Not-so-big bad Wolfe
After Jones-Drew, NFL will look at NIU diminutive RB
Posted: Tuesday February 27, 2007 5:49PM; Updated: Tuesday February 27, 2007 9:27PM
In the copycat league that is the NFL, Garrett Wolfe's best advertisement for his own set of skills is Maurice Jones-Drew. Or Warrick Dunn. Or maybe even the just-retired Tiki Barber.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, where the numbers always rule, Wolfe's most vital statistics were these: At 5-foot-7, 186 pounds, he was both the shortest and the lightest running back invited to Indianapolis. Normally that will get you noticed, but it may not get you drafted.
But with the rookie success of Jones-Drew last season (2,250 all-purpose yards, 16 touchdowns) and the consistent production of veterans Dunn and Barber, NFL talent evaluators are forcing themselves these days to take a long look at smaller running backs that don't necessarily fit anyone's prototype for the position.
"I think [Jones-Drew's success] helps me a lot,'' Wolfe said in his combine briefing with the media. "There's no doubt about that. Because of his success and others, a lot of franchises are leaning to running backs who can change the pace of a game and create mismatches. They're smaller, but they're also a lot quicker, and a lot quicker than the linebacker who's trying to match up with them.''
Despite leading the nation in rushing and all-purpose yards as a fifth-year senior for Northern Illinois in 2006 (1,900 yards rushing, 158.3 per game, 178.9 all-purpose per game), Wolfe knows there are only so many teams that will be interested in him on draft weekend. In time he probably needs to put on another 10 pounds of muscle to protect from all the NFL-level pounding -- like Barber did as his career unfolded -- and it'll take a team that's willing to let him develop for a while before it gives him the opportunity to be a featured back.
"I'm a running back that may not fit everyone's scheme,'' Wolfe said. "There probably will be 15 or 20 teams not interested in me at all. But with the NFL Draft, you just need one team.''
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