- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Taking a look at selected players leading up to the NFL draft, which begins May 8. The reports are based on watching multiple games on draftbreakdown.com; I'll let you know when there's an opinion other than my own. I'm not a fan of having to only watch them off a TV feed -- you don't always get the best angle, or see all the players -- but it's the best I can do now and it helps provide a snapshot. The draft analysts -- especially those from ESPN.com, NFL.com and CBSSports.com --- help fill in the gap, especially in terms of where they're projected.
Player: Charles Sims
School: West Virginia
What he plays: Running back
College production: Graduated from Houston and played one year for West Virginia. He was ruled ineligible by the NCAA in 2010 for an undisclosed reason. Ranked second in the Big 12 last season with 1,549 all-purpose yards; among them: 1,095 rushing yards and 401 receiving. He caught 203 passes in his career.
How he’d fit: As a pass-catcher out of the backfield for quarterback Robert Griffin III. The Redskins have two players who might be able to fill that role now in Roy Helu and Chris Thompson. The latter could be an interesting player, but major durability concerns lead to him being a big question mark. At 6-foot, 215 pounds, Sims offers better size than Thompson and, perhaps, greater durability. Also, Redskins coach Jay Gruden used Giovani Bernard in a dual role last year so clearly he knows the value of such a back.
What I like: His ability to catch the ball. Very soft hands. Against TCU, saw him catch a ball that was a bit low as he turned upfield from the flat, never breaking stride. Was very smooth. Sims moves well in the open field, able to cut and still go forward with speed and accelerates well. He made a lot more defenders miss after catches than on his carries. Sims makes defenders miss in space with a quick juke or plant-and-cut. Some of his best runs from scrimmage resulted in short gains, but showed him eluding immediate pressure in the backfield (the West Virginia line was not so hot) and still gaining a few yards. So he seems to have good awareness and vision. Sims has experience running out of the pistol formation (it’s what he mostly did) and with inside zones. He was fine on draw plays. Though there were too many short runs, there was the occasional carry in which his quick feet stood out. He didn’t shy away from blocking and, when he got it right, he showed a good base and kept his head up. Sims’ one-cut ability makes him a better fit in a zone running game (which, of course, the Redskins use).
What I didn’t like: He didn’t make defenders miss at the line of scrimmage and, as a runner, typically just gained what was available and didn’t make many yards after contact in the games I watched. In fairness, his line was terrible. He would occasionally lower his shoulder, but still went down easier than you’d like. Sims was inconsistent as a blocker in pass protection. There were times he took on a defender with his head down, leading to a missed block. (Next time: head up, good block. So it’s in him and my guess is with more work he would be a lot more consistent.) As a runner from scrimmage he didn’t always set up his blocks well, though that too was inconsistent because at times I did see him press the hole, draw in a defender and cut back. There’s some of Helu in him in that Sims would lack patience and cut back too fast. Again, the line was so bad at times it might have caused impatience. He was too upright going through the hole, leaving him little power to break free and causing him to be tackled too easily.
Where he’s projected: Middle rounds. Sims visited with Washington, so there’s at least some interest in what he offers. His best role appears to be as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Sims had a strong week at the Senior Bowl; former NFL general manager Phil Savage called him the best back of the week. So he's intriguing. Sims might be able to return kickoffs, but he did it only four times for 53 yards in college (all at West Virginia).
Other players examined: