Cam Akers, Travis Etienne, AJ Dillon, Javien Hawkins, DeeJay Dallas, and more — that is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talented ACC running backs. All of those guys listed rightfully got a lot of love. However, with all the talent in the conference, it has allowed smaller names to fly under the radar. Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason is a prospect that has received virtually no buzz but is among the best running backs in the ACC heading into 2020.
What exactly does Mason bring to the table, and why is he so slept on?
Running back Jordan Mason’s impressive tape
Mason’s got some impressive stats behind him that exemplify his ability to create for himself. He broke a tackle on 44% of his rushes per Pro Football Focus, which was the best mark in the nation last year. In addition to that, he averaged 4.4 yards after contact, which was eighth-best in the nation. Much like Akers, Mason had to do a lot of the work himself behind a battered and bruised Yellow Jackets offensive line.
Mason’s runs pop out at you because he does create so much for himself through multiple avenues. There is the obvious way to do that for a running back, via evading tackles. That is what Mason does so well, consistently. He is a creative runner in the open field with above-average elusiveness and vision to capitalize on it.
It takes excellent agility and balance to stop on a dime and cut this run back like Mason does on this play. At 6’1″, 219 pounds, Mason moves fluidly and smoothly for his size. That is a unique trait that sets up his ability to win in multiple ways in the open field.
Mason’s quick feet are a vital part of how he takes advantage of that lateral agility. The impressive part is how he often slips arm tackles and then can make such sharp cuts right after. Stringing moves and broken tackles together is not a trait that every running back possesses, but a creative runner like Mason does harness his natural athletic gifts to create those yards for himself. That combination of size and quickness is lethal.
Then, you have to take into account his strength and frame. There is absolutely no way that Mason should come out of that collision upright, but that fact that he does speaks to his sturdiness and elite level contact balance. This is essentially a “bowling ball effect” as I like to call it. Mason can simply bounce off of defenders because of his tough running style and contact balance. A guy like Maurice Jones-Drew possessed that trait in spades, and it made him one of the more elusive runners in the NFL during his prime.
There are so many examples of that effortless contact balance that Mason has on tape. However, it is not just that Mason can slip those tackles; it is that he runs through those tackles as well. Delivering a vicious stiff-arm more than a few times on tape, Mason has a power, smash-mouth run style that is a throwback. He has the athleticism needed to be an effective modern-day NFL running back.
Mason also has good decision-making on tape. When running wide zone runs, it is all about reading leverage and keeping patience with your blockers. Mason does an outstanding job of reading the leverage here and seeing that he has a wide-open lane right in the middle. He uses his burst and cuts through for a touchdown. It is a subtle thing, but reading that leverage and processing the defense is a key trait needed for success.
Mason is an incredibly gifted runner. With a robust frame and no-nonsense demeanor, he has all the ability to shed tackles as well as anyone in the 2021 Draft class. In the open field, Mason’s quickness allows him to showcase impressive moves in succession, thus raising his ceiling as a runner. The superb vision he illustrates is simply a cherry on top of it all. Mason is a creative runner with NFL tools and skills.
The real questions that will need answers this season are everything else. For one, can he prove himself to be a capable receiver? At Georgia Tech, he has been seldom used there, with only seven total receptions last season. To raise his stock, that will need to be answered. Then, can he be more consistent in pass protection? The will and strength are all there to do it. Mason has the size and ferocity. It is all about identifying the most dangerous blitzer and identifying him pre-snap.
Still, even with those caveats in mind, Mason has the potential to be a guy that elevates his stock this fall once people catch onto his talent.