Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Sean Tucker's 2023 NFL Draft scouting report reveals there's far more to the Syracuse Orange running back than blistering track speed.

Syracuse running back Sean Tucker possesses electric speed and an endearing social-media presence. In two seasons with the Orange, he’s become a much loved and highly productive college football RB with multiple accolades and records to his name. Heading into his third season, can Tucker translate that into a legitimate candidacy to be one of the top RBs in the 2023 NFL Draft? As per his scouting report, I’m pleased to confirm he can.

Sean Tucker NFL draft profile

Tucker is no stranger to production and accolades. A two-time All-MIAA “A” Conference honoree during his high school career for Calvert Hall, he was named to the Baltimore Touchdown Club “Super 22” team as a result of consecutive 14 touchdowns and 1,000+ rushing yard seasons. While that didn’t translate to the recruiting trail as a three-star prospect and the 59th RB in the nation, Tucker found the perfect scheme fit in Syracuse.

Considered a redshirt candidate heading into his freshman season, injury opened the door for Tucker in 2020. In seven starts, he tallied 626 rushing yards and four touchdowns while compiling three 100+ yard games (Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, and Liberty). His rushing total was the third most by a Syracuse freshman RB. Meanwhile, Tucker’s 69.6 yards per game ranked second in the same category. An ACC Running Back of the Week award against Notre Dame set the scene for what would follow as a sophomore.

Tucker established himself as one of the top running backs in the nation last fall. Registering a ridiculous nine games of 100+ yards — including seven consecutive — the sophomore sensation set a Syracuse RB single-season record with 1,496 rushing yards. Additionally, he found the end zone 12 times.

As a result of his electric performances, Tucker earned All-American and All-ACC recognition while being named a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award.

  • Position: Running Back
  • School: Syracuse
  • Current Year: Junior
  • Height/Weight: 5’10”, 205 pounds

Sean Tucker scouting report

The 2023 NFL Draft running back class is screaming out for a contender to challenge Bijan Robinson‘s presumed dominance. The Texas RB is earning early first-round consideration, but can anyone elevate their game to garner the same Day 1 respect?

As one of the top returning running backs in the nation, and with a game-breaking speed unmatched by almost all of his contemporaries, can Tucker be that contender? His scouting report certainly contains plenty of pizzaz, is soaked with strengths, and is packed with pro potential.

Tucker’s strengths

In his recent roundup of Syracuse prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft, Pro Football Network Draft Director Cam Mellor christened him “Track Speed” Tucker, which seems like a relevant place to bring the Orange RB’s scouting report.

A former 55m, 100m, and 200m sprint champion, Tucker has legitimate track speed. As we’ve seen before, that doesn’t always translate to the football field, but in the Syracuse RB’s case, it most certainly does.

Find yourself a linebacker or defensive back who can go toe to toe with Tucker down the length of the field and you’ve found a rare talent indeed. Once Tucker’s in the daylight, it’s goodnight for his opponent, leaving them only with dreams of catching him and nightmares of the 5’10”, 205-pound shadow monster that has just effortlessly glided past them.

Yet, it isn’t just speed that Tucker possesses. The 55m sprint is the ultimate track and field test of acceleration, and there’s no coincidence that the Syracuse RB was champion in consecutive years while at Calvert Hill. Tucker possesses excellent explosion, with the ability to create easy space and yardage off the tackles. Meanwhile, if he finds a hole to exploit in the interior, he’s quickly able to turn that opportunity into a big gain.

It’s easy to see Tucker’s speed and instantly pigeonhole him as an exclusive outside-zone rusher who makes his money simply outpacing everybody off-tackle. However, he boasts multiple elements of elite running back play, which enables him to be more than a one-dimensional threat. While the Syracuse RB is adept at following designed running lanes, Tucker has the vision to seek out other opportunities when there’s a roadblock in his way.

Sean Tucker
Oct 15, 2021; Syracuse, New York, USA; Clemson Tigers safety Nolan Turner (24) and safety Tyler Venables (12) combine to tackle Syracuse Orange running back Sean Tucker (34) during the second half at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Vision without the athletic attributes to act upon them only gets you so far. Thankfully, Tucker is fleet of foot, with light and rapid footwork that enables him to change course with relative ease. The Syracuse RB has also demonstrated the ability to plant his foot and cut to leave defenders grasping at air, even within the tight confines of the line of scrimmage.

In open space, Tucker utilizes cuts and stutter steps to put his opponent in a pickle and create extra yardage. Rushing with a low center of gravity, Tucker combines all these elements to provide an elusive threat as a pure RB. It’s rare to see him taken down on first contact. Unsurprisingly, his 3.1 yards-after-contact average was one of the highest in college football last fall. Over half of his rushing yardage came after contact.

Despite a remarkably high workload last season, Tucker fumbled just once and that was recovered. Watching the tape, it’s easy to see that the Syracuse RB takes pride in ball security and routinely secures the ball in a manner where it’s difficult for his opponent to force a fumble. Don’t underestimate that value when teams evaluate him ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.

As NFL teams demand more from their backs, evaluating a college rusher’s ability to contribute as a pass protector and as a receiving weapon is important. Although Tucker hasn’t handled a heavy workload as a receiver, there are signs of promise. He appears to have a natural pass-catching style when called upon. His RB skill set lends itself to after-catch yardage. Furthermore, there were examples in the games studied of Tucker staying strong under contact in the middle of the field to secure the catch.

While pass protection is a clear area of improvement which we’ll get to shortly, there are some positives here too. Tucker shows willingness and will routinely look for work when the play breaks down. He leads with his shoulder to halt the pass rusher’s progress to his quarterback, and there were several instances where the Syracuse QB bought some time for Tommy DeVito or Garrett Shrader.

Tucker’s area of improvement

Tucker’s rare track speed and acceleration, combined with his vision and footwork, make for an alluring 2023 NFL Draft RB prospect. Another season of exceptional production should ensure that he’s talked about as an upper-echelon prospect in this running back class. However, there are some elements to his scouting report that may limit his potential NFL value, and therefore, halt his accent to the summit.

While he’s hardly diminutive at 5’10” and 205 pounds, there was little evidence in the games studied of a power element to Tucker’s game. The Syracuse RB can win in the tight confines of the interior with footwork and vision, but if you need a running back to lower his shoulder and barrel over some defensive linemen and linebackers to bulldoze into the end zone, Tucker probably isn’t going to be the guy for you.

As mentioned above, to round out his 2023 NFL Draft profile, I’d like to see more exposure in the passing game. An expanded sample size will give a clearer picture of Tucker’s ability to contribute as a three-down back in the NFL. While he did showcase a natural pass-catching style in the games studied, there were some drops.

Finally, in terms of rounding out his scouting report as a complete NFL running back, Tucker will need to improve his blocking capability. At present, he lacks the physicality to rely solely on bullying pass rushers. Although there were some reps where he was able to use handwork to keep his opponent at bay, improving both technique and timing will be key to improving Tucker’s ability as a blocker.

Current draft projection for Syracuse RB Sean Tucker

Outside-zone-heavy NFL offenses will love Tucker, and there’ll be a temptation during the process to mock him to such teams. However, his overall skill set — particularly his ability to utilize vision, footwork, and acceleration — means that Tucker shouldn’t be solely restricted to that particular scheme. When you have the speed to make defenses pay from multiple rushing angles, you’re likely to be a valuable commodity.

Although the concerns over his receiving body of work and pass-protection ability might limit his value at present, Tucker has the makings of a productive starting RB at the NFL level. While first-round consideration alongside Texas’ Robinson might be a stretch at this point in time, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see a team run the card up to the podium early in Round 2 of the 2023 NFL Draft.

It would be quicker for Tucker to run it up himself.

Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft and College Football Analyst for Pro Football Network. Check out the rest of his work here, and you can find him on Twitter: @ojhodgkinson.

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