Prospects in Bowls: San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey

Joe Malfa kicks off TOJ’s Bowl Season draft coverage with a look at SDSU running back Donnel Pumphrey

It’s the most wonderful time of the year — bowl season. Not all of the games feature great teams, but every game has a couple of draft prospects. Throughout bowl season, TOJ will be profiling the top draft prospects playing in each game. Joe Malfa kicks things off with a look at San Diego State RB Donnel Pumphrey:

We are in the midst of a running back renaissance in college football. Melvin Gordon, Ezekiel Elliott, and Todd Gurley have attained some early success in the NFL, and guys like Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook seem to be on that same track.

While Fournette and Cook are getting all of the attention, Donnel Pumphrey has quietly put together one of the best college careers of all-time. The San Diego State running back is 108 yards away from becoming the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher, but there are major questions about the how the 5-foot-9, 180-pound playmaker will fit in the NFL.


Pumphrey’s best attributes are his speed and quickness. He has the shiftiness to elude tacklers near the line of scrimmage and the speed to explode into the second level.

Pumphrey also has great patience and vision. He does a good job of sitting behind his blockers as he waits for a hole to materialize. He is decisive once he finds a hole, hits it hard, and turns two yards into 10 yards.

My overall takeaway from watching tape on Donnel Pumphrey is that if he gets space, there is a good chance he will make a man miss and make a big play.


Pumphrey has two areas weaknesses that really stick out — one is fixable, the other is not.

Pumphrey cannot change the fact that he is undersized. His 5-foot-9, 180-pound frame raises concerns of durability in the NFL. At that size, he won’t make it as an every-down back. His size also limits his ability to break through tackles at the line of scrimmage.

The correctable issue is the fact that he is a body-catcher. He has the prototypical size and quickness of a slot receiver if a team wanted to consider a position change, but he needs to work on plucking the ball out of the air with his hands.


Donnel Pumphrey is a quick, shifty playmaker that definitely has a future in the NFL, but where does he fit in?

I do not think he can be the every-down back that he has been in college, but he has the ability to make a name for himself as a 3rd-down back or slot receiver. Theo Riddick is my professional comparison for Pumphrey. Riddick is more of a natural pass catcher, but Pumphrey has a similar skill-set. Pumphrey can be just as effective if he hones his route running abilities and starts catching with his hands as opposed to his body.


Based on his skill-set and potential, I can see a team drafting Pumphrey somewhere late in the 3rd round or early in the 4th.

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