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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Khalil Herbert

  • The Draft Network
  • December 29, 2020
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Khalil Herbert had a flashy run at Kansas before bursting onto the scene in a breakout campaign at Virginia Tech in 2020. In 11 games in 2020, Herbert logged 165 touches from scrimmage, tallying 1,362 yards with nine touchdowns. Herbert is a disciplined runner that plays within himself, has good vision, takes excellent angles, has good contact balance, and is a smooth operator. While he’s a good athlete, he isn’t overly dynamic—Herbert’s big plays come because of his decision making and how he sets up tacklers in space with smart cuts in addition to his sufficient burst. What Herbert is lacking is a proven ability to contribute on passing downs. Despite showcasing a willingness to pass block, Herbert was underwhelming at Virginia Tech in pass protection. In addition, he never caught more than 10 passes in any season for his career, so developing and proving his pass-catching skill set will be important for him to claim a prominent role in the NFL. At a minimum, Herbert should be a strong No. 2 back in the NFL that has starter ability if he can prove himself on passing downs. 

Ideal Role: One-cut runner that gets chances to run inside and off-tackle. Fringe lead back and outstanding No. 2. 

Scheme Fit: Zone blocking scheme.


Written by Joe Marino 

Games watched: North Carolina (2020), Clemson (2020), Duke (2020), Louisville (2020)  

Best Game Studied: Duke (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Clemson (2020) 

Vision: Herbert does a wonderful job of being patient and allowing blocks to take form, but also blends in anticipation and decisiveness that leads to good decisions with the football. He knows when to stick his foot in the ground and get upfield. He has excellent spatial awareness and terrific vision in space. Herbert consistently runs to daylight. 

Footwork: From fluid cuts to easy acceleration, Herbert is a smooth operator. He consistently operates from a balanced base and angles himself to get through gaps with ideal forward lean. Herbert executes timely cuts that work off his blocks and creates angles for himself to attack space. 

Contact Balance: Herbert runs with good forward lean and has built-in leverage. He has a low center of gravity which enables him to absorb contact and he’s unfazed by arm tackles. He demonstrates excellent control of his frame through contact and consistently gains yardage after contact. 

Durability: Herbert had some hamstring issues that forced him to miss time in 2017 and 2020. He also missed time in 2019 while at Kansas due to an undisclosed personal matter. Despite playing at Kansas from 2016-2019 and one season at Virginia Tech, Herbert only has 509 touches from scrimmage for his career. 

Explosiveness: Herbert is more smooth and fluid than he is sudden or explosive. While he has plenty of athleticism as a runner, he isn’t going to win every footrace and lacks elite breakaway speed. Herbert’s decisiveness and smart angles help him gain big chunks. 

Versatility: Herbert is an effective inside and outside runner. His best moments come when he can make one cut and run to daylight, making him a great fit for a zone rushing attack. Surprisingly, Herbert never caught more than 10 passes in a season so he has a lot to prove when it comes to proving his value as a receiver—although his skill set and limited exposures on film suggest he can make an impact catching the football. Herbert did return kicks for the Hokies in 2020, averaging 26.9 yards per return on 16 chances. 

Elusiveness: Herbert is fluid in and out of cuts and a smooth accelerator. With that said, he is more smooth than he is sudden. He has plenty of flexibility throughout his frame and can dissociate his upper and lower body to execute dynamic cuts. 

Ball Security: Herbert is very deliberate about protecting the football and not carrying it loosely. He had a total of two fumbles in college on 509 career touches. There are no concerns when it comes to ball security for Herbert. 

Passing Down Skills: Surprisingly, Herbert never had more than 10 catches in any season during his college career. With that said, in limited opportunities, he showcased natural hands and his skill set suggests he can be productive as a receiver. He’ll need to prove himself and develop as a complete pass-catching back when it comes to running routes and catching the football. Herbert had some challenges in pass protection at Virginia Tech but fared better from his time at Kansas. At a minimum, he is willing. 

Discipline: Herbert isn’t the type of back that you have to worry about going off-course and taking a negative play for no reason. He understands what he is capable of and plays within himself. He isn’t going to consistently make something out of nothing, but he is consistent at staying the course, protecting the football, and making things happen once he breaks the first level. 

Prospect Comparison: Isaiah Pead (2012 NFL Draft, St. Louis Rams) 


TDN Consensus: 70.50/100

Joe Marino: 74.50/100

Kyle Crabbs: 68.50/100

Jordan Reid: 70.00/100

Drae Harris: 69.00/100

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