How did Washington Redskins rookie Alfred Morris go from being the 13th running back selected in April's NFL draft to the league's second-leading rusher?
Clearly, this is a player who was misevaluated by the majority of NFL teams.
According to front office men, this is how Morris slipped to the sixth round, where the Redskins selected him with the 173rd overall pick.
• His initial grades didn't excite anyone. He came to Florida Atlantic as a fullback, and he had the stigma of having the athleticism of a fullback. One of the scouting services had him weighing 203 pounds with 4.80 speed prior to his senior season. So scouts weren't exactly beating down the doors at Florida Atlantic to get a good look at him, despite the fact that he was the team's best player for three years and the coaches there loved him. And Florida Atlantic is not a stop on many top scouts' itineraries.
It should be noted that Morris has put on weight. He's listed at 218, and one front office man said he looks like he's 225.
• Morris did not work out well. He ran a 4.67 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. He was a little better at his pro day with a 4.61.
"Our biggest problem with Alfred Morris is he couldn't run," one executive said. "It shows you how unimportant the 40 yard dash is. Even though his 40 was not very good, he had a 10-yard burst. He had a 1.56 10 — which is pretty good, not great. Maybe he can't sustain it over 40 yards, but he knows how to run with pads on."
• Morris was a reputed fumbler. At Florida Atlantic, he fumbled 16 times. That's enough to make a lot of coaches completely disinterested. He also fumbled in Sunday's loss against the Giants.
So if teams were looking for reasons not to take Morris seriously, they found them.
"We were all over the board on him," a second front office man said. "Some of our scouts thought he was a fourth-round pick. Some thought he was undraftable. We ended up putting a fifth-round grade on him, but he wasn't as athletic as we like. He's a one cut guy — so he fits the Redskins. It also helps that he has top intangibles. He is a hard worker, smart and humble."
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A third front office man said Morris is Exhibit A when it comes to running backs you should take a chance on in the late rounds because he has quick feet and vision. A running back doesn't need 4.4 speed to get 100 yards. But he does need feet and vision.
Morris clearly has both.
Dan Pompei covers pro football for the Chicago Tribune at chicagotribune.com
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