Robbie Rouse is one of the most interesting running back prospects in the 2013 NFL Draft, because he goes against type while being so versatile. At 5’7” 190lbs, “Mighty Mouse” is a workhorse back that will goes into their bowl game with 990 career touches for 5,390 yards and is the all-time leader in Fresno State history for rushing yards. While he is one of the most productive players in that school’s history, he is not that well known for the rest of the country and could be a misunderstood player going into the draft process. If people look at Rouse's and assume he is nothing more than a scat back, they are missing the picture on a dynamic play-maker who often times runs like a bigger back while still possessing qualities that make him attractive as a smaller runner. Ultimately, Rouse is probably a third day prospect because of his limitations, but one with enough upside to be an intriguing weapon in the NFL that could dramatically outperform his draft slot.
Rouse is a player who will run between the tackles and lower his shoulder to get tough yards. He does a good job of running with good pad level and runs with a low center of gravity to take advantage of his natural leverage forcing defenders to go down and get him. He has strong legs built for a big workload and does not wear down at the end of games. Because he is not afraid to lower his shoulder and take advantage of his natural leverage, his lateral quickness becomes a more viable threat, especially in the open field. And when projecting to the NFL, these small runners have an added advantage when it is late in the game are they are fresh. When defenses are tired, the last thing they want to do is breakdown, get low, and tackle a small running back who can hide behind his linemen and employ both power and quickness. Rouse has good instincts on when to use his agility versus power as well, but his vision as a runner is merely average and will occasionally leave yards on the field.
115 of Rouse's 990 touches are receptions where the versatility really shines. Not only does he catch passes as a running back in the form of screens and other routes out of the backfield, but he also is used as a slot receiver in the Bulldog offense. He has good hands and transitions from catch to runner quickly and effectively. Head coach Tim DeRuyter deserves credit for allowing him to shine in so many different facets of the game in his career at Fresno State. Far too many running backs come to the NFL having few opportunities to show off their ability to contribute as a receiver, but teams know exactly what they are getting in Rouse. This should not come as a big surprise, but the one area Rouse could improve is his technique and route running as a receiver.
Rouse had over 100 yards rushing in 9 of Fresno State’s 12 games this year and in each of the games he did not eclipse the century mark, he did get at least 20 carries and had over 100 total yards when including his impact as a receiver. He only had one game with less than three receptions and in that game against Nevada, he had 37 touches for 268 yards and 2 touchdowns. In all, Rouse averaged 156 total yards and a touchdown per game, which is a testament to his consistency and may remind some of Dexter McCluster coming out of Ole Miss. Rouse also performed well in games against his biggest opponents with productive games against AQ opponents including Oregon, Nebraska, and Cal.
Unfortunately, while Rouse has been so consistent, the fact that Fresno State relied on him so much will leave some concerned about how many carries his body will have left in the NFL, especially because of his size. This should not be an enormous concern because in all likelihood Rouse will not hear his name called until Day 3 of the draft, but it could be a reason he will not be picked earlier.
With smaller backs, the 40 time becomes more important, but it would be somewhat of an upset if Rouse ends up in the 4.4 range. He just is not that type of back. While he does have great short area quickness, his long speed does not stand out. The good news is he has good burst in addition to his quickness and can reach full speed in and out of cuts quickly in a similar vein as Wes Welker, though Welker is more or less the prototype when it comes to quickness and body control. If, however, Rouse cannot get into that 4.5 range, some teams may drop him off of their draft boards altogether as they are simply not going to take what they consider a slow, small running back. Some NFL decision makers may not appreciate the nuance of a 5’7” 190lb running back if he runs a 4.7.
Rouse’s role in the NFL right out of the gate would most likely be on third down and on special teams. The problem with that is Rouse’s blocking. He tries and is willing to throw his body in the way in an attempt to protect his quarterback. The problem is far too often, he literally just throws his body in the way in an attempt to block. He puts his head down and lunges. This is not an attempted cut block or a straight up block. It is an awful permutation of the two and results in horrible results. A coach needs to get a hold of him and really hammer home the fact that if he wants to play in the NFL, he is going to need to learn how to block with good technique and do it. Few teams are going to put a guy out there with their $100 million quarterback if they are going to get that guy killed.
Over his past 25 games, Robbie Rouse has amassed 3,197 rushing yards, 634 receiving yards on 90 catches and 28 touchdowns and done it in relative obscurity, but he does have popularity among draftniks in addition to Fresno State fans. He will have one last opportunity to put his skills on display against SMU in their bowl game before the pre-draft process. If he gets the opportunity to go to an All-Star game, it would not be a surprise if he shined because he is well coached and tough, but his lack of size could prove a problem. He is the type of player who will have staunch proponents of triangle numbers at odds with those who look at a guy like Rouse and simply say that the guy can play. In the end, when trying to find late round gem running backs, Rouse has an attractive skillset for NFL teams since he can contribute in so many facets of the game that could outweigh his areas of concern and he could end up outperforming his draft slot and making people wonder how they missed this guy.
Ole Miss 2011
Boise State 2012
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