Scouting Report: Isaiah Crowell, RB, Alabama State
The book on Isaiah
Isaiah Crowell is a running back with legitimate star potential at the next level. Let’s get that out of the way early. This is a player with enough talent to be selected with the first pick in dynasty drafts. Crowell is also a player who has a lot of skeptics. And, that skepticism is far from baseless. You don’t go from being a star at Georgia, where he was an AP Freshman of the Year in 2011, to the relative obscurity of Alabama State for no reason. Teams like the Jets and Patriots, for example, will cringe at Crowell’s off-field gun-related problems, though it’s worth mentioning that they were ultimately dropped. He also had a failed drug test at Georgia, but he’s had no issues since that time.
There are also reasons for concern when it comes to Crowell’s mental makeup and those issues date back to his relationship with his coaches at Georgia where he was suspended for one game and benched for parts of another. Some pundits have questioned Crowell’s maturity, and though it’s partly hearsay, it contributes to the negative buzz, which is palpable in Crowell’s case. There are also some concerns about Crowell’s willingness and or ability to play through pain and minor injury. Again, this stuff is as much rumor as fact, and should be taken with a grain of salt.
So don’t necessarily look for Crowell to be drafted like a star. He’ll probably get selected, and perhaps fairly early, but he also has the potential to slip like Da’Rick Rogers did last year, unless he interviewed very well at the Combine when he sat down with a few teams. So far, the teams connected with Crowell are Miami, Cleveland, Oakland and Baltimore. In the end, Crowell's ability to sell himself to these teams will have a whole lot to do with where he gets drafted or if he gets taken at all.
My take on Crowell’s off-field stuff and his makeup are that he’s made it this far and that he seems to be on the upswing. Of course, none of us have the access that NFL teams do, so we'll be forced to draft behind their perceived conclusions. Isaiah's tape says he runs hard when he’s out on the field, and his coach at Alabama State, former NFL receiver Reggie Barlow, had a lot of positive things to say about Crowell’s increased maturity and commitment to academics.
My questions regarding Crowell are not about whether or not he’s a bad dude. I do not detect that. My questions are about his ability to stay healthy and his ability to accept coaching at the next level. While Coach Barlow is consistent on Crowell’s newfound maturity, he’s also expressed some concerns about his star tailback adapting to the life of an NFL player, especially if things fail to go his way early on. “I’ve had those conversations with him. What if he goes to the Texans, and they have Arian Foster and he’s the starter? You’re the guy who comes in sparingly.” Barlow wants to make sure that Crowell is prepared for whatever role awaits him. We’ll have to wait to find out if the young back truly absorbed Barlow’s advice. For me, this is the crux when it comes to Crowell’s ultimate success or failure.
- Height - 5’11”
- Weight - 224
- Hands - 9 1/4”
- 40 - 4.57
- Bench - 23 reps
- Vertical Jump - 38”
- Broad Jump - 117”
Things we like about Crowell.
- Size - Crowell is prototypically built. He’s a nice combo of size and agility.
- Tackle-breaking ability - Crowell deals with the initial defender better than most backs in the NFL. He gets yards after contact and he does it consistently. Furthermore, he does it with both agility and or power. He can beat you in multiple ways and employs an effective stiff-arm when needed.
- Agility - You want tailbacks to have, as Walt Frazier might say, “feline agility.” You want quickness in all directions. This is something Crowell has. You see the burst in terms of gears, but you see it laterally too, and this helps him bounce the ball outside with authority. On inside runs, Crowell has the ability to put a foot in the ground and explode. His ability is a Mike Shanahan fantasy.
- Speed - His 4.57 time in Indianapolis was mediocre, but his speed on film with the pads on is real. Crowell seems like a “red light” performer to us. He’s not a drills guy. He feeds off of game adrenaline.
- Attitude - While his overall attitude may be in question, we like his attitude when he has the ball in his hands. He runs angry and we like that.
- Form - We like the way Crowell runs north/south with a nice forward lean. It allows him to make good cuts and it leads to falling forward. On the down side, it makes it a bit easier to trip him up with an ankle tackle as we see with Bishop Sankey as well. Still, on the whole, this is a good thing.
- Pad level - It can be a little inconsistent at times, but we like Crowell’s fundamentally sound approach to contact. He tends to get low with his pads and use his leg drive and can often power through would-be tacklers.
- Vision - Crowell sees the field well and uses his blockers effectively. He’s very decisive when he’s running inside though less consistent with his judgement on outside runs. He tends to bounce things outside at the wrong times, though he’ll often get away with it. He’ll need to tidy that up at the next level, where the edge defenders are much quicker. Still, overall, we see vision as a definite positive.
- Production - On a per touch basis, Crowell was very productive both at Georgia and at Alabama State.
Here’s a look at Crowell back in 2011 at Georgia.
You can see how quick Crowell was back then. He’s playing closer to 200 pounds at this point. He is obviously a very effective back regardless of his weight. Here’s a look at film from last year versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
You can see the same talent level in the Alabama State film, but he’s more of a power back now as his 224 weigh in at the Combine suggests.
There were a few areas of concern with Crowell’s film. First, though he’s not a fumbler based on stats, he has a troubling habit of carrying the ball with his inside arm. That needs to be coached away because he’ll get stripped at the next level if it’s a predictable habit. Second, he’s shown some receiver’s skills at times, but has also looked awkward at other times including his Combine drills. On the flip side, Crowell took tons of direct snaps at Alabama State and looked good in doing so. This also indicates a level of trust from the coaching staff. My guess is that, given more reps as a receiver, he can coordinate his feet, hips and hands more effectively. Third, Crowell needs to learn to take what’s there, especially on outside runs. He’s too patient at times and leaves some yards on the field. Lastly, while he gets the job done for the most part, Crowell's pass protection is still a work in-progress. He has the ability, but he's going to be susceptible to typical rookie struggles in this area.
So, how do we value Isaiah Crowell? As I always say, it’s going to have a lot to do with what team drafts him. Opportunity is crucial for Isaiah as he may not have the secondary skills to do well as a role player. Going to a team like Cleveland would be perfect. They have a need and a scheme that fits Crowell’s one-cut style. He’d push starter Ben Tate and would provide quality insurance in case of injury. The Ravens would also be a good spot. They have a lot of questions in their backfield and they run, in essence, the same scheme as the Browns. Crowell would be an outstanding fit for Seattle, but it’s hard to envision them taking another tailback with Rotobahn fave Christine Michael already waiting in the wings, not to mention Robert Turbin.
If I had to pick a player to use for comparison, it might be ex-Cowboy Marion Barber, because they both run violently, but Crowell has more burst and is more agile. Thus, if he succeeds, which is a sizable if, he’ll have more upside than Barber ever did. In that sense, Marshawn Lynch may be a better comparison, and it adds up as, when asked, Crowell said that he sees himself as being similar to Lynch.
Right now, Crowell is a player to own in dynasty. And, while his talent is commensurate with an early selection, he’s probably too risky to take up top if you are drafting before the NFL Draft. If he lands in a sweet locale, that could change and it could also make him a redraft option.
Other 2014 Scouting Reports:
- Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
- Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
- Odell Beckham, Jr., WR, LSU
- Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
- Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
- Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
- Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
- Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
- Jerick McKinnon, RB, Georgia Southern
- Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
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