Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday leading up to the NFL Draft April 22nd, Buffalobills.com will profile one of the more highly touted prospects at each position in the 2010 draft class. A position group video preview will accompany each of these feature stories in the media lounge featuring the top five prospects at each position. We begin our pre-draft feature series with Cal running back Jahvid Best.*
Over the past few years the emergence of smaller statured, but ultra-productive players, like Reggie Bush, Chris Johnson and Percy Harvin have raised the level of similar prospects in this year's draft class. One such player that is drawing comparisons to the likes of Bush is Cal tailback Jahvid Best.
And Best has no problem being compared to some of the aforementioned NFL players.
"It just helps me out when guys come into the league like Chris Johnson and they go out and make an impact on teams," Best said. "That just makes my kind of player more valuable."
Best's timed speed is not that far behind Johnson's after running an official 4.35 at the NFL combine in February. A kickoff returner and feature back in his time with the Bears, Best has left lasting impressions on even his most bitter college rivals.
"He's electrifying," said Stanford running back Toby Gerhart. "Any time he touches the ball he's dangerous. I remember two of three times he caught a little screen pass and reversed the whole field, took it up the sidelines, reversed the field again for a 60-yard touchdown. He has amazing speed and good open field moves."
As big a home-run threat as Best might be however, the way his college career ended has put some doubt in the minds of NFL talent evaluators as to just how durable he will be knowing the hits are that much harder on the pro level.
Against Oregon State, Best took a running leap over a defender at the four-yard line on what wound up being a seven-yard touchdown plunge, but landed awkwardly on his back and head leading to a concussion and back injury. He would miss the last four games of his college career, before declaring for the draft in early January.
"I remember the play, I remember jumping in the air, and the next thing I remember was being in the hospital," said Best. "It was a pretty bad fall, but I've been blessed. It could have wound up being a lot worse than it was. Thank God I'm able to bounce right back, and I'm healthy now."
But Best has had other injuries in his three-year college career. He had hip, foot and shoulder injuries over the past two seasons, two of which required surgery. It leads many scouts to believe that he's a complementary type back in the mold of the Saints' Bush.
Best has done what he can to convince NFL teams that he's no more a risk than any other back by seeking the opinion of famed sports-related concussion expert Mickey Collins, assistant director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program in Pittsburgh.
"We went to the best to get some answers," said Best. "I've seen him twice and he cleared me. He's known as the best so his words mean a lot. Mickey Collins said I am fine and any other concussion that I may get in the future would have nothing to do with the one I've had in the past. So from now on it's just a clean slate."
The Cal back admits he was not the most vigilant in preventing a possible concussion wearing an older model helmet because it looked better. He intends to wear one of the newer Revolution model helmets after he's drafted. Best also said trying to leap over defenders to reach the goal line is no longer a part of his game.
Best realizes his injury history could compromise the size of his role with his NFL team, even though he could come off the board as high as the second round. If it's just a complementary role as opposed to being a team's feature back he's ready to embrace it.
"I feel like I'm ready to do it. Whatever team picks me up and whatever the role they want me to play I'm going to do it because I feel like I'm coming in with a chip on my shoulder," he said. "Everything that I've done in the past is kind of like it's erased. It's almost like it doesn't matter anymore.
"I've got to make a new name for myself. So whatever role I get I'm going to take it and do it to the fullest, and hopefully my roles will expand from there."