The path to the 2023 NFL draft has been challenging for former Tulane running back Tyjae Spears. Matt Forte left an indelible mark on the Tulane Green Wave program, and Spears looks to be the next great back in that lineage. But this wasn’t always the case for the talented prospect. With the NFL draft quickly approaching, it’s time for my first scouting report of the season — on Tyjae Spears.
Tyjae Spears Background
Spears arrived at Tulane in 2019 and was promptly behind several backs on the depth chart as a freshman. He was seldom used that first year, seeing action in only four games, with just under 200 yards rushing. His sophomore season was going to be better. Spears was named the starter and got off to a fast start rushing for 274 yards and two touchdowns in the first three games. Then disaster struck.
Spears suffered a torn ACL in the third week of the season and was forced to miss the remainder of the season, cashing in on his redshirt. An ACL injury isn’t good, no matter your position, but it can spell disaster for a running back. But, to Spears’ credit, he battled back and was the Green Wave’s starting running back again in 2021, playing in 12 games and rushing for over 800 yards and nine touchdowns.
It was Spears’ senior season when the breakout finally came. The Tulane football program experienced unprecedented success in the 2022 season, spearheaded by a great season from their skilled back. Spears burst onto the college football scene in a big way, rushing for over 1500 yards, averaging nearly 7 yards per carry, and scoring a whopping 19 touchdowns, adding 22 receptions for 250+ yards and two more touchdowns.
Stats are great, but football isn’t played on paper. Box-score scouting is how you get yourself into trouble. What traits does Spears have that allowed him to put up such gaudy stats this season? Let’s dive into the Tyjae Spears scouting report!
Tyjae Spears Scouting Report
- Extremely explosive
- Better agility than scores indicate
- Surprisingly good receiver
- Nice vision and contact balance
- Scheme versatile
- Small frame
- Less-than-ideal contribution in passing game
- Injury history
Tyjae Spears NFL Draft Outlook
In other years, we might be talking about Tyjae Spears as the top running back in the class. That’s how good his scouting report indicates he can be. Unfortunately for Spears, he’s up against one of the strongest running back classes in recent memory, with the likes of Bijan Robinson, Jahmyr Gibbs, and Zach Charbonnet.
Spears is an explosive back whose skill set indicates that he can be scheme versatile. His small stature may preclude him from being used in power schemes, but his vision, shiftiness, and explosion should lend well to either zone or gap-running schemes.
Though he didn’t see a lot of action in the passing game, he did show a surprising amount of ability in that department. Spears is sure-handed – likely due at least in part to massive 10” hands – and is a force to be reckoned with in the open field. He likely won’t contribute much to a team in blocking, but he should provide a quarterback with a nice safety valve out of the backfield and can be lined up outside, too.
The biggest knock on Spears outside of size will be his injury history. Though he’s only had one significant injury in his college career, it’s about as big a one for a running back as possible. ACL injuries tend to hamper the shelf-life of an already depressed longevity position. The medical checks will be significant for Spears. Spears was able to play and exceed expectations on that knee during the 2022 season, so I don’t expect any major surprises come med check time. However, it is something most teams will note.
Overall, Spears is a great prospect who, thanks to a tough class, will likely be pushed down the board and drafted lower than his talent may warrant. He’s still a top-100 player in the 2023 NFL draft and should hear his name called no later than the middle of the third round. However, we’d likely be talking about Spears as an early second-type player in other years. Some team will surely get an outstanding running back prospect.