Position: Running back
Weight: 230 pounds
School: Cal Poly Mustangs
Joe Protheroe 2019 NFL Draft Profile
This year’s running back draft class certainly has a lot of intriguing names but one name that has not been mentioned enough is Joe Protheroe out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Flying under the radar, however, is something Protheroe is used to as the Concord, CA native was only offered two scholarships coming out of high school despite being the third leading rusher in California during the 2012 season.
Protheroe went on to break dozens of records at Clayton Valley Charter High School, including 34 rushing touchdowns his senior year and eventually committed to play for Tim Walsh at Cal Poly. After grey-shirting in 2013, Protheroe recorded 184 rushing yards and two touchdowns in 2014 as a freshman. The following season, Protheroe started at fullback in Cal Poly’s Wing-T formation and rushed for 779 yards, six touchdowns and was selected to the first team all-Big Sky.
In 2016, Protheroe filled up the stat sheet and led the Mustangs with 1,339 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. The fullback had big expectations for his 2017 season but a knee injury cut his season short just after two games. Protheroe was granted a medical redshirt and was eligible to play again for Cal Poly in 2018. The fullback topped his junior season by recording 1,823 rushing yards and his 4,271 career rushing yards ranks first in school history. Protheroe had four games of 200+ rushing yards his senior year including a 228-yard performance against Brown on September 14.
- maintains balance really well while taking on contact;
- strong runner who runs through arm tackles with ease;
- great vision when running between the tackles;
- good jump cut, agile in tight spaces;
- very good acceleration through the hole;
- lowers pad level very well when taking contact head-on;
- strong stiff arm move in the open field.
- experience in the Wing-T scheme does not translate over to NFL offenses;
- runs too upright at times;
- has very little experience catching the ball and running routes out of the backfield;
- pass blocking ability is a big question mark;
- lacks elite third gear to finish off long runs.
NFL Comparison: BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Projection: Seventh round-undrafted
While Protheroe may not have the traits of an every-down back, he had an extremely productive college career which will draw NFL teams’ interests. The transition for him to an NFL-style offense will be tougher than most backs out of college but he is a gifted runner and will shine given the opportunity. In today’s NFL, running back by committee is what most offenses use and Protheroe will fit best as a compliment to a quicker ‘scat’ back. His combination of power and agility will serve him as a good change of pace back that will come in handy in short yardage situations.