Name: Ryan Nall
Position: Running Back
School: Oregon State
Nall does not have typical breakaway speed for an NFL running back, but he has enough to be dangerous. Against Pac-12 opponents, Nall regularly showed the ability to blow by defensive backs. His speed is deceptive, as his size and somewhat stiff running style give the appearance he is all power and nothing else. But his 4.58 40 time was 14th among running backs at the combine.
Nall’s change-of-direction is a point of contention among scouts. On the one hand, the tape shows that he makes defenders miss more with vision and power than with sharp cuts. But then again, he had the highest elusive rating of any FBS running back in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus. On top of that, he tested highly in all three agility drills, finishing sixth among backs in the three-cone, third in the 20-yard shuttle and second in the 60-yard shuttle. At the very least, he is clearly capable of making defenders miss in the open field.
Nall is a load to bring down, plain and simple. He is not afraid of contact, sizing up and lowering his shoulder to deliver, rather than receive the hit. His legs are constantly in motion, allowing him to power through arm tackles or fall forward when he is stopped. According to Pro Football Focus, Nall ranked first in the nation in yards after contact per attempt at 5.03. This shows that, though patient, Nall is first and foremost a downhill runner who likes to finish his carries, both between the tackles and in the open field. Given that he figures to be primarily a short-yardage back in the NFL, this is his most important trait.
For a power back, Nall is a surprisingly patient runner. He allows things to develop inside before committing to a hole and has no trouble finding the open lane. His head is always up, even when his pad level is down. Operating in a zone-heavy spread scheme, Nall excelled at picking his lanes and finding windows in the second level. He also is not afraid to bounce runs outside if the interior gets muddy.
Nall figured heavily into the Oregon State passing game, though the offense was consistently one of the worst in the nation. Generally speaking, Nall’s receptions came on plays designed to get him the ball in space: Screens, wheel routes and swing passes. He shows good hands and focus, including the ability to make catches downfield. Once he secures the ball, he becomes the same type of runner as in the run game. It is this ability that likely transcends Nall from a fullback prospect to an H-back or tailback prospect.
With the Trevor Siemian trade, the Vikings now have four selections in the last two rounds of the upcoming draft. As such, they can afford to take a few fliers on positions that are not immediate needs. Minnesota used C.J. Ham both as a blocking fullback, a runner and a receiver in 2017. Not only is Nall athletically superior to Ham, his size allows some flexibility as an H-back or perhaps even a third tight end.
Or he could end up as the Vikings’ third running back. While a relatively stiff, north-south runner, Nall was the primary cog of the Beavers’ offense the last two years. He has some upside as a receiver and his combine numbers impress, considering scouts have labeled him a power back. The Vikings were reportedly one of several teams to meet with Nall at the combine. As a late day three selection, Nall could provide versatility and variety to the running back position in John DeFilippo’s offense.
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