Weight: 214 pounds
Vertical jump: 36.0”
Broad jump: 10’0”
40 yard dash: 4.53 seconds
Bench press: 15 reps
*All numbers are from the NFL Combine
Elijah McGuire played a central role for the Ragin’ Cajun offense between the 2013 and 2016 seasons as their starting running back. He finished his career with the team as the all-time leader in all-purpose yards and total touchdowns. McGuire officially recorded 840 rushing attempts and receptions combined, netting 5,695 yards of offense.
Replacing McGuire will be a difficult task for the team during the 2017 season, but he is hoping to translate his success and heavy workload from the last four years into a role on an NFL team. According to his official draft profile from the 2017 combine, he received an overall grade of 5.12. This places him in the range of “better-than-average chance to make NFL roster.” Since McGuire’s future career is in the hands of what NFL scouts think of his performance and capabilities leading into the draft, we will examine his perceived strengths and weaknesses using their own words.
Opportunities in the Passing Game
Many things can be said about McGuire’s game throughout his tenure as a Ragin’ Cajun, but what remains true is that he relies on his athleticism to make things happen. This athleticism derives from his strong, compact frame and running style described as “plant-and-go.” Essentially, McGuire has the burst to make space when he needs it, but it is not the mainstay of his running game. He finds the hole or running lane that he likes and he hits it hard.
McGuire surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground every season between 2014 and 2016, but he his biggest asset was his ability to also be a factor in the passing game. He has great hands and is able to run many different routes, out of the backfield or in the slot. That same athleticism from the running game translates well in the passing game, boasting a level of speed and acceleration that often deceived opposing defenders. The ability to catch the ball may be his greatest chance to separate himself from the field for the draft. At ULL he averaged 32 receptions with 345.75 receiving yards and 2.5 touchdowns per year.
Vision, Spacing, Execution
The very style of running that McGuire used to his benefit (more often than not) was also his downfall on certain plays when there were more yards to be had. It is true that finding the right hole and hitting it hard is a major quality that an NFL running back needs to maintain for success, but, if the runner is not correct in their choice then it can quickly become a wasted play.
The main critique found in McGuire’s game is that he sometimes chooses the wrong hole or simply misjudged the space he had. Wherever there was a potential running lane forming he would hit it quickly and commit, but occasionally would end up running into the back of blockers or getting unnecessarily close to a defensive lineman. These instances effectively ended his runs short when there was more yardage to take. His vision and spacing issues will be of concern to NFL scouts, but they are not insurmountable problems.
A New Path to Success
Elijah McGuire is an interesting prospect for the 2017 draft. With the recent success running backs like David Johnson and Jay Ajayi, teams may begin to take more serious looks at successful backs that have a proven track record of consistency and production despite being from programs that aren’t part of Power Five conferences. McGuire falls into that category in a major way, as he has proven throughout his time as a Ragin’ Cajun to be a portrait of consistency.
This consistency has remained despite a lingering foot injury during the 2016 season. This injury has been a major concern for NFL scouts looking at McGuire and it is believed to be the reason that he has lost some of his running ability. If he can prove that he has overcome the problems of this injury and will continue to produce, he can easily be candidate to be on an NFL roster and could even find a way to get touches in the NFL during the 2017 season. McGuire slipped through the cracks in the recruiting process as a late-qualifier and despite the lack of scholarship offers he went on to have a great college career. If the foot injury causes him to slip in the NFL Draft, we could see a similar story play out with McGuire celebrating touchdowns on Sundays.