Breaking down running backs is a bit of a challenge. With all the novel offenses that college football teams run, stats can often lie about just how talented a running back is, as compared to their talent and ability to translate to the NFL. For Arizona running back Ka’Deem Carey, his ability to show he can work within a more traditional NFL offense will figure into his ultimate stock in the 2014 NFL Draft. But having studied him, there are some things to really love about Carey’s game.
First, it’s his running style. Carey works hard for every yard, keeps moving forward and never stops churning his feet. Last season, Carey was third in the country in yards after contact, and for a smallish back with a suspect offensive line, amassing 1,929 yards is even more impressive. He became a workhorse for the Wildcats’ offense, and even in a spread offense, he often saw run fronts, with defenses not respecting the pass game.
Carey has shown good vision, finding the crease, typically with a single cut and go, that shows me he could be a nice fit in a zone-blocking scheme in the NFL. On the rare occasion that Carey didn’t have to break tackles immediately, his quick feet got him to the second level in a hurry where his speed made him hard to bring down. He tends to want to consistently work to the outside, making use of his speed, rarely making his jump-cut back inside, instead always looking to the edge.
Carey is also a better-than-average route runner and showed solid hands in the passing game, hauling in 36 receptions. His pass protection abilities are essentially untapped at this point, but when you consider the amount of effort he plays with, I see no reason he can’t become a very good pass blocker.
Carey’s running style is a nice mix of power and agility. He keeps his pad level low, doesn’t fear contact and even at only 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, almost always gets positive yardage. I would feel much better about Carey’s NFL stock if he was upwards of 215 pounds because his running style is going to lead to lots of contact, and you have to wonder how he will hold up.
The Wildcats did Carey no favors in 2012. The offensive line gave him very little to work with, and it makes what he was able to accomplish at his size even more impressive. He’s quick and agile with excellent balance and nice speed. I’ll be interesting to see what his triangle numbers are like because while he’s quick and agile, he doesn’t have great long speed.
Overall, there is a lot of like about Carey in terms of his NFL potential. He’s not an every down back, but as part of a platoon of backs or in sub packages as a third down specialist, Carey could be excellent. This isn’t a terribly strong running back group, so if Carey can calm the nerves of NFL franchises about his potential character and off-the-field concerns, he has a real shot — should he declare early — to be the first running back off the board in 2014. Not sure that means he’s a first-round pick, but Carey’s potential is very high and should be able to improve some team’s running game right away.