2015 NFL Draft Scouting Report – Cameron Artis-Payne, RB Auburn


Last year, Auburn sent a running back to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony in Tre Mason.  This year, while Cameron Artis-Payne has not been quite as productive, he was outstanding in his own right.  The Harrisburg native spent a year at prep school before attending Allen Hancock Junior College, drawing the top junior college tailback rating.  After a year as the second banana to Mason, Payne more than made a name for himself with over 1,600 total yards and 11 touchdowns in his senior season.  Payne’s journey has been an interesting one, going from a high school kid in Pennsylvania to prep school in New York, junior college in California and Division-I football in Alabama.

The Auburn offense is predicated on being able to run the football.  While they are creative with how they move, shift around and motion players to get into spots, they are at heart, a one cut, zone running team.  Their running backs have to make a quick diagnoses, make a decision on where to attack and get downhill as fast as possible.  And while their methods of getting there are not necessarily orthodox, their base concepts with running the football, blocking and catching the passes out of the backfield are translatable to the NFL.

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Vitals & Build

  • Born June 23 (Year not listed)
  • 5’11” 210lbs (Listed)

Perhaps because of his style of play, Payne really does not look at big as his listed size would suggest.  He is a strong prospect with a solid build but if he is really 210lbs or close to it, it will definitely bode well for him.  Payne is somewhat lean and there is room to add muscle on his frame and particularly his legs.

He has outstanding quickness and body control, showing great feet.  And while he is quicker than he is fast, his acceleration and long speed are very good relative to his size.  His frame looks like it can continue to get stronger, which could allow for an interesting amount of physical potential still ahead of Payne, provided it does not hurt his athleticism.

Running Style

Payne is an effective one cut runner.  Whether he is using a slight hesitation, a jump cut or running outside, he is patient in finding the hole but extremely quick in diagnosing and attacking it when it presents itself.  On quick hitting plays, he explodes out of the backfield, hitting full speed in a few strides.  When he has to wait for the hole to open, he is able to stick his foot in the ground and attack it.  He knows how to get skinny to fit through small creases and does a good job of getting behind his pads and putting himself in position to absorb contact, protecting the ball when needed.

  • Payne is patient, shifting outside, but when he sees the hole, he explodes through it.

As a ball carrier, Payne shows an array of different ways to take on and defeat defenders.  He prefers to use his speed and quickness to get past opponents, but is certainly able to get behind his pads and fight through contact.  Payne has shown he can jump cut, make quick cuts, and can spin to make it difficult for opponents to wrap him up and has been able to run through arm tackles and shed opponents with power as well.  What makes Payne look special at times is his instincts on what to use at a given time, depending on the situation.

  • After breaking through the line, Payne beats a tackler with power, a low tackle with a sidestep, kicks his legs out from a diving tackle attempt from behind and then stiff arms another before getting pushed out of bounds.  He shows a little of everything and never actually gets tackled.
  • Again, he manages to break through to the second level, gets behind his pads to beat an opponent with power before spinning out of it, then spins to keep going through another tackle before going to the ground.

Whether inside between the tackles or outside, Payne has shown he can make big plays.  He has good balance and a low center of gravity that allows him to stay up and keep fighting for yardage.  His vision and instincts are more than sufficient for the position, enabling him to anticipate what defenders are doing and how best to beat them.

Payne will take some hits behind the line that get him before he can really get his legs going, but he has shown he can fight and make plays on second effort.  For the most part, he does a good job of always keeping his legs churning, keeping his momentum going forward, allowing him to finish runs effectively.  Payne can terrorize opponents when he is able to get to the second level, using both agility and strength to defeat tacklers, but he also shows more than enough speed to get chunk plays and potentially take runs to the end zone.

Route Running & Technique

Payne has experience running typical routes for running backs like screens and dump offs, but Auburn was not afraid to be aggressive with him and let him go down the field.  From swings to wheel concepts, the Tigers liked to find ways to get Payne out in space and force smaller defenders to try and tackle him.

  • Here on the wheel route, Payne makes a nice adjustment to turn inside and then have to catch this pass short and on the outside.

At this point, Payne often runs routes simply as getting from Point A to Point B without making many moves or selling the routes to keep defenders off balance, but it is unclear how much the coaching staff allows for that.  If he can continue to refine how he sets up routes and improve at getting open, he can be a nice receiving threat and someone that demands a few pass receptions per game.


Payne’s hands and ability to catch the football are somewhat inconsistent.  He will catch passes with his hands away from his body, but even on pitches in the running game, there are times when he seems to be double checking to make sure he caught the ball.  Payne needs to prove he can be more consistent in this area, but he has been able to catch passes and gain yards after the catch for the Tigers.

  • Payne makes the nice, hands catch away from his body as he sets up his body to make the run after the catch.
  • Payne goes out for a simple swing pass and lets the ball get into his body.

If Payne can make those nice hands catches more consistently and adjust from pass catcher to ball carrier smoothly, he can be a nice addition to a team’s passing offense as he shown he can catch can more than just dump offs and screen passes.


Payne is an active and willing blocker, but improvements with technique could go a long way in making him better as he transitions to the NFL.  He does an excellent job of getting up the field and making himself an extension of the protection and giving him room to give up ground if needed.  Payne is also good at picking up the right opponent when he is as a blocker.

  • Payne gets in good position, attacks the opponent with good leverage, but he puts his head down when he makes contact.  He gets the job done but he needs to keep his head up as a blocker.

Payne needs to keep his head up as a blocker and needs to do a better job of keeping his weight back, so he can anchor with more strength.  Keeping the head down results in a few problems, namely that he cannot see what the opponent is doing and the obvious injury risks with taking on an opponent with a full head of speed right in the top of the head.  If he can do a better job in anchoring his weight, it will make him far more consistent in his results.

Payne has also been used as a lead blocker, though the results have not been great.  He has a difficult time hitting a moving target and struggles to land cut blocks.  Fortunately, this is not something he is likely to do too often in the NFL.  The fact that Payne is willing to take on blocks and does a good job with where he needs to be and who needs to block, the rest is much easier to address.

System Fit

Payne is best suited to play in a zone type blocking scheme that allows their backs to take advantage of their vision.  He has shown he can operate in a power type scheme as he will take the ball going full speed when called upon, but the one cut style of running has allowed him to show off the most of his ability.

Payne could end up being a starting running back in the NFL and it may only be a matter of time before he gets to that point, but he would really benefit from coming in and being depth initially, much in the way he was for Auburn in his first season.  That would enable him to get comfortable in the offense and improve both his blocking and receiving.  In the end though, Payne has the talent and skill set to be a starter and featured ball carrier at the next level.

Draft Projection

Cameron Artis-Payne has the talent that would make a top 100 pick perfectly reasonable, but the sheer amount of depth in this class could push him down and make him a potential steal for a team on Day 3.

The clips were provided by DraftBreakdown.com