There was a time when former Auburn running back Tre Mason was viewed as just too small for the NFL, and he would have found it hard to argue as a 190-pound running back who wasn't exactly known for pounding the ball between the tackles. But that was a couple of years ago. After adding some weight and rushing his way to college football's biggest stage in January, Mason has made his share of believers in his ability to succeed at the pro level.
Enter NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell, who suggested Mason is big enough to not only play in the NFL but start and thrive in a base offense, as well. In other words, he's an every-down back.
"The guy who I'm most intrigued by in this entire draft class of running backs is Tre Mason from Auburn, who I think, even though he's about 208, 209 pounds, I think he can be a foundation back in the NFL," Cosell told Midday 180 Radio.
That praise is about as high as it gets for Mason, but Cosell isn't alone. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock ranks Mason as the fifth-best running back available in the draft. Mason rushed for 1,816 yards for Auburn last season, including six straight 100-yard games to end the year, including the SEC and BCS championship games. Auburn coach Gus Malzahn has said Mason's 317 carries made for some sore Sundays for Mason last fall, but that his toughness allowed him to answer the bell every Saturday.
"Let's say you want to run predominantly three wide as your base offense," Cosell said. "I think that increases the pool of backs, because then running hard inside with power may not be a trait that's necessary to do that. So maybe a back like Lache Seastrunk from Baylor, or even a Ka'Deem Carey from Arizona, they may fall into that category. But if you're going to line up ... in base personnel, one back, two tight ends, or two backs with a fullback and one tight end, then I think there are only certain backs who can do that well and be a foundation of your offense."
Cosell also had praise for Ohio State's Carlos Hyde and LSU's Jeremy Hill, bigger backs than Mason who Cosell said could also handle a full-time rushing load. Cosell compared Hyde to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell but said Hyde has more lateral quickness.
Hyde and Hill are Mayock's No. 2 and No. 3 running backs, respectively.
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