Weaknesses: Speed, Offensive Scheme, Pass Protection, Receiving Skills, Small Hands
Can you imagine what Jonathon Dwyer could have done with Toby Gerhart’s 343 carries? Or if you just gave him half of his own quarterback’s 279 touches? Dwyer’s 235 rushing attempts rank 27th in the nation, nothing to shake your fist at, but Dwyer’s production with those carries puts him in select company as the backs who did the most with the least.
Looking at the list of the players with the most rushing attempts, take a gander at the players in the 20th spot or lower. In that range, only LaMichael James of Oregon State, Bernard Pierce of Temple and Joe Webb of UAB come close to matching Dwyer’s 1,395 yards and 14 TD. James came in at 1,564 yards and 14 TD on only 230 carries (30th in the nation), Pierce finished with 1,361 yards and 16 TD on 236 carries (tied at 24th) and Webb with the 33rd most carries at 226 but picking up 1,424 yards and 11 TD. Further down the list are Clemson’s CJ Spiller (40th most carries) with 1,212 yards and 14 TD on 212 carries and the man at #50, North Texas’ Lance Dunbar who had only 200 carries but put up 1,378 yards and 17 TD.
His production over his career has certainly gotten him noticed but it’s his size/speed that set him apart. He leaves Georgia Tech with 3,226 yards, 35 rushing TD and 17 100-yard games. His yardage total is 6th in Tech history while his TD total is the 2nd most by a Yellow Jacket. Dwyer was a 2007 Sporting News All-ACC Freshman while backing up Tashard Choice. That year he scored 9 TD on only 82 rushing attempts, rushing for 436 yards.
2008 became a breakout year for Dwyer as he more than adequately took over for the graduated Choice. In his first year in Paul Johnson’s triple-option, Dwyer was underused with only 200 carries, but turned those attempts into 1,395 yards and 12 TD. He led the ACC in rushing yards, the third straight year a GT player did so, and his TD total ranked 2nd. His 107.4 yards/game was 13 yards more than the next best runner, all figures that contributed to his ACC Player of the Year honour. Dwyer had to share carries with Jacket QB Josh Nesbitt, who had 172 carries. Dwyer’s production could have challenged for the top spots in the nation with a chunk of those carries. Instead he was 12th.
His stats mirrored his 2008 totals closely as he gained an identical 1,395 yards but did so with 35 more carries. His increased his TDs to 14. He ranked 13th in the nation in rushing yards. Nesbitt again ate a large chunk of the carries.
Dwyer has prototype size at 5’ 11” 229 lbs though he clocked a disappointing late 4.59 in the 40 yard dash at the combine. He was never thought to be particularly fast, but has shown an ability to get to top speed quickly and a good burst to hit the corner and get outside. But speed is not his game.
Nicknamed ‘Diesel’, Dwyer lives up to his moniker as a bruising, punishing runner that will wear down a defence. He is thick framed with powerful legs and far more nimble that expected. Dwyer will finish his runs with authority and push a pile, making him a potential TD machine at the next level. He wields a neck breaking stiff arm as well. He’s best at picking up yardage in chunks, grinding things out before breaking off for 20 yards.
He never missed a game due to injury in college and the limited touches (517 carries in 3 years) have kept the wear and tear down on his legs, giving him a potentially longer career span. Tacking on a year or two at the end of career could mean a difference of a few million dollars.
Scouts have worries about how he will transition to a more pro style offense as he gets the ball in space quite often, with room to run and do his thing. He did very well as a freshman in Chan Gailey’s pro style offense but will require some transitioning time. Dwyer should be able to do this just fine. Tech threw the ball a measly 168 times in 2009, leaving few pass protection opportunities but Dwyer appeared to hold up very well in this regard for the most part. He squares up his shoulders and displays the same toughness and finish in pass blocking that he does at the end of his runs. He should continue to improve in this area as well. The lack of a passing game limited Dwyer catches to 15 total in his career so he will need to prove he can handle the responsibilities of playing with an actual passing game around him. Tech completed 78 passes this year and potential first round pick Demaryius Thomas caught 46 of them.
Dwyer’s weigh-in at the combine revealed some surprisingly small hands. His hands measured 8-5/8”, only bigger than Dexter McCluster at 8-3/8” of the 26 backs tested. He had only 5 fumbles in his 517 carries but this is slightly worrisome. Any time he fumbles people will automatically bring this up, no matter how few times he actually fumbles.
Runningbacks are not at the same premium they once were at the draft, meaning some team could find one heck of a steal at the top of the third round. He would make a great pick for a team with an older established runner that may be finished in a year or two, like maybe Atlanta with Michael Turner, San Fran with Frank Gore or Washington with Clinton Portis. Other teams that are looking for a new runner include San Diego, Houston, Cleveland and Tampa Bay