LJ Scott Is Flying Under The Radar In A Very Talented 2018 Running Back Class.
LJ Scott, Michigan State, Running Back, 6’1″, 231 lbs
There are a lot of really good running backs in this upcoming draft class. LJ Scott has been a very overlooked but talented part of this class. LJ Scott had a successful season last year. He almost eclipsed the 1000 yard mark, compiling 994 yards on 184 carries while notching six TDs on the ground. He also added 147 yards and a touchdown through the air on ten receptions. His previous year was also productive with 699 yards and 11 touchdowns on 146 carries. He did all of this without having a complete year of a full work load.
This upcoming season should give LJ Scott the opportunity to finally see that full workload. Michigan State is lacking in a lot of different areas on offense, and LJ Scott should be the focal point of the offense next season. He has an interesting skill set, and that is combined with a productive running style. I’m excited to see what this upcoming season holds for Scott. Despite flying a little under the radar, and going largely underappreciated, LJ Scott is expected to enter the NFL Draft after this season at this point in the process.
If Michigan State can improve from their disappointing season last year, Scott should see a significant work load that will be a much larger sample size for evaluation. As it stands, LJ Scott has a lot of talent and just needs a better opportunity to showcase it.
LJ Scott displays very good, if inconsistent, vision. He does a really good job picking his way through traffic at the line of scrimmage and finding tight holes to squeeze through and get up field. This is something that he shows on the majority of his runs. There are times where, when watching the film, you wish he had hit a different hole or gotten up field instead of bouncing the run outside. Overall this is a strong aspect to his game. I’d like to see him develop this going forward and, not just see the hole, but process things better and make the right decision more consistently.
At the second level, LJ Scott does a really nice job of using his blockers. He understands the angles of defenders and how to use blockers against them. This is one of the most effective traits of LJ Scott once he gets past the initial defenders.
Patience/Aggressiveness Behind The Line Of Scrimmage
LJ Scott has an effective running style. He does a good job of knowing when to hit the hole, and when to be patient. He has a habit of bouncing runs outside, and doesn’t necessarily have the speed to get there. I’d like to see him be more aggressive getting up field in those scenarios. He does his best work between the tackles. Whether it is shifting through traffic, using his blocks and getting up field or lowering his shoulders and running through defenders, he is a strong runner between the tackles.
His patience works well for him when he is making his way up the field. It is his patience, or in many cases indecisiveness, that results in sideline to sideline movement that becomes a problem.
Once LJ Scott gets past the line of scrimmage, his patience helps accent his vision. He understands how to change speeds. Sometimes he will change down a gear to gain a positional advantage on a defender. Sometimes he will take it up a gear and run a defender over. He utilizes changes of speed in open field to his advantage, and it works for him.
This is an area that LJ Scott excels. He can create his own space in multiple ways in the backfield. Scott is a powerful runner, and he doesn’t need a lot of momentum to win with power. He drives through players and keeps fighting, maintaining his balance, even at minimal speed. He is a surprisingly “slippery” runner that can spin out of tackles and get moving forward in a hurry.
LJ Scott also processes incoming defenders in a hurry. When defenders break through the line of scrimmage, Scott is preparing to make a move on them before he even takes the hand off. Michigan State did not have the most talented offensive line last year. There were plenty of plays where he was seeing defenders in the backfield before he even had the ball in his hands. He reacts quickly and has really quick feet right out of the gate. He uses immediate cuts to either avoid defenders or at least avoid head on contact.
LJ Scott has really good initial burst. He is much more explosive up field than he is vertically. He has complete control of his burst through the hole. Scott has the ability to take a strong, quick, explosive step through the hole and then change gears, slow down and adjust to the second level of defenders.
He is at his best laterally behind the line of scrimmage or when he is moving in traffic. LJ Scott is not an exceptional player in space, but he displays that explosive side to side quality when he isn’t moving at full speed, particularly when he is working around blockers.
Scott’s pad level is inconsistent. He has good natural football instincts, so it doesn’t affect his game much at the college level. With the ball in his hands, LJ Scott often runs a little high. When a defender is incoming, and he plans on lowering his shoulder into a hit or making a move on him, his pad level lowers significantly. He has a good idea of when this is necessary, and he doesn’t take many hits that make his pad level an issue. That said, I’d like to see LJ Scott work with a more consistently low pad level. This is more of a luxury than a necessity at this level, but it is something that I’d like to see him improve before reaching the next level of his career.
This is a little bit of a concern for LJ Scott. He isn’t slow by any means, but his speed isn’t going to run away from defenders. He struggles, at times, to beat defenders to the corner, and his speed is not something that is a weapon in the open-field. This is something that isn’t likely to see significant improvement before he enters the NFL, and will likely be something that hampers him in the NFL.
Top-speed just isn’t a tool in his tool belt. That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t win in other ways. He just doesn’t win in this way. He has adequate speed to get up field, and his burst allows him to reach that speed in short time, but he isn’t going to beat defenders in a 60 yard foot race.
Something worth mentioning is that his speed looks like much less of a liability early in games. He seems to lose it a little more than other running backs as he gets more carries, or more specifically, more consecutive carries. It will be interesting to track how he does with a larger workload this year. It may be a conditioning issue, or it may just be the fact that he is not used to seeing a ton of carries in a game. Hopefully he improves his play-to-play athletic consistency going into next year.
LJ Scott maintains consistent effort when wrapped up. He drives forward and doesn’t just fight for yards, but fights to break tackles, long after he is engaged. There is something to be said for a back that will not just fight for every yard afforded to him, but also fight to break tackles when wrapped up. He isn’t a huge power-back that you expect to move the pile every time he touches the ball, but he does so on a pretty regular basis.
More importantly, he keeps his legs moving through hits that aren’t wrapped up. He is good at maintaining forward momentum, and Scott does a good job of recovering from hits and readjusting in order to regain that momentum.
Power And Balance Through Contact
LJ Scott is exceptional in contact situations. He does a good job of running through arm tackles and bouncing off player that don’t wrap up. Beyond that, Scott is violent at the point of contact. He shows good awareness and knows when to lower his shoulder and take on a defender. He does a good job in those scenarios. This isn’t even the strongest part of his power game.
LJ Scott is violent when taking contact from defenders at non-ideal angles. He doesn’t just take hits. If a guy gets his shoulder, he doesn’t just give the shoulder and try to keep running. Scott actively will throw players off of him and play physically in contact situations. This is an excellent trait for a running back. It is just another way that he can win against defenders
He has a vicious stiff-arm that helps him when making his way to the sideline or anywhere outside the tackles. He doesn’t just use it to gain a few yards as the defender drives him to the boundary, he throws a punch to throw off defenders. This is a move that is nice to have in the arsenal, and while it may not be a big determining factor of his value at the next level, it is something that helps his power ability in open-field.
All of these things are tools that LJ Scott utilizes to his advantage in the power game. Not only does he have these tools, but he has a good understanding of when to use each of them.
Elusiveness is not a huge part of LJ Scott’s game in open-field. It is a large part of his game at the line-of-scrimmage and working through traffic.
Scott does an excellent job of making cuts off blocks and finding creases to squeeze through. He looks explosive in the first five yards. He makes cuts to avoid defenders and leave them grasping for air. This doesn’t happen down the field.
LJ Scott appears to be explosive in short areas but lose that ability once he gets up to speed in a straight line. Once LJ Scott gets moving down the field, he isn’t going to juke defenders. He isn’t going to leave them in the dust the way that he does within the first five yards.
This is a skill that I’m not sure whether he can improve or not. It is something that would be really nice to add to his primarily-power skill set. When he gets in the open field, LJ Scott is primarily trying to outrun defenders or run them over. He hasn’t shown elite speed, and power tends to be a better tool for adding a few yards rather than “breaking the big one”. I’d like to see Scott improve his elusiveness in the open field, but I’m not sure that his skill set allows it.
It is not just power that helps LJ Scott win at the point of contact. He is “slippery”. There isn’t really a better word for it. Scott has shown the ability to slip out of tackles once wrapped up, not necessarily with the power to run the defender over, but to break free anyway. He routinely fights off fully wrapped up tackles and spins out of contact. This is something that he utilizes primarily withing the first five yards, stopping and spinning away, while he is still working through a congested area, or while he is getting attacked in the backfield.
He needs work. LJ Scott has the frame to be at least an adequate pass blocker, but he doesn’t utilize his frame well. Too often you see him diving at legs or just having no idea where he needs to be. Even once he is engaged with a defender, he doesn’t show skill in this area.
The good news is that he seems willing to block. He may not be effective, but his frame offers potential. His effort offers potential. He has the tools. Someone just has to teach him the technique.
LJ Scott has very little experience in this area. However, he has flashed ability in this area. Despite his low usage in the passing game, LJ Scott has split out as a receiver, displayed average hands, and flashed good route running ability.
This is an area that I hope to see more of LJ Scott in this upcoming year. The sample size is so small that it is very unclear what LJ Scott is capable of as a receiver. While he has shown ability in this area, more reps in the passing game would go a long way toward increasing his value as a three-down-back.
LJ Scott has a lot of things going for him. He is a power back that knows how to use his power to his advantage. He has a lot of different ways that he wins with power and uses his above-average instincts to know when to best deploy these tools. Scott isn’t exceptionally athletic, but displays above-average athleticism and good short area burst. His short area burst is accented by his vision and ability to pick through traffic. LJ Scott needs to show, and will have the opportunity to show, that he can handle a full workload and still maintain his productive tendencies.
He has a lot in the way of instincts and talent but needs to put it together on a consistent basis. He also needs to show better ability as a blocker and have a larger sample as a receiver. These are areas that he doesn’t have a lot of experience in, but they are areas that are important to NFL teams. His progression in these areas will dictate whether or not NFL teams see him as a three-down-back at the next level.