But the term is too important to permanently hibernate, so I'm bringing it back with two applications.
Tactically ~ when I'm writing about Strategy, Tactics, and Team Building ~ it'll refer to the deployment of either PowerBacks or SpeedBacks in Formations as hybrids who could play HalfBack or flex out as a Receiver.
Positionally, I'll apply the term to refer to a sub-category ~ a former category. As you may've already guess, I'm referring to the Spry Flies ~ the Prospects too small for full time Snaps but with enough juice to be dangerous as pure Running, Receiving hybrids, deploying as what some call "gadget" players. Darren Sproles would be the prototype.
These are the guys that I previously categorized as FlexWing SlotBacks.
There aren't enough of them whose chances render them Top 5 Rounds material, my historic threshold for scouting them, but there are enough to warrant inclusion, so I'll be including them with the SpeedBacks as a sub-category.
I'd come to believe that any HalfBack that doesn't bring a Passing Game element to the BattleField is...incomplete.
Hence, the term "FlexBack" in the sense that I'd been using it ~ dividing HalfBacks into either HalfBacks or FlexBacks, the latter bringing demonstrative Receiving prowess to the table, wasn't
As to how I break them down, I expect that the terms are pretty self-explanatory:
PowerBacks ~ HalfBacks who do their best Work between the Tackles..
SpeedBacks ~ HalfBacks who do their best Work outside the Tackles.
FlexBacks ~ Spry Flies ~ Running + Receiving Hybrids
The PowerBack prototype would be about 5115/220 or so.
The SpeedBack prototype would be about 5010/200 or so.
The FlexBack prototype would be about 5075/175 or so.
Those are gross oversimplifications, of course, and many HalfBacks will manifest attributes of both styles. Indeed, Power and Speed ~ better yet: Agility ~ are crucial to the success of either kind of HalfBack. But I believe that it advances the discussion and better serves my Fellow FootBall Fanatics if I make an effort to distinguish between types.
This is how I break things down, when evaluating all HalfBacks:
Power: Above all: Core Power. Torso Power is important, but lower body Power, from the knees to the ribs, is absolutely crucial. A HalfBack's capacity to break Tackles is more about Core Power than anything else.
Agility: Launch Velocity, Fluidity, Acceleration, and Ricochet. Long Speed is all well and good, but at the end of the day, it is gravy. What wins Championships is Moving The Chains. And that is accomplished far more consistently by guys who exhibit the Twitch and the Fluidity ~ and the Processing Speed ~ to consistently pick up 5 or 10 Yards at a time.
Processing Speed: Diagnostic Acuity. Field Vision. That ethereal capacity to rapidly read and react to the rapidly roiling and boiling tactical landScape...and to foresee and envision lanes developing before they actually do.
Blocking: Having a HalfBack who doesn't block effectively is like having 10 Men on the Field of Battle. Most HalfBacks just coming out'f College are mediocre Blockers, but this is a crucial aspect of the game that they'll need to master. On the other hand, even the strongest FlexBack in the world is gonna get killed if he tries, so we'll just give'm a Pass.
Receiving: Whether he be a PowerBack or a SpeedBack, a HalfBack that can effectively present a genuine threat in the Passing Game dramatically increases his team's options on any given play. The more dynamic the threat, the more valuable to his team on the Field of Battle, whether he's just slipping out'f the backfield or splitting out wide.
Broken down into SubCategories, it'd go something like this:
* Core Power is most of it. Tyrannosaurus Rex would've made an Hell of an HalfBack.
* Torso Power doesn't hurt, though.
* Launch Velocity
* Long Speed
* That ethereal Capacity to foresee and envision Lanes developing before they actually do.
* Combat Skills
* Processing Speed
* Catch Point Capacity
* Chunk Yardage
Please note: For purposes of time and space, and to avoid boring the snot out'f y'all, I'm not going to include Prospects where my opinion was the same as The Market, whether that was determined before The Draft by my research, or afterwards, based on where the Prospect was actually drafted. There are literally hundreds of such Prospects.
My thinking is that by concentrating on the far fewer Prospects wherein I and The Market had a divergence of opinion, this will not only be far more interesting to you and me, it'll also be far more educational...mostly to me!!
Oy. Gave this guy a 1st Round Grade, I did. The Titans picked'm at #54, late 2nd Round, which I thought was pretty smart of them. But Sankey made'm look pretty foolish ~ though not as foolish as me!! ~ disappearing after 2 years.
I suppose that I could argue that Carey didn't get a fair shake, because he never got a Starter's Snaps, and you can believe that I've left plenty of Prospects off my "Fails" list based on them not getting a genuine opportunity, and that I make no apology for it!! But he got Snaps enough. He was just mediocre, is all, providing Production far more befitting the 4th Round Pick ~ #117 ~ that the Bear spent on'm than the 1st/2nd Round Grade that I imagined he warranted!!
Johnson got even less of a shot at Starter's Snaps than Carey did ~ 29 Runs in 2014, and that's it!! But that's enough to go on, especially considering that the Snaps that Players get are, after all, at least supposed to be determined by how well they show in practice. And Johnson's production on those 29 Runs flat out sucked, I'm sorry to say. The Jaguars wisely invested a 7th Rounder, #222, in'm. Me, I gave'm a 1st/2nd Round Grade, same as Carey. Whoopsy.
Grice got even less play than Johnson ~ 15 Runs in 2014, and no more!! ~ and managed to produce worse even than his abysmal production, offering strong supporting evidence that his team, as well as Johnson's, were indeed wise to minimize their Snaps. Grice, I was extremely high on, going with an unfettered 1st Round Grade on my Binky, may God have mercy on my Soul. The Lightning Bolts proved far wiser, spending only a 7th Rounder, #201.
Boy oh boy, did I miss on this one. The Fish picked Drake in the 3rd Round at #73. Me, I lambasted'm with a 7th Round Grade, and the funny part ~ if you've got a sick sense of humor ~ is that I felt very confident in doing so. Drake has been an explosive, dynamic threat in both the Run Game and the Pass Game, an ascending Star in my eyes, and in that of the world, too, if he gets more Snaps. The Fish got a tremendous bargain, and I, evidently, am a drooling idiot.
Rarely if ever have I been more confident about the prospective success that a MidRounder HalfBack was going to have at the next level than I was about DeVonta Freeman's chances. The Falcons wisely picked Freeman at #103. I naturally gave'm a 1st Round Grade, and he has earned that and then some, developing quickly into one of the very most explosively elite SpeedBacks on the planet, both in the Running Game and in the Passing Game.
At one point in 2016, this was looking like a Win of epic proportions, and might yet be. The Fish shrewdly picked Ajayi in the 5th Round, at #149. Me, I had a Top 10 Grade on'm, thank you very much, and in 2016, Ajayi had a year ~ especially a particular 3 game stretch ~ where his enormous potential became obvious to all. He was a rising Star, but then things went awry in Miami, he got traded the next Halloween, and then tore an ACL in 2018. Therefore, he shouldn't really be expected to be 100% until 2020, and he might not ever get a Starter's Snaps, again, deserve'm though he does. Nevertheless, he proved in 2016 that, if you give'm the Ball, he's worth every ounce of the Grade that I gave'm.
A whole lot of SpeedBacks that I rank sky high never get a legitimate chance to prove their value...Jones is one noteworthy exception, receiving a 3rd/4th Round Grade from me, getting drafted in the 5th Round at #182 by the Packers, and then erupting in 2018 as an outrageously explosive Runner and a highly effective Receiver. A nice little Win. I'll take it!!
One of my favorite all-time Picks. The Miners signed Breida as a UFA out'f Georgia Southern. I gave'm a 1st Round Grade. Matthew Breida is already an ascending Star, with years of greatness prospectively in front'f'm.
Let it be noted in my defense, though, if I may be so bold:
The only one of those Fails that I mocked to the Patriots in my Mock Draft that year was Marion Grice...in the 7th Round.
And I also mocked future Star DeVonta Freeman to the Patriots...in the 4th Round. Just sayin'!!
I've clearly had much to learn in evaluating SpeedBacks, often tossing around 1st Round Grades to multiple Prospects who either never got a legitimate chance to show what they could do, or ~ even more tragically ~ did. Haw.
And I've compounded this headlong enthusiasm by managing to splash my only red ink on the only Prospect in 2016, Kenyon Drake, who actually succeeded!! That's about as bad as evaluation gets, Ladies and Laddies!! Ah, well. I've survived. And perhaps I've learned a thing or two, as I don't have any decisive defeats in either of the last two years.