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2018 NFL Draft Prospect: Bryce Love

Following in the footsteps of 2,000-yard sensation Christian McCaffrey was no small task, but Bryce Love made the most of the opportunity, very nearly rushing for 2,000 yards himself while taking over from McCaffrey as the starting running back at Stanford. Now, he and the Trees get to take on TCU in the Alamo Bowl on December 28th. Love needs 47 yards rushing in his bowl game to topple McCaffrey’s school record.

Love For Love

Love’s junior year delivered an ascendant performance—he ran for 1,973 yards and 17 TDs in 12 games and capped it all off by winning the Doak Walker Award as the best back in the country, besting the RB most likely to be drafted first, Saquon Barkley.

2017 was Love’s first chance to show what he could really do after playing behind McCaffrey for two seasons.

SEASON ruATT ruYDS ruYPC ruTD REC reYDS reTD
2017 237 1973 8.3 17 6 33 0
2016 112 779 7 3 8 83 1
2015 29 226 7.8 2 15 250 1

Despite doubling his rushing attempts in 2017, Love was actually able to improve on an already-impressive 7.0 YPC in 2016 by a full 1.3 YPC. For comparison, here is what McCaffrey did in his best season in 2015.

SEASON ruATT ruYDS ruYPC ruTD REC reYDS reTD
2015 337 2019 6.0 8 45 645 5

In direct comparison, Love’s numbers hold up extremely well. He can’t compete with McCaffrey as a receiver, but few can, as we’ve seen McCaffrey go on to break rookie RB receiving records in the NFL. As a runner, however, Love was considerably more efficient and scored TDs at a much higher rate. The two players have similar builds, with Love listed at 5-foot-10 and 196 pounds, so the comparison is not without credence.

Love’s bloated rushing totals were second in the nation behind only Rashad Penny and his 2,027 yards, although Penny had 38 more carries to do it. The jewel in Love’s crowning season came against Arizona State, where he put up a staggering 300 yards rushing and three TDs.

Date School   Opponent   Att ruYDS ruYPC ruTD Rec reYDS TD
2017-08-26 Stanford N Rice W 13 180 13.8 1 0 0 0
2017-09-09 Stanford @ Southern California L 17 160 9.4 1 0 0 0
2017-09-16 Stanford @ San Diego State L 13 184 14.2 2 1 3 0
2017-09-23 Stanford UCLA W 30 263 8.8 1 1 2 0
2017-09-30 Stanford Arizona State W 25 301 12 3 0 0 0
2017-10-07 Stanford @ Utah W 20 152 7.6 1 2 14 0
2017-10-14 Stanford Oregon W 17 147 8.6 2 0 0 0
2017-11-04 Stanford @ Washington State L 16 69 4.3 1 0 0 0
2017-11-10 Stanford Washington W 30 166 5.5 3 1 12 0
2017-11-18 Stanford California W 14 101 7.2 1 1 2 0
2017-11-25 Stanford Notre Dame W 20 125 6.3 0 0 0 0
2017-12-01 Stanford N Southern California L 22 125 5.7 1 0 0 0

Projecting Love

Winner of the AP Pac-12 offensive player of the year award, Love is a likely top-three prospect at the RB position and a threat to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. CBS draft prospect rankings place him third, while Walter Football ranks him second behind only Barkley.

Numerous sites have him projected to run in the 4.50 range in the 40-yard dash. That number will be key to projecting NFL success according to Kevin Cole’s regression tree, which examines which measurables matter most for RBs. Backs who run the 40-yard dash in under 4.50 seconds have a 0.27 NFL success rate, compared to just a 0.07 success rate for those who don’t.

combine_rbTree

Beating 4.5 shouldn’t be a huge barrier for a guy who broke the U.S. national record for the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes in his 13-14 age group. He’s not only fast but apparently explosive, too, which is also one of the keys to NFL success. The link above contains tales of Love squatting  500 pounds in high school, while reports claim that he’s run the 40 as fast as 4.35.1 For reference, Jamaal Charles ran a 4.36. Just sayin’.

That information jibes with scouting reports describing him as a quick-twitch athlete with short-area burst who has an extra gear he’s capable of hitting in a hurry. Love is a big play waiting to happen, having racked up nine carries of 50 yards or more through his first seven games of this season.

An NFL.com scouting report describes a speed demon capable of running between the tackles:

Although his size would suggest that he works the edges most effectively, Love is a dynamic inside runner with excellent patience, vision, and wiggle. He uses a nifty jump cut at the point of attack to get to creases on power runs between the tackles, but he’s not a dancer in traffic. He simply makes the first defender miss before getting downhill to get to the second level.

Putting it all together

The scouting report above also makes mention of his sub-200-pound size, which is sure to be a sticking point for some NFL teams and may hurt his chances of being a Day 1 prospect. If he crushes the combine, showing truly special speed, those worries would be mitigated for many.

There are also concerns about his ability in the passing game. Love only caught 14 passes in the past two seasons, which raises questions about his ability to be anything more than just a two-down back. That said, tape grinders believe that with a bit of work on his route running, he could be a major weapon in the passing game, given his ability to work in space.

On the right team, with the right coaching staff, he appears to have all the tools to be a productive player at the next level.

Planning to watch the Independence and Pinstripe Bowls today? Make sure to check out our prospect profiles on Ito SmithAuden Tate, and Akrum Wadley.

2018 Draft Prospect Preview: Auden Tate
2018 Draft Prospect Preview: Ito Smith
2018 Draft Prospect Preview: Akrum Wadley

  1. Although he likely ran that time at a lighter weight than he is now.  (back)

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