If new Bears TE Adam Shaheen is on the high side of the physical scale (checking in at 6'6") then Tarik Cohen is not even in his zip code. Cohen is a running back out of North Carolina A&T and "diminutive" might be a generous description in NFL terms. He checks in at 5'6" and 179 pounds. The only player Cohen is taller than in the entire league is Texans KR Trindon Holliday, who is 5'5". On the plus side, Darren Sproles is the same height, but 11 pounds heavier. Your teachers always told you not to judge a book by its cover though, so let's take a look at what Cohen does with the size he has.
If you are going to be small you had better be fast and agile. Luckily Tarik is both of those things. He ran a 4.42 second 40-yard dash at the Combine. He ran the 3-cone drill at his pro day and only managed to register a 7.22 second time there, which is not terrific. However, on film he seems to be able to stop and start much more quickly than that number would suggest. He also packs a surprising amount of power into his small frame and does not shy away from contact.
He racked up over 5,600 rushing yards in his career on the way to becoming his conference's all-time leading rusher. Tarik is no stranger to catching the ball either with 37 receptions just last year. His nickname is "The Human Joystick" stemming from his somewhat-unbelievable ability to make tacklers miss in the open field. Parts of his highlight clips do indeed look like they were borrowed from a video game. When you combine his burst, balance, and ability to stop and start he will definitely make some big plays appear out of thin air.
Cohen's vision is good but his patience running the ball does not match it. He is not a fan of waiting for things to develop and seems frenetic all the time. This leads him to take a lot of carries outside rather than having the patience to wait for an interior block to develop. Those two tendencies ensure he'll take plenty of negatives plays going outside the structure of the offense.
His power is surprising but he simply does not pack a lot of mass behind his pads. Once a defender gets a good grip on him it is largely over. He does drive forward to get an extra yard or so, but that's it. Cohen’s other limitation is pass protection. Despite his power, he will lose the leverage battle time and again against larger rushers in the NFL. He'll need some space to have the most effectiveness. In the NFL every player is faster, so those spaces will shrink very quickly. Tarik also has virtually no special teams experience, furthering limiting his value.
Grade / D+
It's very difficult to come up with any compelling reason to choose a running back this high that has physical limitations and no special teams experience. This is doubly true when there were so many other talented running backs still on the board. Cohen can create highlights when everything aligns perfectly in a football game but those opportunities will be limited. He'll be challenged to make an impact in a bigger, faster and stronger league. Unless he shows some consistent game-changing plays in training camp, or expands his skills to include special teams prowess, he’ll have to displace Jeremy Langford or Ka’Deem Carey to make the final roster.
How would you grade the 4th-round selection of Tarik Cohen?
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