Benny Snell And Why He Was Overlooked In The 2019 Draft

Benny Snell
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 01: Running back Benny Snell Jr. of Kentucky runs the 40-yard dash during day two of the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 1, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Benny Snell Jr. was nothing short of spectacular throughout his time at the University of Kentucky. He finished his career with 3,873 yards averaging 5.3 yards per carry, while scoring 48 total touchdowns. Throughout the Wildcats 2018-2019 campaign, Snell broke multiple records. Snell became UK’s footballs all-time leading rusher, scorer, and also finished with the most 100-yard games in school history. Snell finished twelfth all-time in rushing yards and third all-time in rushing touchdowns in SEC play. This was with Snell playing only three seasons in the NCAA. Not only was Benny Snell a “stat-sheet stuffer”, but he was a crucial part of Mark Stoops program turnaround.

Benny Snell With Kentucky

Mark Stoops and his football program had their best season in 2018-2019 year after finishing 10-3 overall. The team also helped end their 31-game losing streak to the University of Florida. Snell was essential against the Gators racking up 183 total yards. He was their driving force on the offensive end throughout the whole season. At this point, I would like to consider Benny Snell a college football legend. When you finish behind Tim Tebow and Herschel Walker in the SEC all-time rushing touchdowns list, it is beyond impressive. The Pittsburgh Steelers not only got a steal in the fourth round: The organization also got a proven winner and a great presence in the locker room. Which leads to the question of why did such a decorated prospect in Benny Snell get overlooked in the 2019 draft.

Benny Snell Possibly Underutilized in College

Benny Snell optimized his play through Kentucky’s offensive coordinators Eddie Gran’s offense. Clearly, he is one of the best backs in SEC history, his stats speak for him. To me, I feel like he was not properly utilized the way he should have been in college. When you look at Benny and how he is built, you immediately think this guy is a downhill runner. So why is it that the majority of the snaps Benny took throughout his college career was in the pistol or shotgun formation?

After reaching out to Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) of Kentucky Sports Radio, he connected me to one of his writers to find out what percentage of snaps were actually run out of pistol and shotgun formation. The KSR writer, Adam Luckett (@AdamLuckettBOS), went on to tell me he “estimates that 80% of Kentucky’s offense is run out of pistol formation while 20% in traditional shotgun.”

One would think Eddie Gran would look to build his offense around Benny’s strengths and add in some plays under center more. Benny Snell was after all the centerpiece of the offense. More plays under center would have given Snell more room in the backfield, and also more speed built up running downhill. Snell still adjusted to the system and conquered his opponents. Benny Snell beating out the adversity would make people think with he would get drafted higher. You could also look at the displacement in the system as one reason Benny Snell got overlooked in the 2019 draft.

Snell’s Possible Limited Receiving Ability

Another reason Steelers Snell could have been overlooked is his limited ability as a receiving back. Of his 48 touchdowns in college, all were rushing touchdowns. Which means he had zero receiving touchdowns which is somewhat concerning. He also only had 29 total receptions while at the University of Kentucky.

Snell did, however, grow as a receiver each season at Kentucky. Look for him to continue to grow with the Steelers as a receiver. He can look to learn from teammates such as James Conner who also improved as a receiver at the professional level. Coming into the league Conner was scouted as not being much of a threat through the air. This could be reason number two on why Benny Snell was left out of the first three rounds of the 2019 draft.

Benny Snell’s Potential With The Steelers

I anticipate Snell to thrive in a system where he will get to be a down-hill runner and have a quarterback under center. Snell also has the tools to be a good pass protector. All that is stopping him from being a three-down back in the NFL is his receiving ability which with the Steelers offensive staff, and players will help him develop that part of his game more.

No matter what, the Steelers got a decorated prospect in the fourth round. An absolute steal for a Steelers organization who desperately needed depth in the backfield. I look forward to see how Benny’s game translates to the NFL. The Steelers could be in quite the running back dilemma years down the road if Benny Snell turns out to be the player I expect him to be.

For now, it will be mainly James Conner and Jaylen Samuels in the backfield. Benny Snell has a lot of work to do, but expect the rookie to make some noise year one. I have already made this point in one of my prior articles on the Steelers Offensive Assets in 2019. We will see Benny in the Steelers first preseason game against the Buccaneers on August 8 at 7:30. Steeler fans should prepare for the force that is Benny Snell Jr.

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