The Buccaneers brought in two undrafted running backs after the 2016 NFL draft. Both Peyton Barber and Russell Hansbrough are striving for their spot on the 53 man roster, but could Hansbrough’s skillset set him apart?
After the draft came to an end, the Buccaneers scrambled across their board to find the players that were not drafted who they wanted on their 90 man roster. Of the 19 undrafted free agents who signed to come to Tampa, two of them were running backs. Peyton Barber of Auburn and Russell Hansbrough of Missouri were those backs. When taking a look at these two talents, there is quite the difference between them. Barber is more of a big, powerful back, and Hansbrough is more of an agile, shifty speedster.
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Based upon the backfield situation of the Bucs, they currently have six running backs in the stable. Doug Martin and Charles Sims III are obvious locks for the 53 man roster, but after that is where it gets interesting. Presumably, the Bucs will only carry three backs, which leaves the last spot up for grabs.
Mike James really made an impression his rookie year, but since then has fallen from the grace of the Bucs’ staff and James spent most of the 2015 season on the practice squad. Storm Johnson is a former Jacksonville Jaguar who was recently signed to come in and compete for the last spot, and is the imagined favorite for it. The other two of the six backs are the undrafted rookies. The reason Hansbrough might end up with the last spot in the backfield is because of his skill set compared to his competition.
Hansbrough stands at 5’9″ and weighs in around 195 pounds. His size and stature are an obvious difference compared to James, Johnson, and Barber. All three of Hansbrough’s competitors are almost the same back with the same running styles; beefy and quick, but not backs who have the speed in space that Hansbrough has.
Hansbrough’s college coach Gary Pinkel has said that his former captain was a “difference maker” on the field, which he definitely was. He was able to rack up a junior season with ten touchdowns and 1,084 yards on the ground. His senior year numbers dipped due to both injuries and a committee in the backfield.
Now to look at some of Hansbrough’s film. As you will see in these videos, he can truly be a human highlight reel.
4.36 second 40 yard dash speed is on full display in his film. This film has you wondering why most of Missouri’s offense was not focused on getting him the ball. There are evident issues in his running abilities, but ultimately, his upside outweighs the downside by far. Many scouts worry about his size, but you don’t see that affecting guys like Darren Sproles on having a successful career in the NFL.
Hansbrough’s competition will not be easy to best. Two guys with former experience in NFL backfields will be a great challenge for him, and not to mention holding off another undrafted rookie back with a tremendous upside. Hansbrough was one of the Bucs targets after the draft, therefore there is an obvious sense in that staff that he could find his place on the team. One would have to imagine Jason Licht and Coach Koetter realize his skill set unlike those he would be competing with and this is why they brought him down to Tampa. Also, if he is able to display shiftiness and speed in space on the kick or punt return game, it could essentially get him a job.
Even though he only recorded one kickoff during his college career (which went for 56 yards), it could help set him apart from the pack. Flexibility is key on this new team, and if Hansbrough is able to be a special teams return ace and the third string running back, don’t be surprised if he makes the 53 man roster.