Dynasty Draft Profile: C.J. Prosise
March 25, 2016 | Rich Hribar
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C.J. Prosise had one of the more interesting collegiate careers of available players in this draft class. Prosise was recruited by Notre Dame to play wide receiver and after redshirting in 2012 and largely playing special teams in 2013, he modestly contributed in that fashion as a sophomore with just 29 receptions, but showcased his flair for creating big plays by averaging a gaudy 17.8 yards per reception on those opportunities. He was given a small opportunity to dabble at running back to close that season, garnering a rushing attempt in each of the final four games of 2014. Since the Irish already had quite the home run player at receiver and a need at running back, Prosise was moved to running back officially for the 2015 season, but the intent was for him to back up Tarean Foster who led the team in rushing during the previous season.
After just three carries into Notre Dame’s season opener, Foster was lost for the season to a torn ACL and Prosise’s positional transition was accelerated to arguably being the main cog on the offense. He rushed for 131.7 yards per game over the first seven games of the season before being stymied against Temple. He then suffered a concussion against Pitt which forced him to miss a week and then endured an ankle injury the following game which pushed him out for the team’s final two games of the season.
His immediate production was enough for him to push his chips into declaring for the NFL draft because as mentioned, while he was healthy, he was lighting it up on the ground. The majority of the yardage he created in his first full season as a runner was on splash play ability. Per Football Study Hall’s Highlight Yards metric (explosive yards attributed to the running back) in 2015, just over half of the rushing yards produced by Prosise were on explosive carries of his own merit while nearly half of his runs went for five yards or longer. Out of the 155 running backs to have 100 or more carries on the season, here’s where Prosise ranked in the nation in generating explosive yardage.
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It’s not a surprise in his early stage of development within the position that Prosise’s best moments came when his athleticism took over. As a 220-pound runner, Prosise turned in a 4.48 40-yard time at the combine, well above the 4.58 average mark for backs 220 or more pounds. His blend of size and measured straight line speed coupled with final season production draw up an interesting set of objective comparisons entering the NFL.
|C.J. Prosise||Notre Dame||2016||TBD||21.6||72||220||4.48||35.5||121||15.6||103.2||1.1||2.6|
That’s quite a fascinating set of objective players and two that were thought of as worth breaking any early round running back reservations for. It’s also a set of players that stylistically as runners are all very much different.
Subjectively, Prosise is most often compared to last year’s end of season fantasy savior, David Johnson for logical reasons. Both were recruited a wide receivers with nearly identical builds and rushing styles, but Johnson proved to be a more measured athlete with a better resume of production entering the league. The latter can be attributed to Johnson having a full four years of playing the position in college (plus a redshirt season), while Prosise is coming off of just the one year at running back, and even that one was slightly abbreviated.
That alone makes Prosise a much slower burn in providing immediate gain at the next level than Johnson did in my eyes. He’s not raw, he’s just inexperienced. It’s obvious by his production and physical profile that Prosise doesn’t struggle with talent and athleticism, but he still has a lot of nuance to add in playing the position full time. Areas such as pass protection, ball security (five fumbles in 2015) and consistently believing in his ability over the initial structure of the play all show up as immediate weaker points of his game, but he has the size and willingness to improve as a protector with better diagnosis, vision and athleticism to be more than an effective runner. Almost all of the dull marks in his current game are things that can be projectably molded with development and further acclimation to playing the position.
I’m willing to say that those things are projectable in his case based on what we already seen from the sample we were given in year one of his forced usage. While having slow feet behind the line of scrimmage and overly relying on patience can get him into trouble on occasion, it’s also a redeeming quality when you have the kind of vision and athleticism that Prosise has and he uses that often to turn defenders aggressiveness against them in setting up huge gains.
The blending of his natural frame and inherent traits don’t make him scheme dependent at the next level. He’s fully capable of creating on the merits of his own with power and agility on the interior or using his acceleration on the exterior.
We also know that his background as a receiver affords whatever team that selects him with the luxury of being able to move him around. There’s a reason why he was moved to running back in the first place, so I won’t pretend to highlight Prosise as a magical receiver, but he can be flexed out a linebacker or safety as well as come out of the backfield given his familiarity with the position, which adds to his appeal of eventually taking over a three-down player once he gains traction.
Prosise is the ideal type of player I love to use second round rookie picks on, but because of the overall limited upside of the entirety of this draft class, I’d give him a hard look if I was drafting at the end of the first round by current team performance rather than just acquiring the pick, because you likely have the roster luxury of taking him in that spot and will only have the option to pass on him once at that juncture.
He’s a pick that could help immediately if all of the dominoes fall in his direct favor with his upside, but is priced in under players who have much lower ceilings because he’s going to likely take a year or two on your roster before truly blossoming. He has the ancillary skills such as pass catching, athleticism and size to be used in a plethora of roles early on in his career while still growing as he learns the position and the upside to be a major three-down player at his position, something scarce in today’s NFL.
Per Dynasty League Football, Prosise is currently the 15th player off the board overall in early rookie drafts. That is behind guys such as Braxton Miller, Pharoh Cooper and Devontae Booker, all players that potentially could yield earlier returns, but also ones that I have below him in my own ranks (and in the case of Miller, not even remotely close).