You would be hard-pressed to find a prospect that has gained more value since the college bowl games than Tyjae Spears. 219 yards and four TDs versus USC – value goes up 1.6 notches. A Senior Bowl in which he broke ankles, including this nasty one here:
Tulane RB Tyjae Spears continues to cook down here at the Senior Bowl! pic.twitter.com/saZ4enCaNS— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) February 2, 2023
Value goes up 2.3 notches with a strong week in Mobile. Spears had a solid combine and Pro Day showing, tallying a 7.46 RAS Score. Value up a bit, but then the questions started to overcome the hype. Is he too small? He played against G5 schools, can Spears handle the tougher competition? What about his injury history? Have no fear, the Champ is here, and I will answer all these questions.
- College: Tulane
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 201 lbs.
- Age: 21 yrs. (June 15, 2001)
- Year: Senior
- Hands: 10”
- Arms: 30.75”
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.54
- 20-Yard Split: 2.57
- Vertical Jump: 39”
- Broad Jump: 10’5”
- 3-Cone Drill: 7.27
- 20-Yard Shuttle: 4.32
- Bench Press: 18 Reps
- Draft Projection: Third Day – Fourth/Fifth Round
As a three-star prospect, Spears had only a few offers from small southern schools like Southeastern Louisiana and Southern Miss. Despite a productive high school career at Ponchatoula, Louisiana, Spear garnered little interest and joined a Tulane program on the upswing.
After a few seasons of limited usage, the Green Wave started to use Spears more. As a junior, Spears rushed for 863 yards and scored nine times while also being used as a receiver with 19 grabs for 145 yards. Tulane was 2-10, but things were about to change for the program.
In 2022, Tulane qualified for New Year’s Six Bowl bid behind a massive season from Spears. He rushed for 1,581 yards and 19 scores. Spears added 22 receptions for 256 yards and a pair of receiving scores. The season culminated with the team’s thrilling victory over USC, and the draft process was ready to ramp up for Spears.
Quickness and Agility
Routinely, Spears would make defenders miss with ridiculous quick moves – whether it’s a jump cut, a spin, or just a quick side step – he’s incredibly elusive in the open field. His agility and ability to do these moves without losing speed are uncanny.
Here’s a pass-catching rep I really liked. Spears was nearly dragged down, and once he breaks free – that gear kicked in, and he nearly scored. The defense had given up, and Spears was 15 yards downfield in a hurry.
Vision and Instincts
Spears is incredibly intelligent when he runs. He understands what he can get when plays break down and gets as much as he can. As blocks set up, Spears sees them and nestles in behind the linemen until the right time. On the second level, he uses angles with his speed to create opportunities to make defenders look silly.
This is one of my favorite plays, and it should have been a minimal gain. Spears comes to a complete stop nearly, bounces outside, then splits defenders for a massive run. This happens in so many plays. He has phenomenal instincts.
For a small back, Spears has nice contact balance, routinely bounces off tacklers, and keeps running as if they barely touched him. If a tackler grasps at Spears’ legs, he will stumble and recover more often than not. His balance is another one of his strong assets.
Spears is surprisingly adept at keeping balance through contact for a smaller back. He rarely gets taken down by the first defenders.
This play has several examples of balance. Spears could have been dropped in the backfield, and another defender nearly brought him down. Spears regained balance and gained another handful of yards.
Size and Power
I know you can’t do much about size, but it has to be mentioned. He’s right at the 200-pound threshold, but ideally, being closer to 220 pounds would be nice. It would set him up better to handle a three-down role in the NFL.
And there is a lack of power in his game; Spears isn’t going to run people over and isn’t going to push piles. He keeps his legs moving, but he’s not going to win a scrum.
Spears did catch 41 passes over the past two seasons as a starter, but he wasn’t asked to run different routes. When he was targeted, his hands were unsure and a bit slippery; Spears didn’t look natural. But when he was able to get the ball on a swing route and in space, watch the heck out. If he can develop his pass-catching acumen, it will help him succeed in the NFL.
Level of Competition
From G5 Tulane, Spears will always face the level of competition question. I mentioned the massive game against USC in the bowl game, but I don’t know if USC’s defense was much of a step up. They looked like farmers trying to tackle a greased pig. It will be interesting to see how Spears does when the game speeds up, and defenders are bigger and faster.
The Wrap Up
The huge spike in value for Spears was kind of annoying, but it seems to have corrected some. He was a screaming value for me, and then the draft buzz took over. All of the sudden, he was a second-round rookie pick. And now, the community has come back around to doubt him. It’s possible to get Spears later in the second, maybe even the third round, of rookie drafts.
TAKE HIM. Spears is going to be a viable fantasy back. He may not be an RB1 and have 250 touches. But a team is going to give him touches, and with 125-150 carries and 75 targets, Spears is going to have RB2 production. And possibly RB1 weeks. I love the talent, and you aren’t going to find a player that works harder. He’s elusive, with good vision, and the guy never stops fighting for yards.
Don’t overthink this.
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