A new trend of running backs that play both running back and receiver are starting to pop up on the NFL radar. Just think back to last year, when that guy was now Washington Football Team running back Antonio Gibson. They are finding more and more success at the NFL level, too. UCLA running back Demetric Felton falls right into that line of new backs in the NFL Draft landscape.
Demetric Felton NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements
- Position: Running Back
- School: UCLA
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 5’8 5/8″
- Weight: 189 pounds
- Wingspan: 74 1/8″
- Arm: 31 3/8″
- Hand: 9 3/8″
Playing at Great Oak High School in California, Demetric Felton was one of the most feared running backs in California’s Southwestern League. Before leaving for UCLA, Felton would rack up 40 rushing touchdowns and over 3,000 yards rushing, on his way to being named All-Conference honors his senior season.
Felton only switched to running back halfway through his junior season after previously being a wide receiver. That is why he is so comfortable at both spots.
Like most skill position players, Felton did track and field in high school, including the 100-meter sprint. While he never put up anything too elite, Felton’s track training shows up on film, given his great playing speed.
In his senior year, not only did Felton personally have a great year, but he helped Great Oak make the playoffs for the first time in team history.
After his senior season, Felton got an invite to the Semper Fidelis All-America Bowl for his impressive and rising stock as a recruit. By the end of his meteoric rise, Felton was a top-50 prospect in a talent-rich Golden State and a three-star prospect, according to 247 Sports.
Demetric Felton’s career as a UCLA running back
Enrolling early in 2016, Felton soaked up the environment in Los Angeles. He could not crack the lineup in any capacity and was redshirted, but coaches spoke glowingly of Felton’s tools and ability. Felton just needed the college strength and conditioning program to bulk up, and then he could get on to the field to make an impact.
In 2017, Felton would get that opportunity. He would only play in four games, including the Bruins’ game in the Cactus Bowl versus Kansas State. His numbers on a small sample size were solid, as Felton averaged 7.5 yards per carry, registering his first career touchdown against Hawai’i at the goal line. Most importantly, his ability to create was on display in his limited time. On 12 touches, Felton forced 7 missed tackles that season.
In 2018, deploying as a receiver, Felton had an impressive year. Felton spent most of the year at wide receiver instead of running back. He caught 20 passes for 207 yards. Felton was mostly in the slot, running slants, fades, and other simple routes there. He proved he had soft, dependable hands out of the backfield. Felton also was in charge of returning kicks, which he did in high school, thanks to his open-field elusiveness.
Felton’s dynamite 2019 season
The 2019 season is where it became clear the UCLA running back was an NFL Draft prospect. Amassing nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards, including over 500 receiving yards, Felton was a big play walking. Washington State was the game where Felton made his presence known. 2 touchdowns of over 90 yards and 3 touchdowns total really showcased his home run ability on display.
The 94-yard touchdown reception vs. the Cougars came on a crisp angle route. Felton then delivered two stiff arms in the open field to break away for the score. He turned on the jets to showcase that breakaway speed. That touchdown came against a linebacker, a position that has trouble covering him in space.
The ability to return kicks is huge as well. Felton broke one for 100 yards in that game thanks to his burst and long speed.
Against Oregon State, Felton’s vision allowed him to bounce a big one. Processing a linebacker mirroring him, Felton pressed the B-gap and got the linebacker to commit downhill. It opened up the edge for Felton to hit the gas pedal and just outrun everyone on the sideline for a big touchdown.
That was the thing with Felton. He scored 4 touchdowns of over 75 yards because of open-field skills and athleticism. It was a mild surprise to see him head back to school, given the résumé was all there for him. However, Felton’s 2020 season only helped his draft stock.
Felton showed pure rushing ability in 2020
Compared to 2019, Felton’s 2020 season was on the polar opposite of the spectrum. On his way to a first-team All-Pac-12 selection, Felton racked up a career-high 668 rushing yards. The UCLA running back ranked sixth in the NCAA in all-purpose yards per game.
While only having 159 receiving yards, it is a known commodity that Felton is a natural pass-catching back. He can split out wide and into the slot because of his quickness in space with free releases.
Two 100-yard performances against California and Oregon put him firmly on the map as a truly dangerous pure rusher. His processing seems to have become more consistent — an area that Felton struggled with in previous years as he made the transition.
Now, it seems as if he can create consistently using his eyes and feet in conjunction with one another. As such, Felton will play as a running back at the next level, not wide receiver.
Felton received a Senior Bowl invite to travel to Mobile and showcase a unique skill set. With a strong week, it is possible that Felton can rise as an all-purpose player.
Analyzing Demetric Felton’s NFL Draft profile
As I have mentioned throughout, Felton’s skill set is increasingly valuable in the NFL. If you want to be a valuable running back, you have to catch the football. It is obvious Felton has these capabilities to win in space against linebackers as a true mismatch.
Even more, his ability to create in space will make getting him manufactured touches a priority. That includes anything from screen passes to simple pick plays in short-yardage situations.
Felton’s physical skills are quite enticing as well. His lateral agility is his best athletic trait. That allows Felton to make easy cuts and moves in the open field. He does not have great size, which could call into question if he can be a true lead back at the next level.
His long speed is solid and gives him home run ability. Yet, the most impressive thing he has is the start/stop acceleration in and out of his moves. In addition, Felton has the vision, body control, and contact balance to create yards after contact.
The issue that may arise with his frame is physicality. It is not for a lack of want, but Felton is on the smaller side of things, and therefore, has issues in pass protection.
Perhaps the bigger question is if the UCLA running back can work in between the tackles comfortably. Felton may just be a one-trick pony in that area, thus making him a committee back and slot receiver who can break big plays at times.
Demetric Felton’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
The best fits for the UCLA running back are teams that have no issue getting creative schematically. Simply put, they do not try to force Felton to do things he is not good at, such as running in between the tackles.
With his dynamic ability, there is tremendous value and potential to be harnessed here. In a wide-zone scheme, Felton makes sense given his burst and contact balance in space. The Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers are obvious fits in that regard.
Furthermore, I like the fit for Felton in a place like Atlanta, too. Arthur Smith knows how to scheme to his personnel exceptionally well, and given their need at running back, the fit makes sense. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another great potential fit. Despite already having great weapons, Tampa Bay needs a high-end receiving back. We know how Tom Brady loves running backs like Felton. He could very well be the next James White in some regard.
Any team that is getting Felton is getting a weapon. The young man is a talented football player. You just have to adapt to a skill set that may not fit what you want to do as an offense right away. That is okay, but you cannot force a square peg into a round hole with Felton. That will be the key to unlocking his full potential as a player early on.