VDT: Tulane RB Tyjae Spears May Quickly Become a Star in the NFL
The Minnesota Vikings seem to have an uncertain future at their running back position. Alexander Mattison is back for the next two years, but we have little idea of whether or not to expect Dalvin Cook to return this season, nor do we know much about the most recent draft selections, Ty Chandler and Kene Nwangwu. Because of that, could Minnesota look to add another running back via the draft for the third consecutive year?
That brings us to Tulane RB Tyjae Spears, the focus of today’s edition of Vikings Draft Thermometer series, PurplePTSD‘s one-stop shop for all your 2023 NFL Draft needs. Throughout this series, we have examined a number of prospects ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft, analyzing their strengths, weaknesses, what exactly their role could be at the NFL level, and most importantly, whether or not they could end up playing their first NFL snaps in a Vikings uniform.
- Height: 5′ 10″
- Weight: 201 pounds
- Arm Length: 30 3/4″
- Hand Size: 10″
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.47*
- 10-Yard Split: N/A
- Vertical Jump: 39″
- Broad Jump: 10′ 5″
- Bench Press: 18 reps
- School: Tulane
- Games Watched: Houston (2022), Cincinnati (2022), UCF (2022), USC (2022)
- 2019: 32 carries, 192 yards, 1 TD; 5 receptions, 133 yards, 1 TD (4 games)
- 2020: 37 carries, 274 yards, 2 TDs; 2 receptions, 30 yards (3 games)
- 2021: 129 carries, 863 yards, 9 TDs; 19 receptions, 145 yards (12 games)
- 2022: 229 carries, 1581 yards, 19 TDs; 22 receptions, 256 yards, 2 TDs (14 games)
Tyjae Spears is an electric athlete in the backfield, as evidenced by his ridiculous 6.8 yards per carry over the course of his collegiate career at Tulane. The Green Wave gained virtually unprecedented relevance in 2022, earning a postseason AP poll ranking position of No. 9 following their Cotton Bowl victory over USC, and a large portion of this had to do with Spears’ breakout.
After spending his first three years as a rotational back, Spears became a full-grown workhorse in 2022, and he was a thorn in opposing defenses’ sides all season long. He changes direction with ease and is one of the tougher guys to tackle in this draft class. This is possible due to some creative running as well as very quick feet.
He has a knack for finding the end zone as well, scoring 30 touchdowns over the past two seasons. And finally, don’t sleep on his ability to block on passing downs.
Spears certainly took a step forward with his capabilities as a receiver this past season, but this is still an area that needs improvement for him to become a complete back at the NFL level. There were a few too many drops from his tape to consider him a consistent pass-catcher right now.
He also isn’t much of a power back which could cause some trouble in short yardage and goal-line situations. Finally, we have to keep in mind the fact that an ACL tear ended his 2020 season, though we can take comfort in the fact that it hasn’t caused many issues since then.
- Draft Round: Late Second-Mid Third
- Immediate Role: Starting RB, quality RB2
- Best-Case Scenario: Pre-injury Devonta Freeman
- Vikings Draft Temperature: 40
We may get into the second day of the draft and see the Vikings go in a different direction because, frankly, there are bigger needs on this roster than running back. However, if they opt for a ‘best player available’ approach, it’s hard to find many more talented players that offer as much promise.
Josh Frey is a Class of 2020 graduate of The College of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. When he’s not writing about the NFL, Josh enjoys running, gaming, or rooting for the Milwaukee Brewers and Bucks. Check out his Twitter account: @Freyed_Chicken.