Tra Carson is quite a load. The 23-year-old is solid as a rock at 5-foot-11 and 227 pounds and led Texas A&M in rushing as a senior with 1,165 yards on 242 carries. He may have been even more productive at full health: After last season ended, information was revealed that Carson played through a "severe" toe injury for the majority of the year -- a true testament to his toughness. Merely four months removed from toe surgery, Carson performed at Texas A&M's pro day in early April and posted positive results. His measurables compare to those of Eddie Lacy, a bigger back who has had fantasy success early in his career (being on the Packers also helps). Some draft pundits have pigeonholed Carson as a mere power back with little versatility, while others think he has enough quickness and agility to do more. Whatever the expectations may be for Carson as an NFL running back, let's see if we can't shed some light on his potential fantasy value (or lack thereof) in 2016.
» Great size as a bruising, punishing runner
» Has enough agility to elude in short distances
» Solid hands and receiving experience
» Short-yardage/goal-line candidate
» Excellent blocker
» Tough -- played through toe injury all of 2015
Carson is a hefty, bruising back who seems to welcome contact and punishes those in his way as he chugs along. He's a powerful downhill runner who almost always falls forward and would likely specialize in short-yardage or goal-line work in the NFL (vulture alert!). In addition to his success on the ground, the Aggies' featured back collected 29 receptions for 183 yards last season, proving he has solid hands and is capable of doing serious damage on screens and option plays once he gets rolling. He also knows how to throw his weight around as an excellent blocker in the run and passing game.
» Average speed
» Running style may limit his draft day value
» Lacks speed to make an impact on outside runs
» Four months removed from toe surgery, raises durability concerns
Carson is limited in space due to his average top speed, and has a tendency to be a straight-ahead runner rather than a more elusive back. In the three games available of Carson's tape from 2015 on draftbreakdown.com, 78 percent of his rush attempts were inside runs. If he can be productive that way, there is nothing wrong with his running style. But his style definitely limits his potential appeal to NFL teams on draft day compared to other, more versatile backs. That, in turn, will also impact Carson's fantasy value in dynasty and redraft leagues this coming season. Don't forget about that toe injury either, which again he is only four months removed from. He was able to perform pro day drills at full go, but it still raises durability concerns.
Ideal NFL fantasy fits
Lamar Miller has been rather durable during his four seasons in the league, but he has yet to shoulder the workhorse-type workload that he could see in Houston. Carson could help to keep Miller fresh, especially around the goal line. The Steelers obviously have their every-down back in Le'Veon Bell, who should be healthy (knee) by the time next season starts. But behind him, DeAngelo Williams will be a 33-year-old free agent at the end of the season and is no lock to last the full year. The Seahawks seem to be moving on with Thomas Rawls as their bell cow after Marshawn Lynch quietly ended his career. But Carson could fit well as a bruiser in the run-heavy Seattle offense.
Early fantasy draft projection
As is the case with most players in our Prospect-a-Day series, Carson's landing spot is crucial. If he can earn snaps as a short-yardage and goal-line back, he will have some late-round, vulture value in fantasy. Carson has also drawn comparisons to second-year Bills runner Karlos Williams. Andrew Miley of dynastyblitz.com, who referenced Williams in his breakdown of Carson, called the Texas A&M prospect a "locomotive that struggles to stay on the tracks." With that said, I'm not quite on board with the potential rocky train ride that is Tra Carson as a fantasy asset just yet.