offensive line, fullback, and backup running back Shane Vereen. Best appears so self-effacing that it is easy to miss that he in fact is just a quietly confident player, well aware that his on field performance more than makes up for his lack of self-promotion. This quality will serve him at the next level.


Numerous NFL teams are kicking themselves that they let Philadelphia Eagle and former Cal WR Desean Jackson pass by them into the 2nd Round. There was in fact no good reason to have allowed that to happen.

Jackson was a high school star, showed flashes of brilliance at Cal while dealing with some nagging injuries, and ran an impressive 40-yard time. Yet people questioned his size and focused on his relative lack of production in his junior season at Cal.

However, NFL teams failed to rely on the most reliable level of analysis: what their eyes saw when watching the film. If they had relied on that quality, they would have seen the extraordinary speed that Jackson showed in college and realized that he wouldn't get any slower in the NFL.


After his impressive Sophomore season, Jahvid Best was the hottest thing among college running backs. Almost everyone gave him pre-season All-American honors and very few believed he wouldn't succeed at the next level.

However, his Junior season was not as smooth as Cal struggled as a team and ultimately Best's season ended in injury. Unfortunately, this is causing many to believe that he is somehow not the same back that wowed everyone as a Sophomore.

Numerous examples of college running backs exist who put up bigger numbers as underclassmen than they did the year they entered the NFL Draft. Adrian Peterson was never as dominant as he was in his Freshman season at Oklahoma, but his relatively "weaker" seasons made him drop in the 1st round. Earlier examples include Emmitt Smith and Marshall Faulk, both of whom enjoyed their greatest college seasons as Freshman and were drafted far lower than they should have been.

The point? Don't get too "hot" and "cold" about analyzing NFL talent. Talent does not simply disappear. If Best looked like a potential star in the NFL after his sophomore season then, barring proof of serious long-term injury, he should still be treated as having that potential.


While some have posited that Best will drop as low as the 3rd round, I simply can't see it. There is no way every NFL team will pass on Best's immense potential for two rounds.

In fact, I believe Best will almost surely be a mid-to-late 1st round pick. Only if he inexplicably performs poorly in his workouts will he drop far, and then only into the early 2nd round.


Seattle: Best's former teammate Justin Forsett is already a running back there, and despite Best's poor performances in college against USC, new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll heavily recruited Best and has a high opinion of him. Jahvid could be just the home run hitter that Carroll likes.

San Diego: With the imminent departure of Ladanian Tomlinson, the Chargers are looking for some help running the football. Best would provide big-play ability to a running attack that virtually disappeared this last season.

Oakland: While it is unlikely the Raiders will use their high 1st round pick on Best (especially after drafting running back Darren McFadden only two years ago), Al Davis is totally obsessed with speed. If Best runs a spectacular 40-yard dash, Davis may just ignore his offensive line needs and take him. If for some reason Best is around in the 2nd round, they definitely would snatch up the local guy.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.Com

No comments:

Post a Comment

We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...