Tyler Gaffney went to Stanford as a two-sport athlete, playing both football and baseball. After three years of playing both, he took a year off to pursue a professional baseball career with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 before coming back to Stanford to finish out his double major and play football. This year was Gaffney’s turn to be the most productive running back on the team, combining for 1,803 yards and 21 touchdowns as the heaviest lifter of their backfield by committee.
For the NFL, Gaffney is a meat and potatoes back that tries to get downhill as quickly as possible and maximize each carry. He has a little bit of wiggle to him, but makes more subtle moves to only slightly alter his lane to keep his momentum going down the field. Gaffney has also shown to be a solid blocker in the backfield with some ability as a receiving threat. He projects as a day three back that could be a short yardage back and power runner with upside to do more with more room to run in the NFL.
Vitals & Build
Gaffney measured 5’11” 220lbs at the scouting combine with 9” hands. He showed impressive burst and speed at the combine. Gaffney has a good amount of strength and has good habits to make it look as functionally effective as possible. His balance is good and his feet are decent, but could get better. It is difficult to know where Gaffney will find his maximum effectiveness because his weight bounced around playing football and baseball. He may add a little more weight or simply try to maximize what he has now.
Gaffney has been playing in the power style running game that Stanford has become known for, so there is quite a bit of downhill running, but having to be patient as to not run up the back of his pulling guard. They also use tight splits and a lot of players in the box, so it can be difficult to really get going with speed until the open field.
Gaffney runs downhill, makes subtle movements and cuts that can almost go unnoticed, but alter his path enough to go from running at a defender to their side and through an arm tackle. He does a good job in terms of pad level and when he anticipates contact, can get much lower and be difficult to tackle. Gaffney also runs with a lean that makes it so when opponents hit him, he is able to keep his momentum going forward, take the hit and continue running.
He does a good job of driving his legs through contact and always keeping his momentum going forward. That combined with his balance and strength allow him to take some decent shots and keep the play alive as well as simply running through attempted arm tackles that are usually unable to get him down without help.
The Stanford running game makes it difficult for him make dramatic and sharp cuts that require him to stop and really alter direction. That might be something he could add to the arsenal, but within their blocking scheme, it would slow him down without giving him many options.
Gaffney reads blocks pretty well and is able to adjust his path, seeing and anticipating defenders pretty well. He has really embraced the idea that he can get a few yards and try to come back and get more on the next play rather than stopping and jeopardizing yardage.
Gaffney almost never is stopped for a loss or no gain. This not only makes him pretty consistent in terms of churning out yardage, but he is also effective in picking up short yardage or getting into the end zone near the goal line. Gaffney always appears to try to keep his shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and rarely has any runs that would ask him to change much.
As a result, he is at his best in between the tackles and Stanford would tend to use players in the slot or other backs to try to keep defenses honest when it came to defending on the outside. There is some additional athleticism to be gained at the next level in a more wide open field of play, but it probably will not change much when it comes to his running style.
Route Running & Technique
Gaffney is a little stiff as a route runner. He can look a little clunky in releasing into some of his routes, but he does have experience in going in the flat, swing type routes and some delayed release routes. Gaffney can look a little too mechanical at times and just needs more reps to get more comfortable in this area.
For what Gaffney has been asked to do, his hands are solid. He has not really been allowed to show much in terms of what he can do, but he is pretty comfortable catching the ball with his hands and away from his body. Generally, the passes he has gotten have been really short and are usually dump off type passes. This is not to say he cannot do it, but simply has not really been tested to this point.
His career in baseball as an outfielder would suggest he should have pretty good hand-eye coordination in this respect.
Gaffney does a pretty good job as a blocker. He has a good sense for lateral spacing and where he needs to position himself in regards to establishing an edge as an extension to the protection. Occasionally, he will be too far back into the pocket near his quarterback which makes it tough for him to absorb contact and give ground, but some of that is just a matter of how condensed the pocket appears to get.
From a technical standpoint, Gaffney does a nice job of bending, sliding and getting behind his pads to get a shot on the opponent and try to get control of them and neutralize them. He has shown to be a pretty reliable option in the backfield with blocking.
The most natural fit for Gaffney would be in a power offense, because that is what he does. Whether with a blocking back or single back, Gaffney has a pretty good sense of when and where to time how he hits the hole and at what speed Were he put in a more wide open offense and used as a hammer against less crowded defenses, he might be able to show some more of that speed and burst.
Gaffney could be able to contribute immediately because he can pick up tough yards and he can pass block. He might get pigeon-holed early as a short yardage back and have to fight to prove he can do more.
Gaffney is similar to BenJarvus Green-Ellis of the Cincinnati Bengals. Both players are basically hammers in the running game who want to keep their shoulders square to the line and want to run behind their pads. They are both players who may not break off a bunch of big plays but avoid negative plays and can move the chains.
Tyler Gaffney did exactly what Stanford wanted from him, but has shown he has more potential and athleticism during the testing process. His receiving abilities are still pretty raw due to lack of opportunities, but he has shown he can be a solid blocker. For teams that like to have a hammer as part of their stable that can pick up yardage in tough spots and occasionally get a hot hand, Gaffney could be a nice fit. As a result, he projects as a day three pick with some intriguing upside.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com