‘Preview’ scouting reports are when I take a look at a small amount of tape and overall output data we have on a non-QB prospect before the NFL Combine and complete a preview report on what I’m seeing before I do a larger scouting study after the NFL Combine or Pro Days. Our computer scouting models cannot function properly without the NFL Combine and/or Pro Day data, so I’m not committing to these scouting reports being my definitive word on the prospect. Using what we have, I wanted to take a glimpse at some of the bigger names to share what I see initially.
The problem: Tarik Cohen is a 5’6″/175+ pound running back prospect who played at the FCS level.
The intrigue: Cohen might be the fastest, most agile prospect at any position who is attending the NFL Combine.
— The first three-time MEAC Offensive Player of the Year
— The all-time leading rusher in the MEAC
–Became a starter the last 7 games of the season as a freshman (2013), and ran for 1,148 yards and 8 TDs that season.
— Ran for 1,100+ yards every season in three seasons of college play. 1,588 rushing yards and 18 TDs in 2016, including four 80+ yard TD runs.
Cohen certainly elicits a debate about ‘size’ and the value of ‘FCS performance’, as it translates to the NFL. Legitimately so. A debate will also break out if he wrecks the NFL Combine with crazy speed/agility times…a debate about how much the ‘Underwear Olympics‘ (as some in the media call the NFL Combine because they don’t truly understand it) matter. All of these arguments are valid.
All of those arguments would have worked against Cohen if not for something that happened in 2016 in the NFL…two words ‘Tyreek Hill‘. Your ears will bleed because of how often analysts will draw a parallel between Hill and Cohen…only, I’m shocked right now because so far most comparisons in the media for Cohen are Darren Sproles. The Sproles comparison is nice, but getting compared to Tyreek Hill is a whole new level. Sproles is/was a very good NFL player. On the other hand, Tyreek Hill is changing the game of football – a runner-receiver weapon that is lightning in a bottle with every touch. Cohen is closer to Hill than Sproles from what I see on tape. And if that is true (we’ll see what the NFL Combine says), then Cohen is closer to ‘special’ than ‘really good’.
If Tyreek Hill had never come along, Cohen would probably be a 5th+ round pick in 2017 no matter how fast he ran. Now, after Hill dominated the NFL last year, if Cohen runs similar speed-agility times – I think Cohen will go top 100 overall. Many GMs will be looking for ‘their Tyreek Hill‘, especially the ones that got burned by Hill last season (see: Denver Broncos).
5’8″/185, 4.29 40-time, 1.50 10-yard, 40.5″ vertical, 6.53 three-cone = Tyreek Hill 2016 Pro Day
5’6″/179, 4.35 40-time, 1.50 10-yard, 39.0″ vertical, 6.50 three-cone = Tarik Cohen, my estimate
Being a student of Tyreek Hill last year, I would say Cohen has a chance to be a slightly ‘poor man’s’ version of Tyreek. I worry that Cohen will be smaller and shorter than advertised and that causes some issue in the passing game, but not anything disastrous…because of how he should be used (in a short passing game or streaking deep ball threat). I believe Cohen can be compared to Hill not only in speed but in toughness/strength. One of the overlooked aspects of Tyreek Hill was how strong he was/is for his size. Hill can take hits, bounce off them and keep going. Cohen exhibits some of that same trait. I was watching Cohen in his 2016 game against D1 Kent State (24 carries for 133 yards and 1 TD, 9 catches for 125 yards)…the subtle thing to notice was when Cohen got hit/grabbed by multiple defenders (obviously, they keyed on him), he did not tend to go right down. He fought, twisted, and pushed for extra inches/yards. Defenders had a tougher time getting him to the ground. Someone his size should not be able to do that against 300-pound defensive tackles, but he does. There have been plenty of frail, diminutive speedsters to hit the NFL…Cohen, like Hill, is not one of them.
I’m excited about Cohen’s Hill-like possibilities, but I need to see a confirmation at the NFL Combine. If Cohen is a garden-variety 4.4+ runner with 6.8-6.9 three-cone times…I’m less excited. If Cohen rips off a 4.35 40-time or better and produces crazy shuttle/cone times with a respectable bench and vertical – now, we’re talking.
Cohen may be the prospect I’m most interested in observing at the NFL Combine.
Until we see him perform at Indy, we’ll have to pacify ourselves with this viral video of Cohen…
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