The Buffalo Bills hosted Tulane running back Tyjae Spears as one of their pre-draft top-30 visitors at the end of March. Ryan Fowler of The Draft Network provided the news in a fairly detailed tweet, explaining through a source how the two sides had lunch and went through a private workout with running backs coach Kelly Skipper.
Busy day for the Buffalo Bills and Tulane RB Tyjae Spears.— Ryan Fowler (@_RyanFowler_) March 23, 2023
The two sides met, had lunch, and went through a private workout this afternoon with RB coach Kelly Skipper, per source.
There exists a wide variety of opinions regarding the pros and cons of Spears’ game. More than one analyst believes Spears has elite receiving traits — with some claiming ability as a slot receiver — while another is on record as saying Spears’ hands are “slippery and unsure as a pass-catcher.” It seems those analyzing Spears also can’t agree whether he possesses or lacks elite contact balance. What is true about Spears as a receiver is that he didn’t feature much in Tulane’s passing game.
Just to push home the contradictory nature of analysis on Spears, here’s a smattering of the Pros/Cons I gleaned from others’ assessments of him (I’ve included links to the draft profiles at the end of this post):
Is Tyjae Spears overconfident or lacking confidence?
Sometimes freezes early in reps when the backfield collapses and can be swallowed up.
At times can be over-confident in ability to splice through lanes, running into congestion.
Does Tyjae Spears have good balance?
Has surprising contact balance for his size and can recoil and flex out of tackles.
Lacks elite contact balance and can be halted by direct contact up the middle.
Spears has a compact build and a naturally low center of gravity, and he runs with excellent balance through traffic, allowing him to squeeze through for yardage.
Fortunately, there are enough traits that analysts do agree on, such as his field vision and explosive running ability at most levels of the field. Unfortunately, those same analysts also see little potential from Spears in pass protection, outside of cut blocks.
Where most seem to agree is when projecting Spears as a change-of-pace back in the NFL. Spears is often knocked for a perceived lack of requisite size needed of featured backs (though he played that fiddle in 2022).
There’s also concern over the torn ACL he suffered his sophomore season. Incredibly, Spears came back the next season better than ever — so I don’t understand the extra concern for a well-conditioned, 21-year-old player.
We need only look back to Adrian Peterson to see that players can and do return well from significant knee injuries. Closer to home, Thurman Thomas suffered an incredible fall in the NFL Draft due to concerns about his knees. Seven running backs went before Thomas — which clearly fueled his entire career (the knee brace he wore likely gave him added juice, too).
This is in no way to suggest Spears is the next AD or Thurmanator. However, I wouldn’t put Tyjae Spears’ ceiling much lower than someone like pre-NFL Reggie Bush. Comparisons I read attached to Spears’ name in my admittedly peripheral search were Trung Canidate and Corey Clement. Others have given him more recent comparisons of Miles Sanders and, yes, Devin Singletary.
Despite being confused a bit by the varied draft profiles, I’m not sold on the idea that the 5’10”, 201-pound Spears is nothing more than a change-of-pace back. Spears just came off a season where he ran for 1,588 yards on 231 carries (6.5 ypc) with 19 rushing touchdowns (per The 33rd Team). Incredibly, Spears’ four-season ypc average at Tulane works out to 6.8 ypc.
Does Tyjae Spears fit the Bills? There’s a lot to like if the reports are to be believed — but the trouble is which report should we believe? I believe we should rely on Spears’ tape, and it shows a talented dual-threat running back with great speed. Sounds a bit like James Cook or Nyheim Hines to me. This video breakdown on Tyjae Spears is a solid place to land, if you’re looking for more on him — it’s also where he’s compared to Singletary.
If I’m being honest, the Bills need less players like Cook and Hines. Despite the contradictory analyses of him as a receiver, I don’t believe Spears would supplant either Cook or Hines in that role no matter the ability. At least not immediately, if he’s capable. That’s par for the course with almost every rookie in head coach Sean McDermott’s house. Again, the Bills don’t necessarily need more changes of pace. They need pace setters, and for offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey to more meaningfully commit to establishing pace and rhythm. Tyjae Spears does have enough talent where — if he’s available on Day 3 — the Bills could be tempted, but their draft capital is limited.
Tyjae Spears NFL Draft Scouting Reports and Player Profiles
- VIDEO: Underdog Fantasy Football highlights, comparison, scouting report of Tyjae Spears
- NFL.com draft profile of Tyjae Spears
- The 33rd Team scouting report on Tyjae Spears
- Tyjae Spears’ player profile at NFL Draft Buzz
- The Draft Network prospect analysis of Tyjae Spears
- Tyjae Spears’ scouting report at Pro Football Network