Back in June I highlighted several offensive players to keep an eye on in the coming year. Benny Snell III is the driving force on an undermanned but feisty Kentucky team who are making a name for themselves in the SEC. Saturday they get prime time billing at 7 pm EST on ESPN in a showdown against Texas A&M. I recommend that everyone who has an interest in Draft prospects to watch this kid because he is the real deal.
If you remember, last year before the Draft I highlighted certain players who I considered late round steals. One of those players (#2 actually) was Philip Lindsay “The Tasmanian Devil” who went undrafted. He signed with the Denver Broncos even though the Broncos drafted two RBs this year. He is now the starting RB on the Broncos, and you can watch him live this Sunday against the Jets. I was rather hoping he was going to be on the field for the Jets, but that ship has sailed. He might be the starting tailback but is still in a RBBC (running back by committee) approach.
For a RB to succeed in the NFL, they have to have a skill set that makes them viable candidates to thrive where others falter. Lindsay had a skill set like former Jet Danny Woodhead. These players are nice to have as they will deliver splash plays on occasion to help their team to victory.
However, they can’t tote the rock 20-25 times a game so they will never be considered as the “Bell Cow” back that teams covet. Benny Snell has the skillset to be an every down back for the Jets if they are wise enough to get him. I don’t think Snell will test that well at the combine so he may be available in the middle rounds.
So what are the traits that make a RB the engine that drives an offense? Many would say speed, elusiveness, strength, agility and vision. They are all great qualities for any RB, and many players with these assets excel in the college game. Many of those players also fail to make their mark in the NFL. They are high round picks, but they never pan out.
Kareem Hunt was a third round pick who led the NFL in rushing, Jordan Howard has been a “Bell Cow” back for three years, and he was a fifth round pick. David Johnson was a third round pick who dominated the NFL until his wrist injury. Alvin Kamara is taking the NFL by storm this year (albeit not a true Bell Cow) and was a third round pick.
The NFL is a different game than college football. It’s like tennis compared to badminton. Both are fun games but yet unmistakably distinct.
College running backs many times enjoy huge holes to run through and are able to outrun linebackers and safeties. They can use speed as a defense against aggression by simply turning on the after burners. They take their fair share of hits but very few of the people they play against will make an NFL roster.
The job of RB in the NFL is a brutal profession. Every defensive player is fast and will hunt you down. Troy Aikman said that he saw the difference in NFL right away when he tried to outrun DE Reggie White (6’ 5” 300 lbs), and White caught him with ease. RB’s in the NFL get hit by two or three guys every play; pain is a way of life in the NFL.
A RB in the NFL has to have the requisite strength, power, speed but he also needs to be strong mentally with an unquenchable determination to succeed. He needs to be dedicated to his trade with powerful legs but also hands to secure the ball. He needs the desire to prevail and the grit to make it a reality. He needs the conviction to persevere on every play and the fortitude to continue with confidence when he fails.
You look at the best every down backs in the NFL, and they all have these traits and more. Elliott in Dallas, Gurley and Gordon in LA, Peterson in Minnesota back in the day; they had it. They have a tenacity and a resolve that is unyielding, and they believe in themselves. In the old days they just called it heart.
Now let me tell you a little about Benny Snell III and why I think he has the talent to flourish in the NFL.
Benny Snell III is only 20 years old and 5’ 11” 223 lbs ,which is a great size for an NFL RB. His father Benny Snell II was a RB at Ohio Northern and drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in 1998. His great uncle (or super great uncle) was Matt Snell of the Super Bowl III winning New York Jets; so you know Benny comes from great RB genetics.
His nickname is “Snell ya later” and his favorite meal is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with banana; so now you know the kid is humble off the field.
Now to the football part of Benny...
Benny started for Kentucky as a true freshman and gained over 1,000 yards rushing with 13 TDs in the rough and tumble SEC and was a Freshman All American.
This is Benny as a freshman, and he shows some of the tenacity I was talking about.
He is in the Wildcat formation. He is hit at the five, then the three by a host of defenders. He shows incredible persistence, power and balance on the play; he scores with little help from his teammates. If you look closely, there are two unblocked guys in the hole at the five yard line, but he is still somehow able to get into the end zone. He did this as an 18 year old freshman.
As a sophomore (with all the great backs in the SEC) he was a 1st team All-SEC selection.
The greatness of some players can be seen not by the big plays they make but when they make them. This next clip is from the first game of this year and the team is struggling, down by ten points late in the first half.
He breaks through the line and powers by converging defenders. This one play lifted his team up and gave them confidence against a upstart opponent. In some occasions, a team like Kentucky that has had little success in football over the last few decades will come out flat against a team they were supposed to handle easily. Without the emotional lift this play gave the team, Kentucky could have lost this game and with it the season; you could call that a season saving run.
You can see now in the same game, Kentucky is up by only one and Benny gives them some breathing room with a nice run from the Wildcat.
This doesn’t look like much, but he is patient. He strings the play out until his H-back can get to his man and immediately cuts off his backside. He then gets by three chasing defenders with some power and makes it into the end zone. Kentucky won this game 35-20, but it was the huge play that lifted his team up while at the same time taking some air out of the balloon of his opponent that was the difference in this game.
Here is Benny against Florida this year in the Swamp. They were double digit underdogs and Benny gains 15 (out of the Wildcat) to keep the ball and give his team a lift.
He shows good vision to find a crease on the outside when the play was designed to go off the “B” gap. Once he gets through, he powers straight up field with no wasted steps and gets what he can. In a close game in a hostile environment it is best to possess the ball and take the crowd out of the game. A little over two minutes later, Kentucky scored a TD to take the lead.
Here Benny picks up a huge 44 yard gain with his team now down by three. Prior to this, his team was moving the ball and a turnover (QB fumble) gave the ball back to Florida. This run was followed later by an interception which ended the drive.
Benny ended this game with 27 carries for 175 yards (6.5 avg) and 2 receptions for 8 yards. Kentucky won this game 27-16. It was the first time Kentucky had beaten Florida since 12 years before Benny was born. These teams play every year, and the win snapped Kentucky’s 31 game losing streak to Florida. Benny’s ability to find holes when none were there to keep drives alive were paramount. With strong ball control (despite the QB’s turnovers) Kentucky won on hostile turf in Gainesville for the 1st time since 1979.
The Kentucky offense doesn’t throw the ball to backs on a regular basis. Benny has only 15 receptions in his career for 140 yards although as a senior in HS he had 264 receiving yards and 2 TDs. Here is a catch Benny made this year to show you he can catch the ball.
This isn’t some pass where the RB comes out and stands in the middle of the field and catches a 5 yard stationary pass. Benny actually is running an option route and cuts off the linebacker. Then he makes a nice catch looking back over his shoulder while moving away from the QB. The bad part is he rounds off the route and throws his hands back to gain balance giving away any deception to the route. NFL safety would read that and jump the pass. Benny will need some work as a route runner but he did show capable hands.
If you want to know about Benny Snell III and wanted to watch one video; this would be it. This is against Tennessee last year and is a 47 yard gain.
He starts out right then comes back left and avoids the LB, then runs away from him. He shows decent speed down the sideline and is barely thrown out of bounds by the safety at the three yard line. Most college players would be jumping up and chest bumping their team mates after a huge run but look at Benny’s reaction. He is visibly upset that he didn’t score, and that is the mindset I was describing earlier. When he is running he isn’t thinking how great this is, he isn’t thinking about personal glory; he’s just thinking he needs to score, and when he doesn’t he is distraught. A reaction like that is not taught. It is innate. He was born with a desire to accomplish whatever he is doing in life. On this run that means scoring.
Benny Snell III does not play for Alabama and have a star studded line in front of him. The defense is good but it won’t have 11 players drafted into the NFL next year or collectively the next decade. The Wildcats were predicted by experts to go 6-6 this year, and here they sit 5-0 heading into College Station and the Aggies of Texas A&M.
Benny’s career stats are good for a guy who every defense focuses on and whose team is predicted to lose more times than not. He has 563 carries for 3,063 yards (5.44 avg) 40 TDs He has 639 rushing yards this year and 420 have come after contact: that leads the nation by the way. He shows good elusiveness in the hole, the power to break tackles, good balance to stay on his feet when hit by multiple defenders.
Here he is from last year, and he somehow makes it through a hole that opens on the outside and instinctively avoids two converging defenders without a block to help.
He always show superior balance and keeps plays alive, falling forward for extra yards. He is a quality kid from a good family and is a leader by example. Keep in mind this kid is....still a kid. He is only 20 years old and won’t turn 21 until February. I don’t think he will test very well at the combine or be a SPARQ leader, which may hurt his draft stock. That is all the better in my book. I would rather get quality production from a mid round RB and spend our premium picks on the offensive line.
I really think it is fate that this player should be a Jet.
He is a legacy pick from his great uncle (IMO the MVP of Super Bowl III) Matt Snell.
He is a third generation Benny Snell or the III as in Super Bowl III
His name is Benny, and I could write a song called Benny and the Jets
I think it would be a hit.