Rookie Scouting Report: Running Back Benjamin Snell Jr.
Benjamin Snell Jr., Kentucky
Weight: 224 pounds
40-yard dash: 4.67 seconds
Vertical Jump: 29.5 inches
Broad Jump: 119 inches
3-Cone Drill: 7.07 seconds
There are some who loved Snell coming into the NFL Combine, as he was highly-productive in college. Unfortunately, he tested extremely poorly from an athletic standpoint, posting the fourth-worst 40-time, fifth-fewest bench press reps, and the worst vertical jump. Look, Snell was never going to be someone who wowed you with his athleticism, but there have been running backs who’ve succeeded in the past without dominating the Combine.
While at Kentucky, Snell was a production machine, rushing for at least 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in each of his three seasons, though he does have a lot of tread on his tires. He racked up 737 carries in three seasons and it should be noted that his yards per carry dipped every year (5.9 in 2016, 5.1 in 2017, 5.0 in 2018). If there’s anything to take away from his production, it’s that he can withstand a massive workload, totaling at least 18 carries in 11-of-13 games in 2018.
Vision/Awareness: 3.0 out of 5 stars
Not the downhill runner you’d expect for someone his size. He is a north-south runner, but he doesn’t approach the line of scrimmage with much urgency, tapping his feet while deciding on what he should do. That led to him bouncing runs outside more often than someone like him should. He’s not someone who sees holes before they open and won’t create much yardage with his vision, though he won’t miss many holes that open, either. Seems to have a good nose for where the goal-line and first-down markers are, adjusting his approach as necessary. If he can learn to get downhill and stay low, he has solid balance and falls forward when he wants to.
Elusiveness (twitch, juke, tackle-breaking): 2.0 out of 5 stars
He wasn’t an easy tackle, though that may have had to do with the fact that he’s 5-foot-10 and 224 pounds rather than his elusiveness. I enjoyed watching him when he sunk his hips and drove back defenders, though it didn’t happen nearly enough. He doesn’t have any twitch to his game, as he’s strictly a power-back, but one who doesn’t generate enough speed to power through tackles consistently. He can be better if he understands he’s best-suited as a short-yardage back rather than one who aims to break longer runs. He doesn’t have much laterally, but his balance allows him to slide off defenders at times. There are glimpses of things that could move his grade up, though I just didn’t see them all the time.
Speed: 1.5 out of 5 stars
He doesn’t have long speed, that much is certain. His burst isn’t as bad as some would think based on his Combine performance, but part of that is because he has solid footwork for a guy who’s 224 pounds. Still, he’s not going to beat defenders to the edge very often and he doesn’t have much lateral ability, which makes a poor combination for a running back who wants to handle a large workload. His speed is a very limiting factor to his game.
Pass-catching/Pass Protection: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Doesn’t always square up when blocking but rather throws his shoulder into the rusher, which can end badly if he whiffs. He’s willing to throw his body around the field to try and help protect his quarterback, though his technique can use some refining. The effort is there. For a bigger back, he has decent enough hands but needs to keep his head on a swivel, as there were times his quarterback wanted to target him but didn’t because Snell’s eyes weren’t on him. He’s also not someone who can create mismatches for linebackers, as most have the speed and agility to keep up with him.
Versatility: 2.0 out of 5 stars
He played out of the shotgun with Kentucky, but I think he’d be better in a standard I-formation. It’s good to know he has that experience in a shotgun offense, but he’s more of an old school running back who’ll grind down his opponent. He’s also someone who limits creativity in an offense because of his lack of versatility as a receiver.
Potential Landing Spots
Looking around the league for teams who can use a power-back and have the quarterback under center quite a bit, there are a few landing spots that could make sense for someone like Snell. The first being the Rams, who ran a league-high 63 percent of their snaps from under center. They were able to plug-and-play C.J. Anderson down the stretch last year, who offers a similar skill-set to Snell. The Lions are another team who’d make tons of sense, though they do run more shotgun. He’d pair well with Kerryon Johnson, who they’ve said (Johnson himself, too) that he’s not going to be a full-on workhorse. Lastly, the Falcons could use someone behind Devonta Freeman – who’s getting closer towards the end of his career – and Ito Smith on the depth chart.
While trying to keep the comparison to a player most know, Snell reminds me of a present-day Shonn Greene. Neither of them offered much laterally, but they both had solid control over their bigger body, which allowed them to slide of tacklers if they didn’t come properly. Greene had some success in the NFL despite his lack of speed and receiving ability, but the league is much different today than it was when he played. In the end, Snell could be someone who produces like Jordan Howard if he falls into a starter role in a run-heavy offense, but that’s not likely in today’s NFL. He’s best-suited as a timeshare back who can bang it home in short-yardage situations and kill clock when needed.