Atlanta Falcons fans have been lamenting the team's use of Jerious Norwood for years, even preceding Bobby Petrino's insistence on using a nearly spent Warrick Dunn as his feature back. With Norwood's last good wheel finally rolling along its way, the team is forced to seek Michael Turner's change of pace elsewhere. Is Oregon St. Beavers RB Jacquizz Rodgers the answer?
What they're saying: Should contribute quite a bit as a rookie ... I love fifth-round pick Jacquizz Rodgers ... A steal as 145th pick ... He offers a pass-catching threat the Falcons can use ... Awesome complementary piece and someone who adds a scary new dimension.
Best case: He becomes the new Maurice Jones-Drew or a stronger Warrick Dunn, stepping up his pass-blocking to match the example set by both of those compact, diverse backs. He challenges Turner for carries every season, taking over the starting role down the road while becoming a fantasy football treasure.
Worst case: He never gains the trust of Falcons offensive coaches enough to stay on the field for more than a stray play every now and then, a la several other small backs who've been through Atlanta. NFL defenses catch up to his deceptive lack of speed far quicker than NCAA defenders could.
Highlights, stats, videos, background and stuff: Rodgers leaves Oregon State as the decade's top Pac-10 career yards from scrimmage leader. Atlanta may have a productive, durable new weapon to deploy. By my quick count, he had 27 games with 100 or more yards worth of offense.
Oh, and his only career fumble should've actually been charged to his QB, according to Oregon State fans. They're actually really insistent about that. Sounds good?
Complete career stats, via Sports Reference:
Thus, let's go to the tape. Keep in mind this is against Cal, so.
As you can see in bits here and in much more detail in a thorough video breakdown at Mocking The Draft, Rodgers is a small back who plays like a big back more often than not, the opposite of the Darren Sproles clone we were first told the team had picked -- though he does have creative feet when needed. He's little, so he's hard to get a bead on, but
he wears many beads in his necklace he's strong enough to deal damage of his own. Well, most of the time.
After watching him, I don't really think of him as a change-of-pace back, but more of a change-of-scale back. He's definitely nimbler than Turner, but is a uniquely Mike Smith version of an explosive running back. Like Turner and Jason Snelling, he may not always gain yardage, but I don't see him losing it all that often either.
Rodgers has been a force his entire career, setting the Texas high school touchdowns record in just three years, which is kind of hard to believe. Swear Tim Riggins scored several hundred in his nine seasons. He journeyed all the way to Oregon State to play alongside his brother James (he's a family man, Mr. Blank!).
For more on the NFL Draft, join Mocking The Draft and browse SB Nation's 2011 NFL Draft hub. More local NFL Draft resources: live discussion of Falcons picks at The Falcoholic; coverage of the Falcons and NFC South for rounds one, two and three and rounds four through seven; final conference tallies for the SEC and ACC; and pre-Draft coverage of the Falcons and SEC and ACC prospects.