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NFL Draft profile: Tyler Gaffney

Tyler Gaffney, Running Back

Alter ego: “Tyler Gaffney, left fielder.” Gaffney played three years of Stanford baseball and one year of minor league ball with the State College Spikes.

CBSSports.com projection: 6th round

Cardinal career: It was a tale of two Gaffneys for Tyler throughout his Stanford career: the baseball player and the football player. Gaffney the football player entered into the Cardinal’s stable of running backs as early as his true freshman season, rushing for 87 yards as a freshman and then 255 yards as a sophomore. His junior year, Gaffney emerged as the number two running back behind Stepfan Taylor ’13, finishing with 449 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns, including 117 rushing yards in the Cardinal’s record-setting 446-yard rushing performance against Washington.

But after batting .301 over his first three years as a starting outfielder for the Stanford baseball team, Gaffney the baseball player decided to leave Stanford for professional baseball after the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted him in the 24th round. However, Gaffney returned to Stanford in 2013 after one year of professional baseball to play his senior season of football — a season that would ultimately go down as one of the greatest by a tailback in Stanford history. Expected to be a part of a “running back by committee,” Gaffney quickly took over the starting role for himself and finished the season with 1,709 rushing yards on 330 rushing attempts, both second all-time in Cardinal history, en route to being named to USA Today’s All-America second team. In addition, his 45 carries against Oregon in a rushing performance for the ages set a school record and his 21 total touchdowns as a senior rank third all-time for a single season in Cardinal history.

Pro stock: Gaffney answered some of the questions about his speed with a good performance at the NFL Combine; his three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle times ranked second and first, respectively, among running backs, and he recorded a respectable 4.49 40-yard dash time. Additionally, he proved his ability to be a strong, durable runner with his senior year performance, consistently churning his legs to pick up the extra few yards. Scouts worry about his agility and breakaway speed in the NFL, however, as his 5-foot-11, 220-pound frame may not be enough to consistently power through bigger opponents in the NFL like it was able to in college. Gaffney may need more quickness and elusiveness to complement his powerful running style at the next level.

Highlight: Plenty of highlights to choose from for Gaffney, but maybe none better than this #SCTop10 run against USC when he really proved just how difficult of a runner he is to bring down.

And for those concerned about Gaffney’s speed, here he is getting to the edge for the opening touchdown of the 2013 Pac-12 Championship Game.

About Michael Peterson

Michael Peterson is the football editor at The Stanford Daily. He has served as a beat reporter for football, baseball and men’s soccer and also does play-by-play broadcasting of baseball and men’s soccer for KZSU. Michael is a sophomore from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. majoring in computer science. To contact him, please email him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Candid One

    Nice succinct profile, MP. I’m bemused by how Tyler has shrunk from the battering that he gave and took this season. Stanford’s roster listed him as 6’1″ for the duration and then he tapes at 5’11” at the NFL Combine. Tough sport! :-)

    Still, Gaffney is bigger and nominally faster than Frank Gore. Tyler’s longevity in the NFL will probably depend on the offensive scheme of the team that drafts him, huh? It’s a question whether Tyler would stay in football if he’s stuck behind Adrian Peterson at Minnesota, or a similar situation. It’s probably instructive to him that Toby Gerhart is valued for his “low-mileage” after four years as AP’s backup. BTW, Gaffney and Gerhart have similar times in the 40. Both were under-appreciated for their speed.