Before the 2012 season, Mike Gillislee wasn’t even being considered as a 7th Round talent. Now just a year later and the Florida Gators running back is quickly climbing up draft boards. Gillislee finished 4th in the SEC in rushing yards (1,152) and had 10 touchdowns. When his team needed him most in a big game against LSU he carried them to a victory, carrying the ball 34 times for 146 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. He finished the season with five 100+ yard games and four 2 touchdown games. Mike Gillislee has gone from unknown name to one of the biggest sleepers in the 2013 NFL Draft.
5′ 11″ 209 lbs.
When you watch Mike Gillislee it is hard to not fall in love with some of the things he does. The first thing you notice about him is his vision and awareness of everything that is going on. As soon as the ball is snapped he is already looking for a hole to burst through, so he is ready to burst through it once he gets the ball. He is also aware of everything that is going on, keeping an eye on a blitzing linebacker or a safety that might be coming up to try to stop him. As soon as a hole sets up, Gillislee bursts through it and make big plays. When facing a defender in open space, Gillislee can make quick cuts to cut past him and break into the secondary. Even when someone does get a hold of Gillislee, he refuses to go down. He will keep his feet moving and will pick up more yards, especially in key situations.
Gillislee is not just a threat as a runner, he also can be an excellent receiver out of the backfield. While he finished the season with only 16 receptions, when the ball came away he caught it. Gillislee has soft hands that help him on screen plays. Once he gets the ball on a screen, his vision and quick cuts do the rest. Gillislee also has enough speed to outrun the secondary and turn a short screen into a 45-yard-touchdown just like he did against Missouri. The final aspect I love from watching Mike Gillislee is his willingness to block. Not only is he willing to lay out a pass rusher, he excels at it. Gillislee can chop oncoming defenders but he also can bump them to give his quarterback enough time to throw. It is hard to find a running back that can block like Gillislee, and is rare for somebody of his size. Gillislee is a jack of all trades, and whatever team drafts him will be getting a steal on draft day.
While there may not be much to complain about skill-wise with Gillislee, I have serious questions about his durability and frame. He missed time in his senior season with groin injuries and before that was plagued with numerous other ailments. For somebody with a smaller frame, I wonder how well his body will hold up against bigger, faster players in the NFL. His durability is also a reason I don’t think he can be a workhorse back, and would have to stick with a committee role. Gillislee also breaks most of his big runs to the outside, and struggles to get through pressure in the backfield. While Gillislee has speed, he isn’t the traditional burner you would expect from somebody for his size. I don’t expect him to run anything faster than a 4.5 at the NFL Combine. Gillislee had success last season at FLorida because he was faster than the competition he faced, that won’t be the case when he walks on to an NFL field. Gillislee could be a very good complimentary back at the next level, but any team hoping to use him as a featured back will be disappointed.
Gillislee continues to rise up draft boards and could find his way into the 2nd Round if he can blow away scouts at the combine and his Pro Day. Right now he looks like a 3rd Round pick and will be one of the first seven running backs selected. It is hard to find a running back like Gillislee who can do everything, a player who can make an offense better right away. Gillislee can come in and serve in a similar role to what Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles did. Whatever teams gets Gillislee will be getting one of the best kept secrets in the draft.