PRO 2023 Rookie Spotlight: Tyjae Spears, RB Tulane

Rookie Spotlight: Tyjae Spears, Tulane
Height: 5-9 1/2″
Weight: 204 lbs
Hands: 10”
Arm: 30 5/8”
40 yard dash: 4.52 sec (adjusted from 4.47 pro day)
2023 Age: 22
NFL Comparison: Michael Carter, Devonta Freeman, Travis Etienne, Kenneth Dixon

Offensive Market Share Metrics (Final Season)

Rushing Attempts: 42%
Receptions: 9%
Scrimmage Yards: 30%
Scrimmage TDs: 33%
Total Production Percentage: 28%

As a high school prospect: Class of 2019; 3-star

Elite yards per carry(6.8) at Tulane
More than adequate long speed
Runs with vigor and violence
Excellent contact balance
Shines in big games
Huge hands
Sharp cutter
RosterWatch 2023 All-Senior Bowl team

Slight build
Not much of an asset in the passing game up to this point
May be too patient
History with knee injuries

Scouting Notes:
Spears is built like a 3rd down back, and has been pigeonholed by many as one, but he plays more like a bruising, between the tackles 2-down back. He’s like the chihuahua who isn’t afraid to take on the rottweiler down the street. And let’s be honest, he isn’t tiny. He’s just slighter than your average lead back, which I don’t think is necessarily as negative an aspect as it was ten years ago in the NFL. It’s hard to deny Spears’ effectiveness as a runner. His 6.8 YPC at Tulane was elite, and of the 1,586 yards Spears accrued in 2022, 1,052 yards came after contact. Spears is a violent runner when he gets going, displaying burst and sharp cutting ability. His contact balance and strong lower leg drive render most leg tackles harmless, and he’s agile enough to shed much of the other attempts at his person. Spears is patient back when waiting for his blocks, almost too patient at times. He can come off as indecisiveness in stints. It doesn’t often hurt him, as he accelerates quickly when he does find his gaps, but he won’t have that luxury in the pros. Spears ran limited routes at Tulane and didn’t really operate as a pass-catching back, but he has enormous 10” hands for his size or any other, for that matter. His hands seem sure enough, and he had only 3 fumbles over his career, which is impressive for a smaller back. The biggest feather in Spears’ cap may be his ability to step up in high pressure situations. He almost single handedly willed Tulane to a 46-45 win against USC in the Cotton Bowl in 2022, racking 205 total yards and 4 rushing TDS in the process.

Fantasy Outlook:
Spears has history against him, as there aren’t many backs of his stature that have had major success in the NFL as feature backs. Today’s NFL is a faster game though, and an inventive offensive mind should be able to utilize him in a consistent manner. Tulane implemented both power and zone blocking schemes, and Spears has proven effective regardless of the scheme. Spears did tear his ACL in 2020, so there’s some history of injury to consider regarding his durability, but he’s also shown that he can bounce back from such setbacks. Altogether, It seems most likely that Spears will be regarded as a 3rd down back in the NFL, and though he is explosive enough to have success in that role, I hope he gets a chance to carry the load somewhere – He possesses considerable upside as a 3-down back. In either case, he’s going to need to step up his receiving game, and that shouldn’t prove difficult considering his massive hands. Should he land on a team with no clear cut lead back, Spears makes for a fine dynasty acquisition, though the odds are stacked against him.

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