Broncos Draft Prospects - RB Chris Polk

Chris Polk #1 of the Washington Huskies breaks a tackle to score a touchdown for a 14-7 score against the California Golden Bears during the first quarter at Husky Stadium on September 24, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Washington Huskies Running Back Chris Polk has been projected to the Denver Broncos with their 2nd-round (57th overall) pick. Polk doesn’t have a workout or a visit to Dove Valley scheduled at this time, but Mike Klis from the Denver Post has suggested that the 2011 1st-Team All-Pac-12 Running Back is on Denver’s radar. So let us see what Chris Polk has to offer.

Chris Polk, born December 16, 1989 (age 22) is a 5'11", 222 lb. 2-year letterman for the Washington Huskies, he is declaring early for the draft. Represented by Caric Sports Management, Polk is rated as the 5th best RB in the Nation and 61st overall prospect for the 2012 NFL Draft.

Polk enrolled early at the University of Washington in January 2008. He played in the first two games of the season before being injured and missing the rest of the season. Although he qualified for a medical redshirt for the 2008 season, he never applied and sat out the remainder of the season.
Chris became the starting running back in 2009 and also worked as a kick returner. He rushed for 1,113 yards on 226 attempts and 5 Touchdowns playing in all 12 games of the season. He had four consecutive 100-yard games, earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors and freshman All-Pac-10 1st-team honors.
In 2010, Chris played in all 13 games and totaled 1,415 yards and nine Touchdowns on 260 attempts. He rushed for a career-high 284 yards and two touchdowns on 29 attempts against Washington State. Chris also rushed for 177 yards and a Touchdown against 18th-ranked Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl and was named the Offensive MVP.
He suffered a knee injury during practice before the 2011 season that needed to be corrected with arthroscopic surgery. He rushed for 125 yards on 23 attempts during the season-opener against Eastern Washington. Against Arizona on October 30, he gained 244 total yards and scored five touchdowns, one shy of the single-game Pac-12 record. Polk is at or near the top of every major UW rushing record.



CBSSports.com’s Scouting Report on Chris Polk:

In a running back class where there is a big group jockeying for position behind Alabama's Trent Richardson, one player that could be intriguing is Chris Polk. At Washington, Polk had the second-most rushing yards in school history and was the seventh player in Pac 12 history to rush for over 4,000 yards. That feat is bigger considering that the Huskies haven't had an offensive lineman drafted since 2006.

Analysis

Inside: Strong interior runner. Quickly presses the line of scrimmage and has the burst to get through the line of scrimmage and into the second level quickly. A classic North/South runner who doesn't waste time moving laterally. Good vision to set up cutback lanes as he gets to the open field. Doesn't possess elite breakaway speed, but is fast enough to gain yardage in chunks when he finds a seam. Fights for extra yardage and is a reliable short-yardage runner. Good forward lean. Keeps his legs churning on contact. Protects the ball with both hands.

Outside: Not truly explosive, but possesses enough speed to beat the linebacker to the edge. Looks to get upfield. Won't rely on his speed to run around defenders. Looks for the hole and can stick his foot in the ground and cut upfield quickly. Does not possess top breakaway speed, though he's rarely caught from behind.

Breaking tackles: Unquestionably his best attribute. Very physical runner who keeps his legs churning on contact. Rarely goes down with the first hit. Lowers his shoulder into defenders and shows a variety of natural running skills to break free, including a stiff-arm, spin move and pure determination. Runs low to the ground and with good forward lean to generate the tough yards. Keeps his arms wrapped securely around the ball.

Blocking: An underrated component of his game. Cognizant pass defender who is willing to take on the hard-charging linebacker head on. Keeps his shoulders square and brings his hips to jolt the defender. Will resort to cut-blocks, on occasion, and could use some technical work, as he'll lunge low. NFL pass rushers may be able to leap over him … Willing to help teammates downfield.


Receiving: Became more of a weapon out of the backfield in 2011 for the Huskies, catching passes out of the backfield on simple swing passes, as well as more complicated wheel routes and even occasionally lining up outside. Possesses the athleticism and soft hands to contribute to an NFL passing attack. Reliable hands out of the backfield, demonstrating the ability to quickly secure the pass and turn upfield. Demonstrated the ability to track the ball over his shoulder. Good flexibility, balance to adjust to the poorly thrown pass. Good vision and patience for screens.

Intangibles: Doubled as a kick returner as a redshirt freshman, averaging 19.8 yards a return on 12 attempts … Final pro grade may not be determined until the Combine as team doctors will want to check out his medical … Has already undergone two shoulder surgeries and a knee scope, a concern considering Polk's highly physical running style … Signed with Washington largely due to the fact that it was where his mother wanted him to go … Graduated in June, 2011.


COMBINE PROFILE

Arm Length: 31.5"
Hand Span: 9 3/4"
40 Yard Time: 4.57
Vertical Jump: 31.5"
Broad Jump: 9'3"
20 Yard Shuttle: 4.21
3-Cone Drill: 7.13

OVERVIEW
Polk has been rising quickly on the boards of many NFL teams over the past year after really standing out as an impact running back and future NFL starter in his senior year. After an injury ended his freshman year two games in, Polk never sought a medical redshirt and enters this year's draft without attempting to attain a fifth year. It likely will be a logical move, considering Polk rushed for nearly 1500 yards in his last year and displayed many highly sought-after traits for a running back in the NFL.

ANALYSIS

STRENGTHS: Polk has ideal size to carry the load for an NFL team as a starter. He is well put together and looks to the naked eye to be more of a compact, agile athlete than he does a power back. Polk is an all-around player who doesn't necessarily excel in one specific aspect of his game but does many things at a high level and is capable of playing within a variety of schemes. He is quick off the ball and a natural runner between the tackles. He prefers to kick it outside and gain an edge on the defense to utilize his speed, but he can be productive inside and is a heavy runner who is tough to bring down. Polk is patient and has smooth footwork to be able to throttle down his speed and wait on blockers and plays to develop.

WEAKNESSES: Polk displayed elite ability only in his last year at Washington and was a slow developer up to that point. He is a decent blocker in pass protection but can struggle with his technique at times. He has the anchor and thigh strength to leverage under bigger rushers, but he still needs to work on squaring up defenders as a blocker instead of chipping them as they run by. Polk doesn't have elite speed in the open field to run away from defensive backs, and although he is explosive in short area movements he won't be able to accelerate past safeties who have an angle on him in pursuit downfield.


Jon Dove over at Mocking The Draft has this to say about Polk

Chris Polk will likely feel the wrath of the declining running back market. He is one of the top running backs in the country but remains a bit of an unknown. Polk has been very productive throughout his career and at times carried a struggling Washington program. He is a tough runner that does the majority of his damage between the tackles. His best attribute is his ability to identify the opening and pick his way through the defense. Polk is a reliable target out of the backfield and does a good job plucking the ball with his hands.

While Polk has been an effective college running back, he doesn't possess a lot of skills that translate well to the NFL. He has an up and down running style which exposes a lot of his frame making it easier for the defenders to make a tackle. Polk doesn't have break away speed and lacks the elusiveness to make a lot of defenders miss. He isn't going to outrun many defensive angles.

Overall, Polk doesn't have the explosiveness and upside that is coveted in the NFL. He has a shot to make an impact but likely as part of a rotation. If he adjusts his running style and keeps his pads low he could improve his stock. Polk will need to make a living as a power runner which is all about pad level.


Bold statement: Polk will be selected no earlier than the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL draft.


From
NFLMocks.com:

Pros
recruited to Washington as a wide receiver…gains a lot of yards after contact…keeps his feet moving…breaks a lot of tackles…gets north and south in a hurry…does a good job of creating something out of nothing..soft hands used in the receiving game as an outlet…good balance…tough between the tackles…excellent build…shifty in the open field…Really does a good job of planting his foot in the ground and then pushing off in the opposite direction from the defender ("cutting on a dime")…workhorse…does a good job of setting up his blocks…plus field vision.

Cons
Does not have elite straight line speed to run away from defenders at the NFL level…doesn’t run a lot of routes, more of an outlet guy and screen guy…willing blocker, but not a great blocker…Missed almost all of 2008 because of injuries, could be concerns about his shoulders
Player Comparison: Matt Forte, Chicago Bears

Thoughts

A few of us here at NFLmocks really love Polk. He has good field vision, soft reliable hands. Polk does a really good job of finding seams in the offensive line and getting north and south in a hurry, he’s impossible to take down with arm tackles. Polk is also very shifty and has powerful legs. He really drives off his plant foot to create separation from the defender which helps him get a step on defenders. He doesn’t have elite speed, but he has more than enough speed to break long runs in the N.F.L. I don’t think he’s an 80 yard threat, but he could have more than his fair share of 40 plus yard runs. Polk has no character concerns but has some shoulder concerns.

Round Projection
If Lamar Miller enters the draft he could be drafted ahead of Polk as could David Wilson because both of those players have uncommon speed. Either way, Polk will be off the board by the end of the second round.


The National Football Post’s review on Polk:

A strong, well put together back with natural girth through his lower half and a well defined upper body. Has experience running both from the gun and I-formation sets and showcases good patience when asked to decipher information. Looks natural diagnosing the action around him and never seems to be in a rush. Allows his blocks to set before accelerating through the hole. However, possesses only an average first step. Showcases more of a second gear once he gets his legs churning into the open field, but it takes him a bit of time to reach top end speed. Doesn't do a great job running behind his pads inside and despite his aggressive, hard running style can be tripped up easily at times. Isn't overly fluid when trying to change directions at top end speed. Showcases some subtle foot quickness when picking his way through the line and trying to side step a defender. But gets narrow with his lower half when trying to make a defender miss at full speed and goes to the ground too easily.

Now, he does run hard and will lower his pad level into contact, churn his legs through the play and create additional yards. However, isn't the type of physical back many make him out to be because he often exposes too much of his frame and can be wrapped up easily on the inside. Isn't real shifty at the line and despite doing a nice job reading his run keys, is more of a weaver when picking his way through traffic and not a real sharp/sudden change of direction back. Doesn't play overly fast, seems to build speed as he goes and might time better than he plays, but in tight areas looks like a 4.55 guy.

Will catch the football well out of the backfield though. Looks natural snatching throws off his frame and has experience as a wide out in high school. Is also a natural blocker in blitz pickup. Is able to quickly to recognize the blitz, slide his feet and anchor on contact. Would like to see him do a better job sticking on contact though.

Impression: Is a big kid with a good feel inside, runs hard and will break some tackles. However, pad level, initial burst and lack of great change of direction skills make me think he's potential NFL starter only.

The consensus on Polk looks to be that he needs more development to be a successful starter in the NFL. The boy can play, but is he worth a 2nd-round pick? That is the question. As a potential Denver Bronco, I think he would fit in the backfield in a rotational setting, but I don’t think he would be a featured back in their system.

Go Broncos!

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