With his 2023 NFL Draft scouting report, where does Tulane RB Tyjae Spears factor into the 2023 running back class? As a Group of Five competitor, he’s naturally underrated at times — but Spears could end up being one of the best running backs from the entire group.
Tyjae Spears NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Running Back
- School: Tulane
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
- Height/Weight: 5’11”, 195 pounds
Watching Spears on tape, you wouldn’t even know he tore his ACL three games into the 2020 season. Spears never lost the explosiveness that earned him his collegiate opportunity. In fact, he’s never looked more explosive than he did in the lead-up to the 2023 NFL Draft cycle.
As a three-star recruit in the 2019 cycle, Spears got work right away in Tulane’s backfield as a true freshman. He logged 32 carries for 192 yards and a score but went on to surpass all of those numbers in just three games the next year.
Spears was on pace for a true breakout season as a sophomore, but a torn ACL halted his plans to dominate the college football stage. For Spears, however, it was just a slight delay on an inevitable path to stardom.
In 2021, Spears put up 863 yards and nine touchdowns on 129 carries, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt. Then, in 2022, he emerged as a dominant force, amassing 1,581 yards and 19 touchdowns on 229 attempts. For good measure, Spears added 22 catches for 256 yards and two extra scores.
Spears’ stock is as high as it’s ever been. And with a strong Senior Bowl and NFL Combine showing, there’s a chance the Tulane RB could crack the early rounds and go off the board higher than most expect him to.
Tyjae Spears Scouting Report
- Extremely explosive and dynamic athlete with a hyperactive style and potent burst.
- High-end explosiveness allows him to clear congestion quickly at the second level.
- Twitchy ball carrier who can effortlessly throttle up and adjust angles out of cuts.
- Has the creative instincts to draw defenders out of lanes with initial angles.
- Processes second-level lanes quickly and attacks space with creativity and burst.
- Has the full-field vision to extend runs past the second level and dart through space.
- Tenacious runner who can pry through arm tackles with urgent foot speed and zeal.
- Has surprising contact balance for his size and can recoil and flex out of tackles.
- Flashes superb receiving ability, splitting out wide and extending with body control.
- Has near-elite instincts after the catch and can instantly make defenders miss.
Areas for Improvement
- With undersized frame, naturally isn’t going to bowl through contact consistently.
- Lacks elite contact balance and can be halted by direct contact up the middle.
- Sometimes freezes early in reps when the backfield collapses and can be swallowed up.
- Sometimes runs a bit too upright in space, which can allow defenders inside his frame.
- At times can be over-confident in ability to splice through lanes, running into congestion.
- Doesn’t quite have breakaway speed in the deep third.
- Willing pass blocker who can square up defenders but sometimes struggles to sustain.
Tulane RB Tyjae Spears Current Draft Projection
Spears is a small-school prospect with big aspirations and big potential at the next level as well. For me, Spears grades out as a potential top-75 prospect and a potential top-five player at his position. His dynamic ability is in the elite tier, and a standout showing at the Senior Bowl could vault him even higher for teams.
Spears has a deadly mix of elite traits, among them explosiveness, agility and twitch, and creative instincts at all levels. Not only is he a hyperactive runner with blistering foot speed and snappy short-area athleticism, but he also has the control, vision, and awareness to use that athleticism efficiently and with calculated aggression against defenders.
MORE: 2023 NFL Draft Order
To make his profile even more exciting, Spears has surprisingly solid contact balance for his size. With his hyperactive style, Spears pries through arm tackles and recollects his feet with ease. He’s also a high-level receiving threat. His running ability translates extremely well after the catch, but Spears also runs routes and extends beyond his frame for tough passes.
Spears’ three-down utility solidifies his stock in the early-round range. He’s not an elite pass protector, but he’s at least willing and brings good technique.
At under 200 pounds, Spears’ size slightly limits his potential as a workhorse back. But in a space-dominated modern NFL where dynamic weapons rule, Spears is about as dynamic as it gets. He can be an impact starter and a true offensive catalyst in both phases.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Tyjae Spears
Strengths: Explosive, game-changing running back who is also effective catching the ball out of the backfield. Displays outstanding vision as well as running instincts, runs low to the ground and behind his pads, and keeps his feet moving.
Incredibly quick and will pick and choose spots on the inside. Makes defenders miss and avoids piles. Quickly cuts back against the grain, loses little momentum changing direction, and possesses a tremendous burst of speed. Fast enough to turn the corner or beat defenders into the open field. Works, runs, and doesn’t go down without a fight. Outstanding receiver who adjusts to the errant throw or gets down to scoop up low passes. Displays outstanding route discipline.
Weaknesses: Not a big-bodied back who will pick up much yardage off initial contact. Won’t be able to handle a lot of carries at the next level.
Overall: Spears is a well-rounded RB with a three-down game, but he has size limitations. He’ll be a very productive third-down back on Sundays and can even be used as a situational starter or share the ball. I fully expect Spears to be productive as a rookie and have an outstanding NFL career.
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