I hope you have been following along with my #SummerScoutingSeries on each of the Jacksonville Jaguars draft selections.
Previously, I spotlighted Kentucky defensive end and linebacker Josh Allen, Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, San Jose State tight end Josh Oliver, and Murray State linebacker Quincy Williams.
In this installment, I break down rookie fifth round running back Ryquell Armstead.
Background and character
A former state champion and three-time all-conference selection in track at Millville High School in New Jersey, Ryquell Armstead was also a touchdown machine for the football program, where he lettered twice and still holds the school’s single-game rushing record (337 yards).
Armstead has self-proclaimed his running style as “angry” and subscribes to the mantra of “hit or be hit” when he carries the football, routinely running through tackles and picking up yards after contact. Armstead prides himself on his consistency as a runner and has been touted as a positive locker room influence and great teammate. Former Temple head coach Geoff Collins has described Armstead as “the one of the most competitive kids I’ve ever been around.” A former adult and organizational development major, Armstead was a good student in the classroom and has earned AAC Honor Roll and Temple Student Athlete of the Week honors.
In the video above, Armstead states that he modeled his game after former New York Giants (and Tom Coughlin) running back Brandon Jacobs.
Off the field, Armstead is the father of a three-year-old daughter and had a son on the way as well as of April 2019. Armstead and his daughter Ry’kail were featured in a draft spotlight video by NBCSports.com and Armstead has stated that the responsibility of being a father at a young age has further prepared him for the work load of the NFL.
Armstead also has a sister, Rachell, who is a hurdler on the Temple track team. Oddly enough in an interview with Jaguars.com soon after getting drafted, Armstead disclosed that his mother is actually a life-long Jaguars fan.
Armstead has been described as “quiet” by some of his teammates and with a running backs room that had some class clowns and pranksters like Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon in 2018, that might be just what the doctor ordered for the makeup of the group. Armstead was voted into wearing a single-digit for Temple Football this year, which is an enormous honor and show of respect within the program.
Overall, it seems as if the Jaguars have a no-nonsense, keep your head down and work guy in New Jersey-native Armstead. He is the type of player who will always put his team before himself and will do whatever it takes to win. In fact, Armstead became only the third player in the NCAA since 2000 to record 100 rushing yards in a game and a sack, as he was forced to play some reps at defensive end due to injury. That’s #TempleTuff.
Physical traits and production
Physically, Armstead tests in the 65th percentile in height and weight at 5’11¼” and 220 pounds, but I will tell you first hand watching him at OTAs, he doesn’t have the aesthetic of a bruising hammer back that many have categorized him as. In fact, I thought that Armstead was Thomas Rawls for a few snaps before having to double-check the jersey number (I’ll touch more on this later).
Armstead boasts a limited wingspan, smaller hands, and very limited leaping ability. While Armstead may not be particularly explosive with his lower body, he has the ability to get to top speed in a hurry, and his 4.45 second 40-yard dash (83% percentile; second-fastest among 2019 NFL Combine RBs) was not necessarily something I was anticipating in the process from the limited exposure I’ve gotten during the college football season.
The mockdraftable player comparisons are a mixed bag for Armstead. For every Derrius Guice, Michael Turner, and Lamar Miller, there is a running back who flamed out into obscurity. Hopefully Armstead could be included in the conversation among the former list of names in the future.
In terms of production, Armstead was a workhorse.
In four years at Temple, Armstead had 573 career carries for 2,812 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 34 touchdowns. When you consider that Armstead only had 51 carries as a freshman, that’s impressive production. Armstead also caught 29 passes for 175 yards and has looked especially dangerous as a receiver throughout Jaguars OTAs.
In my opinion, Armstead’s most impressive attribute (especially when it comes to this Jaguars regime) was his availability. Armstead has appeared in 48 games in four years despite often being nicked up, especially as a senior. Armstead’s 109.8 yards per game hobbling on a gimpy ankle all year was good for 16th in the year.
Temple HB, Ryquell Armstead has had to earn nearly every yard he’s gained in 2017...@PFF_College #Temple #WeTheT pic.twitter.com/zq3fxwQjmj— A ron Bloch (@PFF_Aaron) September 29, 2017
Armstead has worked his way to becoming the bell cow running back operating mostly out of shotgun (hint, hint; wink, wink) formations while at Temple.
One of Armstead’s best attributes is his vision and deliberation as a runner. Armstead wastes absolutely no time in anticipating his holes and goes from zero to sixty in a heartbeat once he diagnoses his crease.
Not only does Armstead go the distance as a home run threat here, but he breaks through contact in the open field to do so.
Armstead also does a good job of constantly keeping his feet moving through clutter, allowing him to use his inertia to break tackles and continue to keep gaining yards through contact.
With this being said, Armstead isn’t purely a north-south accelerator and does possess the ability to make subtle cuts to reset his gap analysis and make players miss in small spaces.
Armstead also flashes imagination and isn’t afraid to bounce the run outside if his running lanes get clogged up early.
In the play below, Armstead shows good vision to bounce it outside, but just doesn’t have the foot speed to outrun the defender to the edge and take it the distance.
While he has a reputation to be a power back, Armstead does a great job of getting skinny through the hole to minimize his strike zone and doesn’t seek violence for violence’s sake.
Armstead is very effective in goal line and short yardage situations and not only does he do a great job of generating momentum quickly in short spurts to move piles, he also shows tremendous understanding and awareness as to where the target line to gain is and making sure he gets to it.
On this third and inches play in a tight game against UCF, Armstead keeps his legs churning through first contact and gets to the yard to gain any way possible. Mind you, this is after re-aggravating his ankle injury but still fighting though to be there for his team in a big game.
Armstead would also get split out wide into the slot in four receiver sets for the Owls. Through the handful of OTA practices I’ve observed, Armstead has been stellar catching the ball out of the backfield (hence why I confused him with Rawls, a back with some receiving creds by reputation).
While he does not have much production as a receiver through four seasons, Armstead may have suffered from simply not getting the exposure and reps as a receiving back at Temple, similar to Leonard Fournette at LSU. Fournette’s receiving ability was highly criticized through the draft process due to lack of opportunity, but Fournette has shown he is more than capable of competently catching balls out of the backfield.
Time will tell if these performances will continue once the pads come on, or if he will revert to taking his eye off the ball in the flats when he feels like contact is coming.
Many Jaguars fans are concerned about finding a third down back to replace T.J. Yeldon. While there is little doubt the team would like Leonard Fournette to “be the puzzle,” as he’s stated, Armstead is more than capable of filling that role as one of the more refined all around backs in this draft class.
Not only has he shown me that he has soft hands as a receiver, but he also showed great enthusiasm in blitz pick up and more than held his own as a pass protector when called upon.
While Alfred Blue may be the steady “ole reliable” runner in the Jaguars stable, it wouldn’t be surprising if Armstead usurps him as the change of pace back to Leonard Fournette early in the 2019 season (assuming his hamstring injury is indeed “slight” as the team has announced, and doesn’t linger into the season).
Armstead is the superior athlete to Blue and has exhibited much more receiving prowess than Blue has in his NFL career (the gap between the two players in just simple receiving drills in “pajamas” is noticeable).
In fact, it would not shock me in the slightest bit if Armstead (again, assuming he’s healthy from his hamstring) “Wally Pipps” Fournette as the lead back in this John DeFilippo offense if Fournette gets nicked up again this season and has to miss some time for any reason. It’s not unreasonable to think Armstead doesn’t at least match the production of Fournette in his absence considering his running style, anticipation, and experience running predominantly out of shotgun formations (something Fournette has struggled with).
Needless to say, count me in as a huge fan of Armstead. He may not be the most incendiary athlete, but he has enough long speed to hit the home run and his ability to contribute in the passing game as both a receiver and pass protector has me intrigued.
There is word that the Jaguars were considering taking Armstead with the third round pick they used to select Quincy Williams before changing in the final moments, which illustrates not only how highly this scouting brass thought of Armstead, but also how the team felt about its situation at running back.
Now Armstead just needs to get healthy and fix his hamstring, which is something that plagued his now-teammate Leonard Fournette in 2018.