The Panthers running back depth chart behind Christian McCaffrey doesn’t make for particularly enjoyable reading, with two others on the roster at the time of writing being Elijah Hood and Reggie Bonnafon; while neither of these players are notably bad, there is a reason that in their three combined seasons in the NFL, neither has a career carry and have only one game jersey between the two of them. While Cameron Artis-Payne’s re-signing adds some depth, it would be surprising if the Panthers were done shaping the running back roster.
Marty Hurney said this week that they were “maybe 40, 50 percent through this process” – so it’s clear the Panthers will be adding some more players that will contribute in the 2019 season; whether that’s through the draft or free agency, expect another running back on the Panthers’ roster before the end of April. In addition to our written articles this week, including a look at my #1 running back Damien Harris, have a listen to our podcast in which Dan Kreso and I talk through my entire Big Board and who we think would make the most sense on the Panthers in 2019.
The Panthers have a lot of options when it comes to how they want to approach the running back position going forward, one of which is to find a player who can offer a change of pace from McCaffrey as a rotational partner as opposed to a like-for-like replacement such as James Williams. Given what McCaffrey offers the Panthers, this will likely take the form of a physical interior rusher who can bash out the hard yards to keep the Panthers ahead of the chains; why might Benny Snell make sense in that regard?
Benny Snell isn’t fast, at 5-10 and 226 pounds it would be something of a surprise if he was, but it is also unfair to describe him as exceptionally slow, as while he rarely, if ever, ran away from people, he has enough speed to stay away on intermediate runs:
However, where he does struggle at times is with his acceleration, as he often has to take a couple of steps to get up to speed, making him vulnerable to early penetration:
And this lack of quickness creates further problems if teams are able to force him to bounce the run outside – he really doesn’t have the quickness to get to the edge against NFL-caliber athletes:
What he does have the ability to do, however, is to gear up quickly to burst through the line, even if the top end speed isn’t amazing. What this means in practice is that he rarely got caught at the line – once a rushing lane emerged, he was able to burst through it:
He also showed very good balance, allowing him to fight through arm tackles and stay on his feet through lighter contact:
Something that occasionally manifested itself in unconventional ways:
And while he is hardly the second coming of Barry Sanders, he also flashes a decent ability to make jump cuts in traffic to allow him to avoid penetrating defenders without losing significant momentum:
In short, Snell is not an elite athlete, his burst is fairly mediocre by NFL standards and his deep speed isn’t great, but these are somewhat made up for by his excellent balance and decent agility. From an athletic point of view then, he has the talent to succeed in the NFL, but not the athleticism to get by on that alone. So what about the rest of his game?
Up Next: Snell See, Snell Do