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The Jamaal Charles File

There's been some debate about Jamaal Charles' future as a professional running back. I've been exchanging emails recently with Matt Miller, the owner of New Era Scouting, who happens to be a big Longhorn fan. I asked him for his file on Jamaal Charles, which he was happy to provide. Draft enthusiasts will enjoy Matt's deep file of in-depth player profiles and feature stories. Along with maintaining his site, Matt is an NFL and Arena League player scout, a soon-to-be blogger on all things draft for SB Nation, and a high school football coach.

Name: Jamaal Charles
School: Texas
Jersey #: 25
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 208 lbs
Best Fit Position/Role: Starting running back
Ideal Scheme/Role: I-formation, zone blocking scheme

General Traits:
Athletic Ability: Charles possesses rare speed and agility for a college running back. His ability to make plays in the open-field is a dangerous attribute. Charles can hit the hole with speed and power, but his real talent comes in the open field, where his track-style speed and moves come in to play.

Character/Leadership Ability: Charles has never been asked to be a leader on this team. Charles has taken a back-seat to senior leaders like Jon Scott and Michael Huff in previous seasons. With no clear-cut leader on the 2007 team, or one going in to the 2008 season, Charles could step up and become the leader this team needs. Has made several immature comments about playing time, his starting job and a perceived fumbling problem.

Despite other high-profile arrests this year in Austin, Charles has stayed out of trouble and is a model 3.0 student.

Competitive Nature/Work Ethic: Charles has dedicated himself to the football team after running track early in his career at Texas. The added time in the weight room and practice field are showing now, as Charles is much stronger and seems to understand the game more. Charles is becoming more of a work-horse back as the 2007 season wears to a close. His 216-yard fourth quarter against Nebraska shows that he has the ability to carry the load for a top football program.

Football Intelligence: Has greatly improved in this area over the past three seasons. Charles can still be a liability in picking up the blitz, but has good overall football intelligence. Plays very well in the zone blocking scheme and understands the nature of the offense.

Size: Has a great overall build, but is on the skinny side. Has worked to add bulk and size now that his track days are behind him. Can easily carry ten more pounds on his frame without losing speed or agility.

Toughness/Durability: Has not missed significant time due to injury. Is a tough player that will hang in through minor bumps and bruises. Does not take many hard shots from tacklers.

Position Specific:
Ball Protection: Has an issue with putting the ball on the ground. Must take better care of the football, especially late in games. It had been mentioned that Charles could lose playing time due to fumbles, but this has not happened.

Elusiveness/Feet: Has great agility, balance and natural awareness. Can stop and start on one step. Can make moves in the open field and has a dangerous stutter step. Could use his feet to become a better inside runner, as he still dances more than you’d like. Is best used in space on pitches and counters.

Pass Catching : Has not been used as a receiver as much as some would like. Charles has the athletic ability and speed to be a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, but is often kept in the backfield to block on passing downs. Could become a dangerous receiver in the NFL if used correctly.

Pass Blocking: Has become a more willing blocker, but will still miss easy assignments and is not physical enough to be trusted in the back field. Must become more willing and aware of the pass rush. Doesn’t have a good feel for pressure.
Power: Is not a power back by any means. Is not a very proven inside runner, but has not been given many opportunities to run between the tackles. Against Nebraska during the 2007 season, Charles was finally given the ball on off-tackles and zone plays, and was able to turn out 290 rushing yards. Wears down a defense with his speed, which makes him seem to be more powerful late in games.

Speed: Has Olympic style speed and could be one of the fastest players in college football this season. Charles, a former four-time All American sprinter, is able to out run most players on the field and is extremely dangerous when give the ball in space, or when he can find a crease in the defense. Is able to run away from defenders, but should become more of a straight-line runner instead of looking to bounce plays. Could become a very dangerous player in a scheme that allows him to hit the hole and make a cut back, or one that gets him the ball in space.

Vision: Has good vision at the second level. His tendency to try and bounce plays to the outside call in to question his willingness to run inside. However, the Texas offensive line has played poorly during the 2007 season, not leaving many holes on the inside and causing many to believe that Charles is looking to create something from nothing. His vision is on par with what you would like to see from an NFL running back.

General Comments: Before the 2007 season, many felt that Charles was a Heisman contender now that he was alone in the previously crowded Texas backfield. While most feel this season has been a disappointment due to a fumbling issue, Charles is still among the Nation’s leaders in rushing yards and yards per carry. His tremendous speed will make him a favorite among NFL scouts and decision makers. Offensive coordinators will be anxious to scheme around his speed and play-making talents.

Charles does need to improve his ball-handling and strength to become an every-down back in the NFL. His speed will only guarantee him a legit shot at becoming an NFL starter, his overall skills will determine if he is able to become a franchise running back.

Injury Concerns: None

Could be as good as: Reggie Bush, New Orleans Saints
Worst Case: Kevin Faulk, New England Patriots

Where he'll probably go: First Round (2009 NFL Draft)
Where he should go: Picks 25-45 (2008 NFL Draft) /   Top 15 (2009 NFL Draft - if fumbling problems are improved)