It’s a rarity that there is a local product who draws national buzz in the Baltimore area leading up to the NFL Draft.
But when Towson running back Terrance West declared for the draft in January, he immediately became the best NFL-caliber player from a Maryland school in this year’s draft. West could be drafted higher than the last Tiger selected, offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2007.
The fact that the Baltimore Ravens could be in the market for another running back adds to the intrigue of keeping the Baltimore-raised West in his hometown.
With Gary Kubiak’s new offensive scheme and the uncertain futures of both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce – for different reasons – could West be a potential mid-round option for the Ravens?
Let’s go back to his Towson career to see just how good he was, and where he fits in the NFL.
Statistically, West had one of the most prolific careers of any college running back this century. His 2013 season was one that will likely never be topped by another Towson running back, or 99.9% of other college running backs.
West proved his ability to shoulder the load of an entire offense, as he singlehandedly carried Towson’s offense to the FCS Championship game against North Dakota State.
His stats are gaudy, and his 2013 stats almost look fake, as over 2,500 yards and 41 touchdowns complemented by 26 receptions is an unfathomable stat line. He also displayed his durability, handling over 800 carries in three years without any notable injuries.
As a prospect, West’s stats put him on the map, but they won’t help him much on draft day.
What makes West a viable and desirable prospect is his prototypical frame, measuring in at 5’9, 225 pounds at the NFL combine.
Not only does West look the part, he plays the part (usually).
For a man of West’s size, he’s an easy mover who is quick and light on his feet, and also one whose lower leg strength allows him to be a quick-cutting ball carrier. Instead of just being a power running back, West displayed the ability to implement elusiveness into his game at Towson.
While embracing contact is West’s game, he wasn’t held exclusively to that label.
On this play with a one-on-one situation with a James Madison defender, most “power” running backs would likely take this defender straight on. West, though, possesses the agility to bounce to the outside.
West’s lower leg strength allows him to do the unexpected, as he can quickly stop and turn toward the outside, easily shedding the tackle attempt.
West’s patience as a runner was his best asset in Towson’s run-heavy offense, as his senior-laden offensive line often gave him desirable running lanes, which he displayed the ability to wait for.
For the zone-blocking scheme that Baltimore will be running in 2014, having a running back with the patience to let the holes open, as well as the leg strength to run laterally, could be an asset. West possesses both of those traits, and his durability in college would be another favorable asset to a backfield that had two banged up running backs in 2013.
Despite his impressive season and positives to his game, however, he still has noticeable flaws that may prevent him from ever being a starting running back in the NFL.
The first thing that could hold West back is the fact that he isn’t afraid of contact, almost to his demise.
For a player entering the NFL with plenty of wear on the tires, his physical running style won’t do him any favors in terms of career longevity. While his large frame allowed him to intentionally go after contact and still succeed, that style of play isn’t one to preserve his ability in the NFL.
As an example, in the FCS title game, West’s lone touchdown run came with an odd decision.
After bursting through the hole with just one defender to beat to the end zone, he could have easily run to his right and waltzed into the end zone untouched.
Instead, West went head on with the North Dakota State defender, attempting to go through him instead of around.
Still, looking for unnecessary contact isn’t something that will help West, especially against more adept NFL defenders.
The single thing that leaves one wanting for more out of West’s game is the fact that he’s a large, compact, muscular running back, but he goes down on first contact much too easily for a man of his size.
Running backs in the NFL such as Marshawn Lynch are bigger running backs with average speed, but the ability to easily shed tackles compensates for the lack of speed. West – who’s far from the top-end speed runner – leaves much to be desired in one-on-one opportunities when he makes contact with the defender.
In this example, West hits the outside and has one defensive back to beat before hitting a wide-open field at the bottom of the screen.
With the small defender going at just one of West’s legs, this shouldn’t be too tough of a task for West in order to break the tackle and bounce toward the outside.
Instead, the defensive back easily trips West up.
West also doesn’t possess the top-end speed to make him the complete back, and will have to thrive on his ability to shed tackles and make quick cuts in order to have success.
At the college level, West broke plenty of long runs, but those runs won’t come as often with the improved play at the pro level.
Running the 40-yard dash in 4.54 seconds at the NFL combine put him around the middle of the pack for running backs, but looking at his speed in college, he rarely showed more than his short area quickness. In the NFL, he’ll have plenty of 10-yard runs that should only go for seven, but he’ll rarely ever break the long one for a touchdown. However, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Think Bernard Pierce, someone West compares to favorably: a runner who can excel in short-to-intermediate runs, but just never has that last ounce of speed to break a long one.
If West can display more ability to be a faster back in the NFL, then he has the potential to be the feature back for an offense. He’ll also have to limit his physical running style to only times in which the physicality is needed, otherwise even his filled-out frame won’t be able to hold up long against NFL defenses.
In terms of a fit in Baltimore, his skill set and traits are exactly what the Ravens need, and his added value in the pass game would also be a welcomed addition.
The Ravens will likely have a fourth-round pick once compensatory picks are awarded, and West could be in play in that range. He could go higher than the end of the fourth round, but anything higher than that may be too rich of a draft spot for a player of West’s caliber.
There are better running back options out there in the middle rounds this year for the Ravens, but the idea of adding West to the team he grew up rooting for is both a reasonable and intriguing idea.
Screencaps c/o DraftBreakdown.com