In Hicks lies a sleeper Running Back no one is talking about, but could very well find himself in a camp near you come this May and perhaps even sneaking into a running back committee type rotation. Particularly as a Nickel and Dime joker type.
He has the beef and frame to add more to be able to sustain enough contact to eventually be a feature back. However, there is some concern about his willingness to take on contact consistently inside between the tackles rather than lowering his shoulder and plow through a congested gap for a positive gain. Some of the scouting reports in the draft media community believe his vision isn’t where it needs to be. I disagree with this a little just by looking at his runs in 2016. There was plenty of willingness on Hicks’ part to run inside and he seemed to have no problem finding holes. Something I’ll show later with video. Now, I do agree that he needs to slow his tempo down a bit. He does seem to be a little impatient when it comes to waiting for holes to open up at times.
That is one of the reasons he isn’t getting much mention, but it’s also a very deep Running Back class. It may very well end up being the deepest draft for Running Backs in the history of the draft, and it’s easy for a kid like Hicks to get lost in the sea of Running Back talent. His production also fell off from his breakout junior season where it seemed like the TCU Horned Frog was on the verge of announcing himself as one of these well-regarded Running Backs and getting himself drafted by a team to be one of their future prized stars.
However, an undisclosed Injury seemed to hamper him throughout the season limiting his production and his workload. He took a precipitous drop in production going from 203 carries, 1,042 yards and 12 TD’s on the ground along with 47 catches for 417 yards and an additional 2 TDs through the air in his junior year, to just 139 carries, 637 yards and 4 TD’s rushing along with 30 receptions, 291 yards and 1 TD via the pass. Not playing at 100% for most of the beginning of the season forced TCU to use a two-back rotation where Hicks shared the load with teammate Darius Anderson and thus limiting his touches and with it the chance to tack on more numbers.
As you can see from this clip Hicks has very good hands, runs very good routes and looks like a Wide receiver doing it, and once the ball is in his hands is a threat to put six on the board at any time from anywhere on the field. He would fit in well with Matt Nagy‘s passing offense.
He’s not too shabby on the ground either. You saw a little bit of it on his long touchdown run on the In Route he ran in the first two clips on the video above, and that’s his ability to cut sharply on a dime and change direction seamlessly. The first clip on here is a perfect example of it making a Gayle Sayers like cut. This makes for a difficult task in tackling him, especially in the open field. You also see from some of these clips his willingness to run inside. On a couple of these clips, you see him lowering his shoulder and even dragging a defender in the end zone with him.
Keep in mind these feats of sheer athleticism are being made against top-level competition as you see a bunch of SEC defenses in the highlight video. Also, he’s doing it against these loaded defenses without a whole lot of 4-5 star recruits on TCU’s roster helping him out either.
There was an interesting blog written by Pro Football Focus’ Austin Gayle last year in August where PFF tracked the most elusive college backs from the 2017 season and ranked Hicks among the best as one of the most elusive. He was the most elusive Big-12 Running back in the returning class this season with 51 missed tackles forced. Besides being number 2 among all draft eligible 2017 backs with 48 receptions he also produced the fifth most forced missed tackles after a reception with 15 among all power five Backs in 2016. He ranked tops in the Big-12 among Running Backs with at least 150 snaps in yards per route run in 2017 as well. To add to that he ranked tied for 8th among all power 5 backs with less than 220 attempts of runs equaling 15 or more with 17 total showing his penchant for making explosive plays on the ground. So whether in the air or on the ground you can count on big plays from this kid. All this does make you wonder about what happened in his senior season and his slow 40 times so his medicals will have to be sifted through carefully.
He has good size at 5’10” 204 lb. and in spite of his height, he has very long arms at 32 1/2″ with 9 1/2″ hands which help him as a pass catcher. Hicks’ explosion is evident from his jump metrics as he had a 36.5″ vertical at the combine along with a 10’2″ Broad jump. His 40 was disappointing at 4.63, but he plays much faster than that on tape as anyone with a pair of eyes can see. Oddly enough he timed even worse at his Pro day running a 4.7 flat where most run better, so that gives one a bit of pause and pushes him down further in his ranking among his peers. He almost has a 100% chance of going undrafted which could make him an excellent value. He’ll have to contribute on special teams and 3rd downs at first and maybe even create a more expanded role later on in his career. If in the right system, like the one the Bears have, he could be a very productive weapon out of the backfield for this team.