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PFF scouting report: Donnel Pumphrey, RB, San Diego State

at Qualcomm Stadium on September 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.

Name: Donnel Pumphrey

School: San Diego State

Position fit: Running back

Stats to know: Broke the FBS all-time leading rushing yards mark in 2016. Only player to eclipse 200 missed tackles forced as a runner over the past three seasons combined.

What he does best:

  • Elite quickness on cuts and change of direction.
  • Excellent vision at both the first level to find a crease, and to find cut back lanes in the second level and beyond.
  • Small size and quick burst allow him to get through tight holes, and even creases that barely exist. Does well “hiding” behind the offensive line.
  • Decisiveness and quickness to and through the line of scrimmage can beat defenders to spots, even on times when defensive linemen win into the point of attack.
  • Possesses very good balance, and can spin off contact to stay upright.
  • An effective receiver in space, who can also be moved into the slot to create personnel mismatches.
  • From 2014 to 2016, he had 19-plus touches in 38 of his 41 games and averaged 24.8 touches per game. Had over 1,150 career touches, showing that durability should not be a concern.

Biggest concerns:

  • Played against a slightly lesser level of competition in the Mountain West Conference. Had only a handful of games against Power-5 teams in his career, and faced some questionable defenses there, too.
  • While he’s shown to be capable of overcoming bad blocks and murky reads, he did run behind a pretty good offensive line that helped him get into open space a little more often than some other players.
  • Not strong or big enough to take on pass rushers up high. Does a good job with cut blocks but may not be as effective with those against better athletes in the NFL.
  • Will the large college workload catch up to him at some point, or shorten his pro career?

Player comparison: Warrick Dunn

Among the reasons that Dunn was so successful was his ability to run inside despite his small stature. Pumphrey shows many of the same skills that Dunn possessed: great vision, quick change of direction, and finding his way through tight areas.

Bottom line: Pumphrey is the ultimate production player who became FBS’s all-time leading rusher in his senior season. He did so in a San Diego State offense that is heavily a pro-style, under-center offense while being far on the small end of the spectrum of running back size. He’s never going to be a player that moves piles and there will be times where he gets very little yardage after contact. However, the yards that he won’t gain through contact due to his size will be more than offset by his ability to get through holes that others simply cannot. He has proven to be an effective inside runner because of his ability to find and get through those tight creases, or sometimes through the first level when holes are seemingly non-existent. Coupled with a quick burst that allows him to beat defenders to spots, he’s more than capable of being an inside runner. He does even better when in space and can be utilized as a receiver both out of the backfield and lined up in the slot. Pumphrey could be used as a change-of-pace back, a third-down back, or a chess piece to move around the offense to create mismatches. Regardless of the exact role, he is capable of being an impactful player at the next level.

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