It’s not quite major bowl season yet, but there are plenty of NFL and dynasty roster-worthy prospects to keep an eye on. One of the stars on show in a great slate of games today is Stanford’s outstanding running back Bryce Love.
Bryce Love was never forced to redshirt throughout his career, but he spent his freshman and sophomore campaigns playing behind Christian McCaffrey. In backup duty, Love averaged a healthy 8.2 yards per touch and 4.3% touchdown rate. He had his breakout game against North Carolina in the Sun Bowl last season. McCaffrey opted to sit out of that game after declaring for the NFL Draft, allowing Love to take over as the featured running back. He needed only 22 touches to record 168 yards and one touchdown.
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Love’s breakout continued throughout his junior season after taking over as the workhorse running back. He was second in the NCAA with 1,973 rushing yards, and led all players with at least 150 attempts in yards per attempt. He was one of only a handful of players to record over 2,000 yards from scrimmage last season, and found the end zone 17 times. Love needed only 55.5% of Stanford’s carries to account for 72.9% of their rushing yards and 58.6% of their rushing touchdowns.
AS A RECRUIT
Love was not seen as an elite prospect coming out of high school. He ranked as a four star recruit and the 26th overall running back, according to 247Sports recruiting system. With that being said, his tremendous speed was highly sought-after. He received offers from top end schools, including Clemson, Ohio State, and Stanford. Ultimately, Love’s decision came down to Stanford and North Carolina with Stanford completing one of the biggest steals in the 2015 recruiting class.
Athleticism is seen as one of Love’s biggest strengths. He recorded a more than respectable 122.43 SPARQ Rating coming out of high school, flashing in the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, and vertical jump. In comparison to the 2017 NFL draft class, Love would have led the running backs in the 40-yard dash, and ranked third and fourth in the vertical jump and 20-yard shuttle.
While no one is questioning Love’s athleticism, they are questioning his size. He is currently listed on Stanford’s website as 5’10” and 196 pounds, but his frame looks as if he will be able to add more muscle in the NFL. His weight at the combine will be one of the biggest stories for the first round hopeful.
This is a deep class of running backs, and no ranking is set in stone after Saquon Barkley. Love has been projected anywhere from the first to the third round throughout the season. He has the production of a first round pick, but many scouts are wondering if he can handle a full workload at the NFL level. He is a player that is going to test off the charts at the NFL Combine, though, which will likely skyrocket his draft value.
There have been suggestions that Love is better than his former teammate Christian McCaffrey, who was selected with the eighth overall pick last season. It’s unlikely that Love will be selected that high because of his size, but he could be selected at the end of the first round because of his combination of elite speed and collegiate production.
Love is a player who passes the eye test with flying colors. He tends to utilize patience in the backfield, using a hop-step similar to Le’Veon Bell. His vision also jumps off on tape, as he waits for holes to develop before using an exceptional burst and tremendous speed to gain chunk yardage. Stanford often times ran an inside pitch play to Love, allowing him to use his vision to find holes rather than specifically attacking one. It is an interesting concept, although Love likely will not utilize this technique in the NFL.
Outside of a potential learning curve for a more conventional handoff technique, Love only has two issues that are generally points out by scouts – his size and hands. Love will likely be looking to add weight from now until the Combine, and it will be interesting to see what he weighs in at. If he has gained weight, his value will increase. He is a player with a strong base, allowing him to break arm tackles, but he does not often break away from clean hits. His body seems as if he has the potential to add a bit more muscle once he begins training in the NFL, though.
Love has also displayed soft hands when given the opportunity, but his receiving has been questioned after Stanford opted against throwing to the running back with McCaffrey out of town. Still, in his career, Love had a 77.1% catch rate, catching 27 of 35 targets. On tape, he has displayed good hands, and this is confirmed by his high school scouting report, where he was listed as an all purpose running back.
Love’s value will be tied to his draft position. If a team is willing to draft him in the first round, they likely view him as a workhorse prospect. His elite speed will give him ample chances to succeed in the NFL, as teams love big play threats. The only real question surrounding him is the workload he can handle. Even if he is not able to handle a full workload, Love’s big play ability will allow for success as a change of pace back in a similar way that it did in the 2016 season for Stanford.
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