With the 2018 NFL Draft just days away, we are analyzing running back Justin Stockton and how his talent can translate to the next level. There are not many players who can turn the jets on like Stockton and scouts/coaches were able to get a good look during the Texas Tech pro day. Although he may be listed as a running back, Stockton is better characterized as a stocky-receiver. His specialty, as many Tech fans can attest, is catching the ball out of the backfield and taking it to the house.
The running back prospects for this year’s class are saturated with talent. From superstars like Saquon Barkley (Penn State) or Derrius Guice (LSU) to the absolute raw talents of Sony Michel (Georgia) make this a competitive class. So where does somebody like Justin Stockton fit in? Let’s find out.
Stockton is a firmly built 201 lbs at a height of 5’9. At the pro day, he excelled in a number of categories, most notably running an averaged 40 time of 4.49 (low of 4.38). This explosive speed helps him in different ways on the field, too. A lot of Stockton’s strength as a player comes from the ability to find the open space, thus making himself a consistently viable option especially on pass plays.
Check-downs have proven successful.
In this next highlight, Stockton utilized a wheel route and a defensive back blocking out a linebacker to become an immediate touchdown threat.
In this particular play you can get the best look at Stockton’s ability to stop and then hit the gas in quick succession. That ability to launch immediately won’t be overlooked by NFL teams (and avoiding the tackle at the end is a nice touch).
Don’t be mistaken—Stockton has had a number of traditional hand-off plays that have become very successful due to his vision and ability to abuse open space. Below is an example of a simple run play that Stockton explodes into a near 80 yard touchdown by simply getting to the corner of the play before anybody else could. Once he saw the end zone it was game over.
In this following play, the defensive tackle keys up on the quarterback (Mahomes) which gives space to Stockton and, well, you know how that ends. NFL teams with mobile quarterbacks will take notes on how effective Stockton can be when he isn’t immediately keyed up on, and that’s something that would happen often.
Stockton has a set of extremely fresh and flexible wheels that will be well regarded as a pro. Critics of his game might assume his consistent highlights of straight-ahead, high-velocity jaunts are due to a lack of vision and creativity. On the contrary, Stockton’s preference for the track-like sprints through the line and beyond stem from his decisiveness, quick feet and aggressive approach. When he slips to the second level, which happens frequently, Stockton displays elusiveness and balance without losing much speed. As a receiver, he is skillful, versatile, athletic, sure-handed and as a result - dangerous. Linebackers by in large have a very difficult time staying on him during routes which will prove useful to NFL teams looking to spread defenses out.
Stockton plays with enthusiasm, brings a wide assortment of tools out of the backfield and owns a humble but confident attitude. I would argue that this is a full-service running back that has his best football ahead. Without a doubt he will likely have to earn his keep early on special teams and kick returns; that’s okay. Stockton has the nose-to-the-grindstone attitude that would prove substantial in the long run.
It doesn’t take long for me to draw comparisons between Stockton and a prolific NFL running back - a certain running back who also just won the Offensive Rookie Player of the Year Award. That running back: Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints.
(note: the video may not play on this platform, but you can follow it to youtube to see Kamara’s highlights.)
Kamara utilizes open space, and puts on the jets whenever he touches the ball. Watch some of his highlights above and tell me that he doesn’t have an almost identical style to Stockton. Kamara’s personal success as a running back who sees a lot of screen/check-down/etc plays as well as traditional run plays bodes extremely well for Stockton’s draft stock. If NFL teams look at Stockton as a similar player to Kamara, then there’s no doubt in my mind that this Texas Tech running back is going to be a serious sleeper pick.
POSSIBLE LANDING SPOTS
The last running back to be drafted from Texas Tech was DeAndre Washington, a bowling-ball with superior agility. If our readers recollect, Washington went in the fifth round of the draft in 2016 which could be a similar situation for Stockton. A fifth round isn’t too egregious of an expectation, especially with more and more pundits believing the best long-term players are in the later rounds. For reference, Alvin Kamara went in the third round. Teams I believe Stockton could fit best into are:
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
I know, what could be more perfect than a reunion between Mahomes and Stockton? The Chiefs could utilized their chemistry and build on Stockton’s ability as an offensive weapon. You could line him up in the backfield, send him out wide or even give him direct snaps in the wildcat formation. We already know that every time Stockton touches the ball with space he is a threat to score, so putting someone he is familiar with in the QB position? This really cuts down on time developing chemistry and getting integrated in the offensive system. In addition to Tyreek Hill, Stockton would boost Kansas City’s offensive diversity and strength effectively.
LeSean McCoy is nearing thirty years of age, which doesn’t decommission him but it certainly starts the conversation of “who do we get to follow this guy?” McCoy has been successful in the league because of his speed, agility and excellent pass-catching ability - Stockton’s archetype. He could learn a lot from McCoy’s experience and develop into a very similar player. Also the relatively new Coach Skipper is leading the running back core for the Bills. It would behoove Coach Skipper to find a player that would seamlessly work into the system and build rapport over time - rather than a running back that would draw a lot of publicity (adding undue pressure to his job).
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Ever since Kaepernick’s departure from the 49ers, their team has struggled mightily with finding offensive prominence. They are near barren in the backfield with Jerick McKinnon starting. McKinnon is a decent running back but the issue for the 49ers is that nobody can even name his backups—does he have any?! Teams that are desperate in this aspect will be looking to the running backs who aren’t getting taken in the first or second round. Stockton wouldn’t suffer in San Francisco, most likely ending up at the second-string from the get go, but I don’t believe he would thrive there either.
If anyone believes Stockton won’t be drafted... the guy clocked a 4.38 40 time. That’s stupid fast.