|Class:||Senior||40 time:||4.54 (proj.)|
As offenses around the NFL continue to evolve, the importance of having a running back who can catch passes out of the backfield cannot be underestimated. In a running back class where two of the top prospects, Lache Seastrunk and Andre Williams, didn’t even catch a single pass during 2013, Arizona State’s Marion Grice is as close to a certainty as there is in this facet of the game.
Over his two years in Tempe, Grice has 91 catches for 863 yards and 14 touchdowns. His consistent hands and ability to hang onto tough catches make him a weapon both on screen passes and throws beyond the line of scrimmage.
Grice’s viability in the running game is less of a sure thing, but he definitely has some intriguing tools. He’s got a big build that complements his power running game, and he can probably gain some more weight without it affecting his game too much. He has also shown flashes of capability as a pass blocker, though his technique is inconsistent and needs to be refined.
As a runner, though, Grice has a lot of things he still needs to work on. He’s indecisive when hitting the hole, and he takes his time turning the corner and getting to the outside. With a lack of elite speed, these flaws may end up getting Grice exposed at the next level. Since Grice generally doesn’t get a whole lot done on outside runs anyway, he may be better off being limited primarily to running between the tackles as a pro.
There also has to be at least a little bit of concern over Grice’s health as well. He suffered an undisclosed leg injury against UCLA on November 23 which knocked him out for the remainder of the regular season, and though coach Todd Graham said he expected Grice to be ready for the National University Holiday Bowl, he still ended up sitting out. If this ends up limiting Grice’s Senior Bowl and workout performances, it could drop his stock in a strong RB class.
In my most recent mock draft, I had Grice going to the Jacksonville Jaguars with the sixth pick of the third round. However, I believe his stock has dropped since then as Tre Mason and Carlos Hyde have continued to emerge as prime prospects. Grice, who is currently ranked fifth in my running back rankings, could really help himself out by putting together a good showing at the Senior Bowl, assuming he’s healthy enough to play by then.
- Impressive receiving ability, good hands and positioning skills
- Good build with the potential to add some extra weight
- A powerful runner who doesn’t shy away from contact
- Has experience returning kicks, though he hasn’t done anything overly flashy in that role at ASU
- Has the skills to develop into an effective pass protector if coached properly
- Breakaway speed is not elite
- Doesn’t really break off big gains as a runner; longest gain in 2013 was 40 yards
- Passive when hitting the hole
- Speed when making cuts is less than ideal
- Takes too long turning the corner and getting to the outside
- Needs work as a pass protector; has skills, but his technique is poor as he doesn’t bend his knees enough
- Still inexperienced against elite competition; was a junior college transfer who has just under two years of Division I experience
- Coming off a season-ending leg injury
Though it was ended early by a leg injury which prevented him from becoming a 1000-yard rusher, Grice had a satisfactory season for the Sun Devils. He picked up 996 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns off of 191 attempts. He also had the eighth-most receiving yards of any FBS running back with 438, gained off of 50 receptions which resulted in six touchdowns.
Grice’s best game came on October 19 against Washington, when he gained 158 rushing yards on 21 attempts with two touchdowns, while also adding 37 yards and a touchdown off of four catches.
2014 Draft Projection: Fourth round