Numbers never lie, but they seldom tell the whole story.
Some would lead you to believe former North Carolina A&T running back Tarik Cohen has no chance in the NFL.
At 5-foot-6, and weighing in at just 179 pounds, he was the smallest player invited to the annual NFL Scouting Combine, which concluded Monday in Indianapolis.
Of the 165 running backs across the league’s 32 teams at the end of the 2016 season, a mere 16 stood 5-8 or shorter. Just two, the Eagles’ Darren Sproles and the Buccaneers’ Jacquizz Rodgers were 5-6. Only one, the Chargers’ Dexter McCluster, weighed less than Cohen.
Both Sproles, a 12-year veteran and one of the most unique offensive weapons in the history of the league, and Rodgers are thick, at 190 and 205 pounds, respectively. McCluster, despite his diminutive build, did 20 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press at the Combine. Cohen mustered just 11 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
But there are other figures that strongly Cohen could beat the odds.
Start with the stats.
In 2016, Cohen rushed for a career-high 1,588 yards on 212 carries, good enough fourth in FCS, and 18 touchdowns. He also added 37 catches and 339 yards another score. He became the first three-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year. He was one of only three players, along with South Carolina State offensive lineman Javarius Leamon and Tennessee State defensive back Ezra Robinson, from historically black colleges or universities to receive a Combine invite. Cohen was the inaugural recipient of the Black College Football Player of the Year award.
Cohen turned heads Saturday with a 4.42 40-yard dash, the third-fastest time among running backs behind North Carolina’s T.J Logan (4.37) and Utah’s Joe Williams (4.41). For comparison’s sake, Sproles ran a 4.47. McCluster ran a 4.58 and Rodgers ran a 4.64.
Tarik Cohen gets raves reviews from NFL observers pic.twitter.com/QefQjChHVe
— HBCU Sports (@RealHBCUSports) March 3, 2017
Cohen’s exhibited his explosiveness with a more than respectable 31.5-inch vertical leap, besting probably first-round picks such as LSU’s Leonard Fournette (28.5) and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook (30.5). He looked fluid in pass-catching drills, showing he’s capable of being a reliable third-down back, likely his roll at the next level.
#NCA&T RB Tarik Cohen displays GD Hands, extending away from his body while maintaining speed. #NFLCombine pic.twitter.com/fY1utJiVCf
— Matt Caraccio (@Matty_OS) March 4, 2017
At best, Cohen will wind up being a third-day selection. If he’s not chosen, after a standout career in blue and gold and an even more impressive Combine, he’ll have his pick of rookie free-agent opportunities to mull.
Either way, he’s got to like his chances.
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