USA TODAY Sports photo of Stanford RB Bryce Love
USA TODAY Sports photo of Stanford RB Bryce Love

Stanford's Bryce Love was one of the most exciting runners in college football in 2017 and a player who many thought would enter the draft early.

In most cases when a runner has the kind of year that Love had, he leaves school on a high note to become a pro because of the short shelf life of the positon. In Love’s case he very well may have been a first-round pick in 2018, yet he decided to return to school, which should be admired.

Love will be a true fourth-year senior in 2018. His first two years at Stanford he played behind Christian McCaffrey, who was selected No. 8 overall by the Carolina Panthers in the 2017 draft. Last year with McCaffrey gone, Love showed just how good he is in rushing for 1,973 yards, an 8.2-yard average per carry and 17 touchdowns. He ran for over 100 yards in all but one game in which he played during the 2017 season.

Love is listed as being 5’10 – 196, and although he looks close to that weight, I doubt he is actually 5’10, as he looks shorter compared to other players on the field. He may not be that big, but Love is very strong and powerful for a smaller guy.

As a runner, Love is very patient but has exceptional initial quickness. He shows very good instincts/vision and does a great job setting up and waiting for his blocks. Once he sees a seam, Love has a great burst. Many smaller backs aren’t that productive between the tackles, but that isn’t the case with Love. He excels as an inside runner. He runs low and shows explosiveness enabling him to consistently get yards after initial contact. His speed, which I estimate as being in the 4.4s, enables Love to easily turn the corner when he is asked to run outside. In space, he shows very good open-field running ability and elusiveness. He is a threat to come up with a big play on any given carry.

When McCaffrey was at Stanford, he was not only a top runner but also a great receiver and returner. To date, Love’s stats haven’t shown that he has that same type of skill set. That’s not to say that he isn’t capable of being similar — he just hasn’t shown it so far.

Love only had six receptions in 2017, but he did have 15 catches in a reserve role in 2015. He can catch the ball cleanly and is a good runner after the catch. Scouts would like to see him utilized more as a receiver in 2018. Love was used sporadically as a kick returner as an underclassmen, but he only has six total returns in his career. With his instincts, speed and open-field run skills, Love should be capable of being a very good kickoff returner, but it’s really an unanswered question at this time.

Love is very willing as pass blocker, but he still needs some work to be as effective as NFL people would prefer. It’s really just a matter of getting and keeping good position and using his hands better. The important thing is that he is willing.

Overall, Love should be one of the more exciting running backs in college football this season. If he has the same type of production that he did a year ago and avoids injuries, he should be a premium-round draft pick next April.