2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - Ka'Deem Carey, RB Arizona

When Rich Rodriguez brought his spread system to Arizona in November of 2011, he had no idea how perfect of a match his offense was going to be with the promising running back Ka’Deem Carey who had gained over 400 yards and 6 TD’s in limited duty as a freshman. After exploding on the scene with 1,929 rushing yards to lead the Nation as a sophomore for the Wildcats, Carey enters the 2013 season as a Heisman front runner and appearing on the “watch list” for every major offensive award. Much of the offensive pressure in 2013 will be atop Carey’s shoulders while the Wildcats break in a new starting quarterbacker, but Arizona and their highlight reel running back look to build upon the momentum gained in the first year under Rich Rod. With another strong year, Ka’Deem Carey could look to cash in on his rising draft stock and look towards a future in the NFL.

Vitals & Build

At 5’10 and 196 lbs. Ka’Deem Carey will be expected to add strength and bulk in order to be an every down runningback in the NFL. He has a good frame to work with and after an off-season or two of hard work in an NFL strength and conditioning program you will see the player he is capable of becoming. Carey is built similarly to former Pitt Panther LeSean McCoy and could be asked to be a change of pace back in year one while he develops physically.

Running Style

Ka’Deem Carey has a unique running style that is somewhat of a contradiction. He runs very upright, which is not always ideal because the runner makes himself a bigger target for defenders to hit. This style is especially concerning for a back with his size. However, Carey has a knack for sliding off of hits. He is almost “slippery” when running the football and you rarely see him take a straight shot. This “knack” is what allows him to be so successful and durable with 2,232 all-purpose yards and 24 touchdowns on 339 touches.

Balance is a key aspect of Carey’s skillset. His ability to slide off of tackles is maximized by the fact that he can maintain his balance and keep moving forward. It’s not enough for a defender to lay a nice hit on Carey, if they do not finish the play and take him to the ground then his ability to keep his feet will become a nightmare for opposing defenses. So much of Carey’s production came after defenders failed to wrap up and finish plays.

While Carey is not a power back, he can certainly run with power. He is capable of lowering his shoulders and delivering a blow to a defender. Carey never stops moving his feet and in turn he is always pushing the pile or falling forward. He gets as many “second effort” yards as any back in the country.  He is also very natural and instinctive around the goal-line. He has the timing and explosiveness to leap over the pile and into the endzone when the offensive line fails to get the necessary push and he has the burst and quickness to beat defenders to the edges.

One area in which Carey needs to improve upon is breaking tackles. He has tremendous wiggle and can make defenders miss with regularity, but is often brought down on first contact and is easily tripped up. Carey is also a very explosive player with unique quickness and foot speed, but is often caught from behind due to a lack of pure homerun speed.


Ka’Deem Carey is one of the more exciting open field runners in the country. He does a terrific job of reading defenders and knowing when to cut back against the pursuit. He is also very patient when in the open field and does a good job of setting up his blocks in order to break long runs. His lane recognition is ideal for a player of his quickness. Carey can use the flow of the defensive pursuit to his advantage with the use of cutback lanes which only he can see.

While Carey is remarkable in the open field, he needs some refinement at the line of scrimmage. He’s easily bottled up inside and doesn’t always display the proper patience required to allow plays to develop and lanes to open. Instead he’ll opt to lower his head and barrel into the line with the hopes of gaining something rather than wait for the line to create room. Carey does a better job of showing patience on outside runs and has good instincts as to when he should plant and shoot up field.

Hands & Route Running

Versatility in the passing game is what can elevate good running back prospects into great running back prospects. Carey possesses the type of versatility that NFL teams have begun to covet with spread offenses making such an impact on the league. He is a threat out of the backfield on swing passes to the flats. He is an accomplished perimeter player and getting him the ball in his comfort zone is always in the gameplan. His previously highlighted quickness and open field vision make him especially dangerous on screen passes. Carey is extremely hard to track down in the open field and next to impossible to stop when he has a convoy of blockers.

What truly adds value to Carey is his ability to split out wide, either on the edge or in the slot and run routes. His technique needs quite a bit of work, but that is to be expected from a RB. What is important is the fact that Carey has the speed, quickness, and agility to create separation naturally in the passing game. Once he becomes a more accomplished route runner, the sky is the limit.

System Fit

Carey does not have to worry about schematic fits when he enters the NFL. He has the speed, burst, agility, and size potential to play in any scheme under any conditions. His best fit should come in a spread attack like the one he has been running under Rich Rodriguez in Arizona or West Coast offense similar to how Andy Reid used Shady McCoy. He also has some serious potential as a one cut back in a zone blocking scheme. While he’s not ideally suited for a power scheme, the league has been moving away from that era in recent years and versatile players who thrive in space like Carey have steadily risen in value.


Fri, Aug. 30 vs. Northern Arizona
Sat, Sept. 7 at UNLV
Sat, Sept. 14 vs. Texas San Antonio
Sat, Sept. 28 at Washington
Thu, Oct. 10 at USC
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. Utah
Sat, Oct. 26 at Colorado
Sat, Nov. 2 at Cal
Sat, Nov. 9 vs. UCLA
Sat, Nov. 16 vs. Washington State
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Oregon
Sat, Nov. 30 at Arizona State

Notable Games

With QB Matt Scott graduating to the NFL, even more of Arizona’s offensive focus will fall on Ka’Deem Carey’s shoulders. Arizona and Carey should coast through the first 4 games of the season with only Washington posing a challenge, but October kicks off with a match-up against USC who should have another explosive offense for Arizona to go “toe to toe” with. The October 26th match-up with Colorado is a re-match that Carey will surely be looking forward to after he torched the Buffaloes for 366 yards rushing a 5 TD’s a year ago. One of the tougher tests for Carey could come on November 9th when UCLA and Jim Mora’s aggressive defense come to town. Carey will surely have to deal with potential top pick Anthony Barr’s speed on the edges. Closing out the season against arch rival Arizona State is always a game circled on the calendar and the Sun Devils struggled mightily against the run a year ago.

NFL Comparison

The first name that comes to mind when watching Ka’Deem Carey is former Pitt Panther LeSean “Shady” McCoy. From a near identical build to their slashing style of running highlighted by an ability to change direction in an instant, these two backs are mirror images of one another as prospects. Like McCoy did in Philadelphia, Carey will most likely need some time to develop physically in order to handle the full load as an every down running back. Carey has the potential to be a true gamebreaking player early in his career, it merely depends on the team that drafts him and whether or not they have a coach and system in place to take advantage of the strengths of his game.

Draft Projection

Ka’Deem Carey is as exciting a runner as there is in college football today, and he is going to be sought after by NFL brass in next Aprils draft. As it stands right now, Carey is likely to hear his name called sometime on day 2. While he will certainly have the resume and statistics to argue for elite status, he is lacking in two key areas: size and speed. Carey is plenty fast and is a very explosive runner, but he gets caught from behind more than often than he should and may only time somewhere in the 4.5-4.6 range. That is simply not good enough for a back of his size to command first round value. If Carey is able to maintain his momentum and have another monster year and again lead the nation in rushing yards while putting up better than expected workout numbers, he could certainly climb up draft boards and into first round consideration. But as we saw this year without a single back going in the first round, the NFL has higher priorities than the RB position which is more and more becoming a committee approach. Looking back, LeSean McCoy should have gone far earlier than the #53 selection in the 2009 NFL draft and the Eagles have been proven wise for stopping his fall. Ka’Deem Carey could be looking at a similar fate.

Tags: Arizona Wildcats Football Ka'deem Carey Matt Scott NCAA NFL NFL Draft NFL Draft 2014 Philadelphia Eagles Rich Rodriguez Running Backs

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