The NFL running back market is stalling out, and it’s not slowing down. This movement toward value could coax teams to seek out potential late-round gems at RB in the 2024 NFL Draft. Can Michigan State RB Jalen Berger be one of those gems? Let’s take a look at his scouting report and discuss it.
Jalen Berger Draft Profile and Measurements
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 215 pounds
- Position: Running Back
- School: Michigan State
- Current Year: Redshirt Junior
The Michigan State running back room is very exciting in 2023. UConn transfer Nathan Carter is a freakishly strong runner at his size who could break out at the Power Five level. Fellow transfer addition Jaren Mangham has intriguing traits, but the team’s top 2024 prospect is Jalen Berger.
Berger, a former four-star recruit who originally began his career at Wisconsin, emerged as a stalwart threat on the ground for the Spartans in 2022. Earning a sizable chunk of the team’s rotational snaps, Berger accumulated 683 yards and six scores on 148 carries while also catching 19 passes for 128 yards.
Berger’s production is improving, and he possesses an eye-catching mix of NFL traits. But does he have enough in his toolbox to command interest in the 2024 NFL Draft?
Jalen Berger Scouting Report
- Berger carries exceptional mass with ease and has the flexibility to lower his pads.
- Possesses uncommon angle freedom, elusiveness, and change of direction for his size.
- Can pinch impressively acute angles on cuts and suddenly redirect from defenders.
- Has the spry lateral burst to shade across gaps at a moment’s notice.
- Berger uses crisp agility to change directions quickly on counters and deceive defenders.
- He has explosive capacity out of exchanges and can streak to the second level.
- Can bend into gaps while accelerating and sear around the backside of blocking looks.
- Can use snappy hip flexibility to swivel vertical attack angles at will while keeping stride.
- He can use space efficiently and snake close behind blockers inside.
- Flashes solid baseline vision and creative feel and can levy cuts after sensing defenders.
- Willing to finish forward in contact situations, grating out extra yards with leg drive.
- Uses his leg drive to scrape through arm tackle attempts and sustain momentum upfield.
- Uses his combined mass and explosiveness to bowl over defenders in the open field.
- He can catch the ball away from his frame on swings and gather his feet for RAC.
- Willing pass protector who can shift gaps and square up defenders with his frame.
- He doesn’t have the instant vertical burst to blink through narrow lanes before they close.
- Lacks elite explosiveness out of cuts and can be caught flat-footed in space.
- His speed isn’t at the breakaway level in open space.
- Balance and sturdiness suffers at times when lowering his shoulder into contact.
- He can be spooked away from interior lanes by peeking at defensive linemen.
- Berger doesn’t always test ideal cutback lanes outside, sometimes deferring to congestion.
- Lacks great full-field vision and will miss wide open spaces outside.
- Can improve at using patience to survey zone blocks and identify B-gap opportunities.
- Is too passive at contact in pass protection, exposing himself to power.
- Sometimes over-shoots blocking angles and lurches ahead of contact.
Current Draft Projection and Summary
On my early 2024 NFL Draft board, Berger is a draftable prospect who grades in the mid-to-late Day 3 range. He’s a potential value deal in a deep 2024 RB class, and a career year in 2023 could help him reach even greater heights.
Right away, Berger’s unique blend of size and finesse stands out. He certainly has physicality at 6’1″, 215 pounds. He doesn’t shy away from contact downhill and can bowl over solo defenders who don’t have their feet set. But past his size, contact balance, and urgency, Berger’s best trait is his fluidity and agility as a big-bodied runner.
Berger carries his mass with ease, and in congested spaces, he brings crisp lateral agility and hip fluidity to change directions at tight angles. He can also snap his hips in and out of different alignments while maintaining his stride and threatening vertically with his speed and burst.
In theory, Berger has the size to carry volume and the agility to create. But he needs to improve his vision and creative efficiency and upgrade his utility on passing downs before he can be labeled as a potential NFL starter. His full-field vision and cutback recognition can be more consistent, and he doesn’t quite have the elite burst to compensate for lapses.
Past the running phase, Berger can improve his pass-blocking technique and leverage maintenance. While he’s flashed the ability to corral screens and swings as a receiver, he’s not a diverse or proven receiving threat.
Berger’s profile is a bit polarizing, and his ultimate ceiling hinges on how much he can sharpen his instincts behind the line. But Berger truly has uncommon agility, change of direction, and flexibility to go along with his size and physicality. That combination makes him an intriguing Day 3 sleeper in the 2024 NFL Draft, who could be a solid rotational back.