Summary: Pierce is a powerful bell-cow running back who could be a nice value pick in the middle rounds of the 2012 NFL Draft. The well-built Temple product is a tough runner between the tackles who picks up yards after contact and wears down defenses. He carried the Owls' offense and controlled games on the ground.
Pierce broke onto the college football scene with a huge freshman campaign in 2009. He ran for 1,361 yards and 16 touchdowns with an average of 5.8 yards per carry. Injuries held him back in 2010, but Pierce then churned out a lot of tough yards en route to a huge season. He totaled 1,481 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2011. Pierce averaged 5.6 yards per carry and beat up on some weaker competition. It could have been an even bigger season, but injuries slowed him down in November.
After accomplishing everything he could at the college level, Pierce decided to skip his senior season. There was no reason for him to take more injury risks. He already has had at least one concussion.
Pierce had an excellent performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.50 seconds, which was much faster than expected. Pierce was hardly used as a receiver at Temple, making just 19 receptions in three seasons, but he looked good in the receiving drills in Indianapolis. Pierce caught the ball naturally and ran good routes.
Pierce could develop into a three-down NFL back after some seasoning. He definitely is the kind of runner who can bang the ball between the tackles on first and second down. Furthermore, Pierce is a tough, physical player who can help control the game clock for his offense. He does not play as fast as he ran at the Combine, but he is a controlling presence on the ground.
Pierce is a one-cut downhill runner who could operate in either a zone-blocking system or man-blocking scheme. He is a good value pick in the middle rounds of the draft, and could be one of those running backs who proves to be a steal.
Player Comparison: Cedric Benson. Pierce's running style looks somewhat similar to the former Bengal's. Benson (5-11, 227) is similar in size, and the way both ball-carriers attack defenses is comparable. Benson was the fourth-overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but Pierce won't be drafted even close to that. He could go on the second day, but should not last long if available on the third day of the 2012 NFL Draft.
NFL Matches: New York Giants, New York Jets, Cincinnati, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia
There are a number of teams that could target Pierce in the middle rounds of the draft. The Giants lost Brandon Jacobs in free agency and could use a hard-nosed runner like Pierce to go with Ahmad Bradshaw. The Jets are looking to invigorate their rushing attack and need a back to replace LaDainian Tomlinson. Pierce could be a nice fit for either New York team.
The Bengals have a need at running back with Benson leaving town. Pierce would give them a nice ball-control ground element to pair with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. Tampa Bay is looking for a back to pair with LeGarrette Blount. Pierce would be a good fit for the running-based offense the Buccaneers want to install. The Eagles are looking for some depth behind LeSean McCoy, and the local product would provide a nice change of pace.
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