The engine that has driven the Arizona State Sun Devil offense is their running back Marion Grice. He offers them one consistent runner who can make plays which opens up opportunities for the passing game and when that is clicking, the Sun Devils can pile up the points. In tight games, they ride Grice and play defense. Grice has emerged as one of the more impressive senior running backs in the country as a result.
Grice has a lot of ability and physical potential that some might underestimate just looking at him, but he displays deceptive speed with a great first step and has more power than some might expect. When he runs behind his pads, he can be tough to stop and he can make plays as a receiver, but his blocking is bad and needs to improve dramatically going forward if he wants to sustain a career in the NFL. There is a lot to like about Grice and he could make an instant impact in a rotation in the right system, so he projects as a player who could end up going in the late third round or fourth, but could improve his stock if he can show he can be relied upon when it comes to blocking.
Vitals & Build
Grice is listed at 6’ 207lbs with a long, lean frame that allows him to fit through small creases in the defense. He is stronger than he might look and displays impressive power in small areas. Grice has deceptive speed because for the running back position, he is somewhat of a long strider. His first step explosion is really impressive and he can get up to full speed quickly. Grice can be shifty but he is not the most agile athlete and can have issues with making quick movements in a small area. There is reason to believe that Grice does have a decent amount of potential going forward and with the style of runner he is, he could benefit from adding a decent amount of bulk, especially in his legs which might just be a little too lean for the NFL at this point.
Grice is at his best when he is able to square his shoulders to the line, find his lane and just run the football. He is far more powerful than some might expect and even when he is stood straight up, Grice has shown he can keep fighting for yardage and fall forward. He will run tall but does a good job of knowing where he needs to get low and provided he does not get caught by surprise, it should not be a big problem in the NFL.
Grice’s first step going down the field is extremely impressive and he can get to full speed relatively quickly despite being somewhat of a long strider at the running back position. As a result, he is better served making a decision quickly on where to run and attack the hole with his shoulders square as soon as possible. The times he does this, he can slip through holes and should he get met in the hole, he does a great job of establishing body lean, getting behind his pads and delivering a hit on opponents. He can be extremely effective in short yardage and down near the goal line as a result.
Grice runs into problems when he is indecisive. He can slip a tackler with agility and a quick jump cut but he is simply not built to do it too often and when he is indecisive, can be quickly taken down in the backfield. Grice is simply not the same runner when going laterally and has to decide which lane he is going to take and square himself to it or he is vulnerable.
When Grice picks a hole and explodes through it, he definitely has the speed to pick up big yardage and with his long strides, seems to glide down the field for yardage effortlessly. Grice can occasionally attack the edge of defenses, but is at his best in between the tackles and the times he does attack the outside, is only really effective when he can run square to the line of scrimmage as quickly as possible. Grice is not someone that runs the sweep or reach real well, but is someone can run a stretch effectively and seems to have a solid understanding of how to read and respond to blocks.
Grice will occasionally display some impressive awareness and vision with his anticipation to see what is coming from defenders. At times, Grice can be poetry in motion and may not be quite sure how he made a few runs he has had in his career.
Route Running & Technique
Although Grice will run some screens, the Sun Devils are willing to use Grice aggressively, especially when it comes to running wheel routes out of the backfield. He can be more dynamic as a route runner, but he is able to be a weapon out of the backfield and puts pressure on the coverage to put a guy who can run with him down the sideline, which takes coverage away from other places.
Grice’s hands are wildly inconsistent. At times he will drop a pass right to him, but then will go out and make a great catch where he high points the football with a defender on him to make a huge play.
Grice needs to trust his hands more and some of his inconsistency is due to the fact that he will try to body catch passes too often. When passes are thrown outside of his frame, he can catch them cleanly out of the air but is more inclined to scoop the ball into his body to secure it. The fact he is able to make catches over his head is better than some backs, but if he wants to take his game to another level, he just needs to keep working and get comfortable catching the ball cleanly with his hands, no matter where it is thrown.
Run After Catch
Grice can be a weapon after the catch but it really depends how he is catching the ball. If he can catch the ball while facing down the field or in a position where he is in a position where he can start getting yards immediately, he is incredibly dangerous. Grice is not as smooth as some when it comes to making dramatic changes in direction, so having his back to the field and catching it is not ideal. Certainly, he can do it and be effective but there is a difference.
Grice’s blocking is miserable. The best thing that can be said about it is that he occasionally gets in the way. Beyond that, his effort is poor, the technique is awful, and the results are mediocre.
Grice will either try to cut block or absorb a hit from a defender coming in to rush the quarterback, but in both circumstances, he puts his head down which results in missed blocks and not being able to see what he hits. The times he does get in the way, he has almost no base and gets knocked into the backfield.
There are plenty of times where Grice will barely move and is unable to find anyone to block in addition to the times he just fans on the block. The result is the quarterback gets rushed or just takes a big time hit. Based on what he has done to this point in his career, no team in the NFL can rely on him to block for their quarterback.
Grice has to make a decision to care about blocking and keeping his quarterback upright or he is severely limiting what he can offer to teams in the NFL.
The best scheme fit for Grice is likely in a one cut scheme that primarily operates between the tackles while occasionally getting him out in space, but focusing on getting him to get in a lane, square himself to the line and operate from there. Grice has the ability to help a team as a runner and potentially as a receiver, but needs dramatic improvement as a blocker and either cannot block when he is on the field and always be a receiver or being handed the ball. There are some quarterbacks who have enough sway where the quarterback will simply not allow them to be on the field until they can trust them to protect and that might be something that helps Grice as it forces him to take it seriously. At this point, Grice needs to be part of a rotation but does have the potential to carry a large amount of the load and develop into a frontline back.
In terms of running style, Grice is somewhat similar to Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears but Forte is bigger than Grice. Forte and Grice are both players who understand how to get behind their pads and can make big plays with deceptive speed while having leaner legs than a lot of backs. Forte has shown he can be a good blocker and a receiving threat and while Grice shows flashes of the potential to really help in the passing game as a receiver, he has not shown an interest in blocking.
Grice offers a good amount of ability for a team that knows how to use him and understands what he still has to improve. Running behind his pads, Grice is a powerful back with deceptive speed that has some ability and further potential as a receiver. He could be bulked up even more to fit the style of runner he is as well. The problem is Grice is a horrendously bad blocker and the importance of blocking from the running back position is huge. He has to make it a priority and something incredibly important to him. If he can do that, his stock will go up, but it could definitely hold him back in the draft process as well as in his NFL career. There are a few teams that will not even consider him if they are not convinced he can block. Nevertheless, Grice does offer ability, could make an immediate impact in a rotation and has further potential going forward. As a result, Grice appears to be a fringe top 100 pick that could move up into the top 100 if he can show teams he can block in the postseason and All-Star circuits.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com