Ben Tate, RB - Auburn
Weight: 214 pounds
40 time: 4.43
A prototypical I-formation tailback who has the bulk to be a workhorse running back in the NFL, Ben Tate had the best season of his career in 2009 when he rushed for 1,326 yards and 10 touchdowns on 263 carries. He finished his career as the fifth-leading rusher in school history (3,321 yards); a school that has produced several top running backs to the NFL.
Tate is a battering ram who excels at carrying the ball between the tackles and is a bit of an old-school type of running back, in that he isn’t flashy, but he gets the job done by just pounding the ball up the middle. Tate is a north/south, downhill-type of runner who has good power and strength. He’s a tough back who was durable over the course of his career.
Tate also has experience catching the ball out of the backfield and is a reliable receiver, having caught 53 passes for 336 yards over the course of his career at Auburn.
Ben had one of the top workouts among all running backs in attendance at the Combine; his 4.43 40-yard dash was third-best among all running backs, his 26 reps on the bench was tied for first, his 40.5-inch vertical jump was second best, and his 10’4” broad jump also ranked second best.
Tate lacks an elite burst and his speed is above average at best for a running back. He lacks elusiveness and quickness and is relatively easy to bring down in the open field because he isn’t going to make many people miss. He’s not a homerun-type of running back that is a threat to take it the distance. Tate has also had problems holding onto the football in college, so this is something that he is going to want to work on in college. I project that Tate will be drafted in the mid-to-late rounds, likely between the fifth-and-seventh rounds.
Tate is the type of player who could potentially develop into a starter, however I don’t envision him being an elite running back in the NFL. With his lack of speed and agility, landing an every-down role is going to be tough. It’s not out of the question, but the odds aren’t in his favor. The most likely outcome for Tate is that he could become a short-yardage/goal-line back who can also be a change of pace back for a team. He also has the size and skills to be the type of running back that is capable of starting a game when the regular starter is injured.
Tate also has experience as a kick returner, and he could help out on special teams there. Coming from a school that has produced NFL running backs like Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams, Rudi Johnson, Stephen Davis, and Bo Jackson is something that I really like to see.
Notes: Tate was named second-team All-SEC as a senior.
Tate is exactly the kind of under-the-radar player who could make you look like a dynasty league genius. He won’t be an early pick in April, though after his strong Combine showing Shawn’s he may creep up as high as the third round in April. With so many teams employing backfield committee’s, Tate’s dual value as a between-the-tackles job sharer and a capable feature back if pressed into that role makes him a valuable roster commodity. Tate’s acumen as a receiver and experience as a kick returner don’t hurt, either.
While various outlets have likened Tate to Derrick Ward and Matt Forte, the intriguing NFL comparison for Tate might be fellow Auburn alum Rudi Johnson—another afterthought back who capitalized on his opportunity and became a productive fantasy back. There are also similarities between Tate and Tim Hightower in that Tate could move into the lineup quickly as a third-down option (though his pass protection needs to improve) as well as a short-yardage back. It doesn’t take a tremendous leap of faith to see Tate as a mid-round pick to complement Frank Gore in San Francisco, Steve Slaton in Houston, or Darren Sproles in San Diego; stretch that leap just a little further and you could find Tate stepping in for an injured Gore, Slaton, or Sproles and providing some sneaky fantasy production.