Scouting the RBs: Rajion Neal, Tennessee

neal2Rajion Neal, the starting running back for the Tennessee Volunteers, enters the 2014 NFL Draft process with very little hype or exposure.  His name is not one of the first ones mentioned with the top senior runners, and it likely won’t be until an all-star game or the  NFL Scouting Combine before that changes (if at all.)

Neal has had a very nice 2013 season.  With 1,124 yds rushing and 12 TDs, Neal surpassed 2,000 career yards for the Volunteers and had the best rushing season that the team has seen since 2009.  He also managed to set a career high with 27 receptions this year.

While not a flashy runner, Neal is a name to keep an eye on as we inch toward the NFL Draft.

Below is FRG Scouting’s analysis of Rajion Neal.

NAME:        Rajion Neal
Position:     Running Back
Ht:                 5’10”
Wt:                210
40:               4.55 (EST)

Strengths:        Power, Feet, Vision
Weaknesses:    Hips, Long Speed, Wiggle

Rajion Neal is a well-built prospect for the running back position…He carries his roughly 210lbs well, with a thick lower half that generates very good power when he runs…A one-cut runner, Neal is able to locate and hit the hole quickly, displaying good initial burst and quick enough feet to get to top speed in a hurry…Runs with good pad level, delivering a jolt on contact that sends a message to defenders…Has the feet, pad level, vision and leg drive to be an effective inside runner in the NFL…On outside running plays, Neal can push the edge, one-cut and go…Ideally suited for a ZBS on the next level…Average pass receiver out of the backfield, though he failed to make much happen after the catch…Willing pass protector who flashes toughness when taking on the blitz.

Neal is tight in the hips and won’t break off many big runs by cutting back against the grain… Lacks the kind of wiggle to make many defenders miss in the open field…Does not possess long speed and will be a guy that gains yards in 10 yard chunks…Will need a hole to be successful in NFL; Does not have the quickness or flexibility to make much happen on his own…Had a nagging ankle injury in 2012 and was reportedly banged up throughout 2013; potential durability issues.

On the next level, Neal projects as a tough, physical, between the tackles runner that will pop off the occasional 20 yard run.  If in the right system (ZBS), Neal has the potential to be the kind of runner that gets rolling during a game and whose momentum will be tough to stop.  His feet are quick and his running style is powerful, and when he gets moving north/south, he’s an impact player.  That said, he is a really tight runner who won’t be able to take advantage of what’s not there.    Rajion Neal reminds me of a smaller version of Demarco Murray (Dallas Cowboys) in how his lack of wiggle limits his maximum upside.  I view Neal as a Day 3 selection who, if behind a solid offensive line, has a chance to develop into a relied-upon part of a team’s rushing attack.

GRADE:  6.4 (Low-4th, High-5th)

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