Booker initially committed to Washington State before discovering
his SAT scores weren't high enough to qualify, so the Cougars rescinded
their offer, which led to an offer from Fresno State shortly thereafter.
He retook the SAT and fared well enough to qualify, but the paperwork
was filed too late for him to receive clearance from the NCAA. As
a result, he had to go the JUCO route if he wanted to play football
in 2011 and so he did, staying in his home state of California to
play at American River College. Although he wasn't a true workhorse
in either of his two seasons with the Beavers, Booker accumulated
936 yards from scrimmage and 13 touchdowns on 110 touches as a freshman
and 1,530 yards and 17 offensive scores on 203 touches as a sophomore.
He also served as American River's primary kick returner in both
years, dominating in that area as well.
After sitting out of football in 2013, Booker transferred to
Utah in 2014 and entered the season splitting time with Bubba
Poole - an arrangement that lasted three games. The Sacramento
native wrestled the starting job away from Poole after erupting
for 178 rushing yards against Washington State, starting a string
of five straight games with at least 102 yards rushing and 26
carries. Even though the better defenses at the tail end of the
Utes' 2014 schedule were able to slow him down, Booker still enjoyed
a stellar first season at the FBS level (292 carries, 1,512 yards
and 10 TDs; 43 catches, 306 yards and two TDs). The two-time All-Pac
12 selection (first-team in 2014, second-team in 2015) was well
on his way to improving those marks as a senior, garnering at
least 20 touches and going over 100 total yards in every game,
until he suffered a torn meniscus in a Nov. 14 double-overtime
loss at Arizona, which kept him out for the remainder of the season.
Best Scheme Fit: As a complementary,
third-down/breather back in an offense creative enough to consistently
put him out into space.
Patient cutback runner who doesn't mind hitting it up hard
in between the tackles; displays the lateral agility to slide
(not jump stop) from gap to gap while keeping his feet moving
in order to explode through the hole.
Crafty enough to dodge unexpected pressure in the offensive
backfield and shows good instincts avoiding defenders in the
defensive backfield; does not lose much speed when changing
Natural receiver out of the backfield who plucks the ball
away from his body; makes a quick transition to runner after
the catch (was not asked to run many routes in college, however).
Dangerous in open space and can provide a chunk play when
he has room, although he cannot be considered a true "home run"
Proved capable of being a workhorse; topped 25 carries in
six of his team's 10 games in 2015 and exceeded 30 rushing attempts
Doesn't run with a great deal of power (especially for a 220-pound
back) and needs to improve lower-body strength; goes down too
easily on arm tackles and gets tripped up in the hole far too
often (ran with far more power in 2015, however).
Will be a 24-year-old rookie and is coming off a season-ending
knee injury that prevented him from running at the NFL Combine
as well as his pro day.
Logged 640 touches in two years at the FBS level (and 953
total including his two JUCO years) despite sharing carries
for the first three games of the 2014 season and missing the
final three games of 2015.
Seems to understand who/where to block, but doesn't appear
to have much passion to do it.
Career fumble percentage (1.4 percent) is a red flag; does
not help that he carries the ball almost exclusively in his
Booker has drawn comparisons to Arian Foster and Jeremy Langford,
but I believe those to be well off-base. In his heyday, Foster
was an all-purpose glider that found his perfect fit in a zone-blocking
system, but could have ultimately thrived in just about any offense
because he possessed the power to break tackles and the long speed
to be considered a "home run" threat. Langford also
plays much faster than Booker and also seems more adept at breaking
tackles. Foster and Langford each came from colleges (Tennessee
and Michigan State, respectively) that asked them to do more of
the things NFL backs are asked to do (and do them well), whereas
Booker doesn't really have one particular area - perhaps outside
of his receiving ability - in which he truly stands out.
I reviewed five of Booker's games (2014 Washington State, 2014
Oregon State, 2014 UCLA, 2015 Michigan and 2015 California) over
the last two years and was thoroughly unimpressed with four of
them. Some 220-pound backs can be considered "bangers"
that make their living in between the tackles; Booker tries to
do this but doesn't possess enough power to make it work all that
often. Making matter worse, he's isnít exactly a speed demon
either, so he's more of what I call a "sustainer". As
a result, it would be a mistake to believe (even with the impressive
workload he was able to handle for the better part of two FBS
seasons) that he will be an every-down, every-situation back in
the NFL. At this point, he is a big back physically with a little
back's game. The comparison to Powell seems like an insult at
first because the longtime New York Jet has been consistently
been referred to many as a JAG (just another guy) by many media
types. However, Powell proved in 2015 he has a very nice niche
in the NFL as an explosive passing-down back in an offense that
consistently schemes him into space, and that is exactly the kind
of path that I feel would be best for Booker. Since he has more
of a little man's game, I would suggest he drop a bit of weight
in order to enhance his speed and quickness. At the end of the
day, there is a place for him in this league (just like Powell),
but it will almost certainly be as a complementary back.
Doug Orth has written for FF
Today since 2006 and been featured in USA Today’s Fantasy
Football Preview magazine since 2010. He hosted USA Today’s
hour-long, pre-kickoff fantasy football internet chat every Sunday
in 2012-13 and appears as a guest analyst on a number of national
sports radio shows, including Sirius XM’s “Fantasy Drive”.
Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.