The Florida Gator offense this season was built on controlling the line of scrimmage and running the football. They had a talented offensive line that consistently won at the point of attack and had some athletic quarterback play. In addition, they had a strong year from running back Mike Gillislee. Gillislee has played for Florida the past four years, but this was the season he got to take over as their feature running back and he responded with 1,311 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns. Gillislee definitely has talent for the NFL and some skills that could help him succeed in the NFL, but some flaws in his technique could limit his upside if not corrected. As a result, Gillislee’s tape shows a player that will go on day three, likely in the fourth or fifth round.
Gillislee measured 5’11¼” 207lbs at the Senior Bowl. Considering his style of play, he was surprisingly heavy. He has a solid build with plenty of room to add bulk in the NFL. His feet and agility are his best assets and he accelerates very well when he hits the hole with the speed to be a threat to score in the open field. He plays decently strong all things considered, but he some issues with how he runs the ball make him look weaker than he could. Nevertheless, his speed, agility, and athleticism could stand out in individual workouts and at the upcoming combine.
Gillislee’s bread and butter are clearly his speed and agility. He has great feet that allow him to make great jump cuts that can make him a pain for opponents to tackle. He shows patience and allows holes to open up where his acceleration and speed make him dangerous and he can get small to slip through small creases. Gillislee has demonstrated good vision as well and does not make too many bad decisions with where to run the ball. Some of this can be credited to the play of a great offensive line that gave him ample time to pick and choose where to attack, but Gillislee took advantage. He prefers to run the ball outside when he can to take advantage of his speed, but has shown he is not afraid to take the ball up the middle when there is a play he can make. Gillislee also tends to fall forward when he is tackled. There is one major problems with the way Gillislee runs the ball. He tends to go down rather easily when he is contacted. The reason for this is that Gillislee often stops his legs on contact which causes him to lose his balance easily and go down. He is strong enough to fall forward, but if he showed better leg drive, he might break some of these tackles and keep the run going. He also runs with good pad level and when he stops moving his legs, he will fall forward, but also fall down. As a result, Gillislee tends to get exactly what his offensive line creates for him. At Florida, the offensive line was great and created plenty of space for Gillislee to operate and occasionally, he would break big runs because he was not touched or his agility created opportunities for him. He is more effective running outside as a result as well, but inside or out, he will not get all that far if he can only get what his offensive line gets him in the NFL. The NFL is a much faster game and guys have the range to cover all over the field, so he has got to be more effective when it comes to breaking tackles. So while Gillislee shows talent, he comes off as disappointing for some because he does not give the appearance of being special. If he can get in the habit of consistently driving his legs on contact, his potential in the NFL goes up exponentially.
Gillislee is a good blocker and shows a nice mean streak teams will love to see out of their last line of defense between the defense and the quarterback. Gillislee can cut block when he needs to, but he does a good job getting in position and taking on blocks without giving up too much ground. He also shows power and has a few pancakes to his credit. And if opponents do not have their head on a swivel, Gillislee will send a message. This is a huge asset for Gillislee since he will likely start out as a third down, change of pace type running back.
Gillislee showed some ability as a receiver but Florida did not give him a ton of opportunities to catch the ball out of the backfield. His athleticism, agility, and raw speed suggest he should be able to be a great option out of the backfield, but he needs to prove he can run routes and catch the ball beyond screens and dump offs. If he can develop into a receiving threat out of the backfield, he could be a dangerous weapon.
Because of his patience, Gillislee should be able to fit in just about any offensive scheme, whether they employ a fullback or prefer to play out of single back looks. He should start out as a third down back and continue developing his technique and add bulk to his frame to increase the amount of touches he gets during games. The reality for Gillislee is that if he can just address his habit of stopping his legs on contact and add strength, he has the skills and potential to be a starting running back with the ability to be special.
As he currently plays, Gillislee could be a lot like Felix Jones, former Arkansas Razorback and current Dallas Cowboy. Jones, a speed threat that has the ability to break the big one does little to nothing when he does not have a big hole. This would not be a huge problem but the Cowboys spent a first round pick on Jones, making him a bust. If he were to go where Gillislee projects to go, it would be a mild set back and he might have a role on the team. If Gillislee can correct his issues, he could end up being a player like LeSean McCoy. He has that kind of ability and talent, but that is if Gillislee has everything go right for him. Even so, even a poor man’s version of McCoy would be a huge asset to any team in the NFL as a change of pace type runner and offensive threat in a two-back system.
Mike Gillislee has a ton of talent and athleticism to offer the NFL, but his flaw is a major one and one that could stop his career in the NFL before it really starts. This showed itself at the Senior Bowl where Gillislee had an opportunity to stand out and he never did. He appeared to be a mediocre running back and this was the reason. However, it is a correctable issue and one that Gillislee should be working on in the predraft process as well as with whichever team that selects him. Overall, Gillislee offers someone a nice addition to a team in search of a third down, change of pace back. His ability to run, catch the ball, and especially his tenacious blocking will be attractive to teams and will be the reason he gets picked somewhere on day three of the draft, likely in the fourth or fifth round.
Texas A&M 2012
Videos courtesy of Draftbreakdown.com