Has good speed and burst for his size. Plays with quick feet and nice balance. Effective as a one-cut runner that works well on the stretches, finding creases and seams. Has the burst to hit the hole quickly and get downhill. Patient and will let blocks develop on the outside runs. Does a nice job bouncing plays outside able to make the first defender miss on the edge. Has enough burst and ability to make defender miss on the second level and bounce a play for a big gain. Will lower the helmet and finish runs inside. Keeps feet moving after contact and has the strength and power to break arm tackles and run over smaller defenders. Uses the stiff arm well on the edge.
Has a tendency to try and do too much running east and west rather than getting north and south. Not as natural running between the tackles due to his tendency to try and bounce plays outside. Not as powerful or physical a downhill runner as a player his size usually is. Not always a consistently powerful short-yardage back, getting stood up in those situations. At times can be too patient letting the blocks and plays develop and not taking what is given to him. Lacks ideal speed to be a real gamebreaker on the second level. Has limited experience in pass protection, as he's often pulled off the field in passing situations. When he does get work there, he doesn't do a great job squaring up a defender, instead looking to lower shoulder and deliver hit, leading to missed assignments.
Pierce has the tools to be a productive lead back at the next level. He had a very productive career as a workhorse type at Temple, in their spread offense. Injuries have limited his effectiveness as he was a guy that managed to play most games but was nicked up quite a bit in every season. His limited experience in the passing game will also be a hurdle he'll need to jump at the next level. But Pierce has the tools to be a lead back in the NFL and a productive one at that. The key for his NFL success will be his ability to improve in the passing game and stay healthy.
2011 GAMES WATCHED:
(11/2) at Ohio: 22 attempts, 84 yds, 3.8 avg, 14 YAC, 1 TDs; 0 tgt., 0 rec.
(12/17) vs. Wyoming: 25 att., 100 yds, 4.0 avg, 54 YAC, 2 TDs; 0 tgt., 0 rec.
2011: 12 GP/10 GS, 273 attempts, 1481 yds, 5.4 avg, 27 TDs; 3 rec., 52 yds, 17.3 avg, 0 TDs
2010: 10/5-154-728-4.7-10; 8-87-10.9-1
2009: 12/9-236-1361-5.8-16; 8-39-4.9-0
- missed 1 game in 2011 with a concussion and battled hamstring issues
- missed 1 game in 2010 with high ankle sprain; and missed most of 2 games with a pulled hamstring
- missed 1 game in 2009 with a shoulder injury
Durability is the main concern with Pierce. While he has an excellent combination of size, speed, and athleticism, he doesn't play as good as his workout numbers would readily indicate. But that sort of talent is latent, and you wonder if the injuries limited him from showcasing his full abilities. And a guy that is often nicked up in college, tends to be often nicked up in the pros. And that's why a team that brings Pierce along relatively slowly will be the best situation and environment for him to grow in. Eventually, while I think he can improve in the passing game, I don't think it's a huge obstacle. Because so many teams have specialized and situational backs, any team that pulls him off the field for a true third down back is not going to be a big deal. I think if Pierce does develop, he has the potential to be a similar player to Rashard Mendenhall as a guy that can be a No. 1 tailback. Like Mendenhall, I don't see him being an elite rusher, but an above average to good one, that if he has others that can spell him on third downs and perhaps in short-yardage situations, he can be a productive rusher. He's not a do-everything type of player, but for a team that already has a couple of solid role players like Pittsburgh has in Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman, Pierce can make it work. I don't ever see him being a workhorse back, but he's more of a guy that can provide balance on a pass-first team similar to how Mendenhall does. Another good comparison is Cedric Benson. I think it's going to take Pierce at least a year to get his feet wet before you can really count on him to take a significant role. Again, I think he has the upside to be a 18 to 20-carry lead back, I think he'll be best served if a team used him as a "No. 1-A" running back similar to how the Bucs used LeGarrette Blount when they had Cadillac Williams. There, he is better served getting maybe 12-15 carries per game, thus taking some wear and tear off his body and mixing and matching him based off the situation.
Cedric Benson, Bengals.
Pierce has the potential to take over Michael Turner as the Falcons feature back. He'd work well in Atlanta because he can be spelled on third downs by Rodgers and Snelling. Pierce, like Turner, will be limited on third downs. And while Turner is competent on third downs, he doesn't really add enough value there to make it worthwhile to play him over guys like Snelling and Rodgers. As a rookie, the Falcons probably wouldn't get a ton of production out of him, at least not much more than what Snelling provided last year as a runner. But if the team moved on from Turner after this year, he could be plugged into the lead back spot. The key will be whether or not he can stay healthy over the course of a 16-game season to be a reliable option on first and second downs and in the fourth quarter. But if the Falcons managed to retain Snelling and work him more as a combo halfback/fullback, and were more willing to increase Rodgers reps, it would be a sustainable committee system. Pierce isn't like Turner in the sense he'll be able to carry an offense for 300+ carries, but as a guy that can probably give you 200-250 carries as the lead back in a committee-system, he could be very productive.
Pierce is a solid second round talent because of his potential to be a lead back in the NFL. Because it might take him some time to adjust to the NFL game, particularly as a third down option, he's better value at the tail end of Round Two or the beginning of the third round.
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"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.