If you want a glimpse of what Russell can do against NFL defenses, watch his legs and hips in the highlight reel linked above. He has extremely quick feet, great vision, and is able to make guys miss on every tackle attempt. As a player, Hansbrough is a big play waiting to happen, especially behind a strong NFL offensive line. At worst, his upside is as an NFL 3rd down back, but I think the potential is there for much more.
Hansbrough's measurables are solid; his Pro Day 40 time was clocked at a fast 4.38. He also delivered a 9'06.5" broad jump, a 30 1/2 vertical jump, a 4.56 20 yard shuffle, a 7.36 3-cone drill, and 17 bench press reps. However, numbers do not define Hansbrough as a player. We were lucky enough to interview Hansbrough (link here), and he stands out as an extremely high character player with a solid work ethic.
Let's take a look at the interview for a moment. A few things stand out immediately. First, Hansbrough has been watching running backs his entire life. He grew up watching players like Walter Peyton, Marcus Allen, and Barry Sanders. Perhaps it's not too surprising that Hansbrough is so adept at making defenders miss tackles on the field; while the game has changed since Barry Sanders and Marcus Allen, he has clearly picked up some tricks from them along the way. These moves will serve him well in the NFL.
More importantly, Hansbrough's character stands out immediately. He's already been through adversity as a player, and comes into the NFL with a chip on his shoulder. That should make him a very dangerous player in training camp and in the preseason as he works to secure a role on an NFL roster. A young career can be defined by one big play in the preseason; Terrell Davis made a huge special teams play as a rookie 6th round pick and then played his way into NFL Hall of Fame consideration at running back. A player like Hansbrough, who comes into the league with the passion and drive to impress teams and coaches, has the same type of potential long-term upside.
What does Hansbrough bring to the table as a player? His elusiveness as a runner is perhaps his greatest asset. He has quick feet, loose hips, and can turn on a dime, throwing defenders and defenses off balance. Like all running backs, Hansbrough is at his best when the offensive line in front of them holds together, but he can make a big gain out of a broken play or missed blocking assignment. Given the extreme depth of talent on both sides of the ball in the NFL, that ability will serve him well at the next level. He has solid hands as a receiver out of the backfield and can quickly analyze defenses. Especially in the right offense, Hansbrough is a first down or touchdown waiting to happen. He shows a deep knowledge of defensive gameplans when on the field, a knowledge likely garnered by hard work and close attention in the film room.
Like many players I follow closely heading up to the draft, Hansbrough is a guy who projects as a later round pick, but one with a ton of upside. Every season, NFL teams find great talent at running back at the end of the draft. Players like Terrell Davis and Priest Holmes stand out historically. Guys like Arian Foster, Zach Zenner, and Alfred Morris stand out recently. I can promise you one thing. If used correctly as a player by an NFL coaching staff, Hansbrough will be an impact maker at the next level. An SEC running back late in the draft with film that outshines his statistical numbers? It worked for the Broncos in 1995. Terrell Davis had limited statistical success in college, struggled a bit with injuries, and his best season in college was as a junior, followed by a senior year punctuated by struggles at times. Hansbrough has faced some of the same struggles as Davis successfully, and once he's on an NFL roster, he should blossom quickly as a player. He could be special.--Mike B