What Can Devante Mays Contribute?

Rookie running back Aaron Jones is out three to six weeks with a sprained MCL. It’s a huge loss for the Packers, as Jones has been their most effective running back. It’s also a loss that I don't think we could have anticipated its impact coming into the season.

Many, including us when he was drafted, expected Aaron Jones to be good, but I don't think a lot of people expected him to be as good as he has been and used in the ways he's been.

With him out of the picture for the time being, it'll be Ty Montgomery, Jamaal Williams and maybe Devante Mays in the Packers’ backfield. I think we know quite a bit about Montgomery and Williams, but let’s talk about Devante Mays because I think he's an intriguing player.

What are Devante Mays’ strengths?

He's big and he's fast. Mays ran the 40-yard dash in 4.52 seconds. He’s somewhere between–depending on who you ask–5-9.5 to 5-10 and even upwards of 5-11. He’s a big, beefy running back, weighing in 218 pounds at his pro day, and jumped out of the gym during his workout. Mays had a 40.5 inch vertical and a 131 inch broad jump. Those are both the best numbers out of any running back the Packers have ever drafted in the Ted Thompson era.

What's interesting to me is a number that we look at behind the scenes–something called Speed Score. It’s a combination of a few different numbers, including the 40-yard dash and the player’s weight, ran through a formula that produces a rating around 100. This tells you how fast a player can run.

If a player has a number over 100, he is considered to have a very good Speed Score. He's moving his mass quickly. If it's below 100, you still can be pretty fast, it’s just that Speed Score doesn't love you quite as much because you’re not moving your mass as fast.

For example, Aaron Jones ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. It’s a respectable time, but at just 208 pounds, his Speed Score is 96.2. In theory, the Speed Score metric thinks he should be moving faster, given his size. Devante Mays, about ten pounds heavier, ran a 4.52 40-yard dash, and as a result his Speed Score is 104.4. That’s a pretty good score.

What are Devante Mays’ weaknesses?

While Mays does a good job moving the mass that he has, where he falls off is in his agility. He doesn't score quite as well as a few of the other Packers running backs in the world of agility. Ultimately, he's a big, strong guy who can run real fast in a straight line.

The other knock on Devante Mays coming out of Utah State was that he wasn’t a very good pass blocker, and excelled primarily just as a runner. He doesn't contribute a lot protecting your quarterback or as a receiver.

Also worth noting–he was injured for most of his senior season, but was quite productive as a junior, where he had nearly 1,000 yards and averaged more than six yards per carry.

How might the Packers use Devante Mays going forward?

So far, the Packers have not played Mays at all on offense. For month or so of the season, Green Bay alternated between Mays and Aaron Jones as to who would be active on special teams. Mays has played in three games this season, but he’s been essentially shut down once Jones showed coaches what he could contribute on offense.

Only once this season have the Packers made all four running backs (Mays, Jones, Williams and Montgomery) active. So far, Mays has played just 20 snaps–all of them on special teams.

I do think there is a role for him moving forward. When you look at the running backs that the Packers drafted this spring, they drafted three very different guys.

  • Aaron Jones is sort of the scat back who uses speed and agility, can catch the ball out of the backfield, and can break some big runs because of that speed and agility.
  • Jamaal Williams is the big bruiser type back, useful in short yardage situations. He’s powerful, big, and strong. When you think about a “power running back,” you probably picture some like Jamaal Williams. We saw a lot of that on Sunday.
  • Devante Mays seems like a middle ground between Jones and Williams. He runs faster than Williams, but he's a lot bigger than Jones.

Mays shares some similarities to Christine Michael. When Michael was at his best with the Packers, he was running in a straight line. Michael’s a well-built back who runs low to the ground; he’s a powerful, fast straight-line runner.

That's Devante Mays. He's not as fast as Michael, and he’s probably going to have a pretty limited role because much like Michael he was not very good in the passing game. If he sticks to his assignments, Mays could be a useful player for the Packers.

This post is an adapted transcript from the most recent episode of Blue 58, which you can listen to below. Don't forget to subscribe on iTunes!