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Breaking Down RB Ty Chandler

NCAA Football: Miami at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

With the 169th pick in the NFL Draft, the Vikings selected Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina. The Vikings acquired the 169th pick in a trade with the Raiders for the #126 pick, and also included pick #165.

Chandler was #181 on the consensus big board, and the 15th ranked running back.

TRAITS

Chandler has athletic traits similar to the Cook brothers- Dalvin and James. Excellent speed, poor agility, mixed explosion, and a bit undersized. Chandler’s traits tend to show up more in his running style, however, which isn’t the case with the Cooks, who you wouldn’t know scored so poorly on agility drills based on their running style.

James Cook’s overall RAS looks better as he skipped the shuttle, 3-cone, and bench drills, which was probably to avoid a poor score. His brother Dalvin didn’t fare so well in those drills, and James is often said to be a smaller version of Dalvin in his traits and style.

An older player as a rookie, Chandler turns 24 this month.

COLLEGE GRADES AND STATS

Chandler spent his first four years in Tennessee, working in a RB-by-committee role, before transferring to North Carolina as a grad student and getting the full-time gig there- where he flourished. A 4-star recruit, Chandler was named Division II AA Mr. Football twice in Tennessee, and narrowed his college offers down to Auburn, Duke, Florida, Georgia, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Tennessee- electing to stay close to home in Tennessee.

College Football Reference
PFF
PFF

SCOUTING REPORTS

Dane Brugler, The Athletic:

STRENGTHS: Excellent quickness through the hole, and his speed only picks up at the second and third levels … patiently reads his blocks and doesn’t require gaping holes; only a sliver will do … squares his pads and keeps his legs churning to consistently pick up more yards than he should … showed improved determination in 2021 compared to his Tennessee tape … takes care of the football, with only one fumble over the last two seasons … productive pass catcher with dynamic ability on angle routes … will have the occasional drop, but shows generally dependable hands … was the regular kick returner earlier in his career and averaged 18.1 yards per return, including one touchdown return as a freshman … was productive at Tennessee before having a career year for the Tar Heels as a senior transfer.

WEAKNESSES: Owns a lean build with very average definition … not a violent or powerful runner at the line of scrimmage … his vision is OK but not a strength to his game, and he is at his best when directed to the hole … needs a moment to reset himself at the second level, giving pursuit a chance to close in … late set-up and average body control take a dent out of his elusiveness rating on Madden … better toughness than I expected in pass protection, dropping his shoulder into rushers, but his technique and consistency must improve in this area … doesn’t have a ton of special teams experience aside from kick returner.

SUMMARY: A one-year starter at North Carolina, Chandler had a strong senior season in offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s RPO-based multiple scheme as he tried to fill the shoes of the departed Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. After four productive seasons at Tennessee (his 3,245 all-purpose yards rank top five in Volunteers’ history), he transferred to Chapel Hill for his final season and finished top three in the ACC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Despite inconsistent vision and play strength, Chandler attacks holes with burst and tempo and then hits another gear to weave through the defense. He is experienced running routes and producing as a pass catcher, and his blocking should continue to get better. Overall, Chandler isn’t the most creative runner between the tackles, but he is a multi-dimensional back with above-average speed and solid contact balance. His versatility will be valued by NFL teams who ask a lot of their backs.

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James Fragoza, Pro Football Network:

Since 2010, North Carolina has quietly had six running backs drafted to the NFL. Just last year, Javonte Williams (second round) and Michael Carter (fourth round) joined the pro ranks after stellar campaigns. Although Ty Chandler may not go as high as the two RBs before him, his scouting report discusses why he will be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Williams and Carter left big shoes to fill in Chapel Hill. And as he has proven throughout his career, Chandler was up for the challenge. Behind a less-than-ideal offensive line, he rushed for over 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2021. After four years of flashes at Tennessee, Chandler finally put his talents on full display at North Carolina.

While his season boosted his draft stock (including a 213-yard, 4-TD performance against Wake Forest), Chandler continued his ascension during the pre-draft process. First up was the East-West Shrine Bowl. Chandler routinely put on a show at practice, displaying excellent receiving ability in 1-on-1s and even scoring back-to-back touchdowns during goal-line drills.

Chandler capped off his Shrine Bowl experience with 69 yards on 11 attempts in the all-star game itself, rattling off two runs of 15+ yards. Yet, the UNC RB wasn’t done. He turned his attention toward the NFL Combine, logging a 4.38 40-yard dash (third-fastest among RBs), 31″ vertical, and 10’1″ broad. While his jumps were solid, the 40 time is what will have NFL scouts giving Chandler another look.

Although he entered the year under the radar outside of the Tennessee fan base, Chandler has risen into the mid-Day 3 discussion for the NFL Draft. It’s a deep running back class, but I believe the North Carolina RB has done enough to separate himself from the lower tiers.

Where Chandler wins

Chandler’s key attributes are his patience and explosiveness. He allows his blockers to create space for him and explodes through the hole. At the beginning of his career at Tennessee, Chandler would try to plow through whatever crease he initially saw. Yet, at North Carolina and the Shrine Bowl, he displayed a newfound patient running style that saw his yards per carry (4.6 to 6.0) jump.

Additionally, in four years with the Vols, Chandler generated 24 runs of 15+ yards. How many did he register with the Tar Heels in one season? 19. He also looked shiftier in the open field, making defenders miss with subtle shoulder fakes after the handoff. In the open field, Chandler can vary his speed, deceiving LBs and DBs into coming downhill before he bursts outside.

The UNC RB also owns a deadly two-step move that breaks defenders down, offering him a window to gain more yardage. He is light on his feet and stays low to absorb contact when trucking through holes. His contact balance is superb, though it may not translate when facing bigger NFL linebackers. Nevertheless, it’s important to note, as in the open field, he can maintain his balance through ankle tackles and bounce off shoulder hits.

Chandler plays with a visible passion, both with the ball in his hands and without. He blocks downfield for scrambling QBs or receivers and often lays the final blow before the whistle. He gives effort as a pass blocker, but his size will limit him in that capacity. Still, he kept his head on a swivel for threats and helped his lineman with a chip before taking on blitzers.

Pass-catching weapon

Although he finished his career with just 73 receptions, Chandler has demonstrated an innate ability to catch passes. He owns soft hands and looks throws in. Furthermore, he can press linebackers down the seam, adjust to throws, and make catches with collisions near.

“I received good feedback on [my pass-catching abilities],” Chandler said at the UNC Pro Day. “It is something I will continue to work on and just incorporate more into my game. I want to be a true threat. It is something I’m constantly working on and want to get better at.”

Chandler also possesses special-teams experience as a kick returner. In his career, he took 38 kicks for 850 yards and a score. His lateral quickness and ability to string together quick cuts make him dangerous against tacklers. Moreover, Chandler’s weight distribution maneuvering is impressive, as he sinks his hips to explode between cuts. The North Carolina back’s feet follow his eyes, allowing him to efficiently hit holes and bounce through cutback lanes.

Across 600+ carries, Chandler has fumbled just 4 times. As a receiver, he has dropped just 5 of 91 targets. In the NFL, nothing will get you in the dog house quicker than fumbles and drops at the running back position. That shouldn’t be an issue for Chandler.

Areas for improvement

While I’ve raved about Chandler, there are some areas for improvement. While his patience is a plus, there are times on tape when he can take too long to process and press the gas pedal. This is especially significant as he transitions to the NFL, where rushing lanes fade faster than at the college level.

Furthermore, Chandler’s frame just isn’t conducive to a powerful play style. Teams can’t expect to have him on the goal line to punch touchdowns in. He has the want-to, but his build doesn’t allow him to run over looming defenders in the box. This also translates to the open field, where longer-armed opponents may bring Chandler down more often than he is used to.

Even against SEC and ACC competition, Chandler could be tracked down from behind on longer runs, meaning NFL DBs will be able to at an even higher rate. The UNC RB could also stand to square his pads earlier on rushing plays and speed up his pace at the line.

Overall, Chandler owns average NFL elusiveness, top speed, and below-average ability through contact. While none of those are death knells to his draft stock, they combine to hinder his upside.

Chandler’s Player Profile

Chandler didn’t have to wait too long to dominate on the high school stage. As a sophomore at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, the future Vols commit rushed for 1,348 yards and 22 scores while leading MBA to its first state title since 2007. In each of the next two seasons, Chandler rushed for 2,000+ yards and 30+ TDs, with the school coming in as the runner-up in the championship round.

The star RB concluded his high school career with 6,158 rushing yards (seventh) and 92 touchdowns (third), both ranking in the top 10 in state history. As a result, the 247S ports Composite rated Chandler as the 67th recruit in the nation, fifth-best running back, and fifth overall prospect in Tennessee.

Chandler received nine offers from SEC programs on top of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, and USC. But in the end, the allure of playing close to home and seeing the field proved too good to pass up.

“I just felt like it’s a great opportunity and an opportunity to possibly come in and play as a freshman,” Chandler said after committing to Tennessee. “Staying close to home and being able to have family come to games was important.”

Chandler’s career at Tennessee and North Carolina

Although John Kelly firmly held the starting role for the Vols, Chandler quickly earned RB2 duties. As a true freshman, he played in all 12 games and served as the team’s leading kick returner. After Kelly left for the NFL, Chandler and Tim Jordan split carries in 2018. Chandler rushed 115 times for 630 yards (5.5 per carry) and 4 TDs, adding another 3 scores as a receiver.

There was yet another mouth to feed in 2019 as Eric Gray joined the fray. All three backs received 100+ carries, with Chandler leading the way with 656 yards. But by 2020, it was primarily Gray’s backfield as Chandler returned to his initial RB2 role. Thus, when the Tennessee native saw an opportunity to be the lead back, he took it.

Chandler transferred to North Carolina with the 1-2 punch of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter off to the NFL. It also helped that Chandler had ties to running backs coach Robert Gillespie (now with Alabama) and co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Tommy Thigpen, who recruited the RB to Tennessee before joining the Tar Heels.

In his only season sporting the Carolina blue, Chandler recorded career highs in carries (182), rushing yards (1,092), rushing touchdowns (13), and receiving yards (216). Safe to say, his decision to move from the SEC to the ACC was beneficial.

What they’re saying about Chandler

“Really like him, I think in the fifth/sixth-round area. When you go back to the games I watched — Miami, Florida, Wake Forest — he was a dynamic performer, went over 1,000 yards. I like the way that he follows his blocks. He really strings his cuts together, which is impressive.” — ESPN senior writer Todd McShay

“He’s really dangerous when he beats the line of scrimmage … I think as we secure the line of scrimmage, and Ty beats it, he’s special and hard to tackle. He’s a downhill kid and has tremendous speed.” — UNC offensive coordinator Phil Longo

Chandler’s NFL Draft ascension

I have the same opinion as ESPN’s McShay: Chandler is a Round 5-6 back. His special-teams ability, pass-catching prowess, and eagerness to succeed will endear him to a team looking for a depth piece on Day 3. He may never lead a backfield, but he can play in the league for a long time.

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Lance Zierlein, nfl.com:

His impressive 2021 should pump some life into Chandler’s draft stock. After sharing carries at Tennessee, Chandler took a bigger bite out of the pie at North Carolina, seeing spikes in yardage, yards per carry and touchdown production. He’s a smooth strider who can become a little disjointed when processing and attacking the blocking scheme. Chandler needs to turn up the play speed in the early stages to attack the fleeting run lanes he will see in the pros. In a deep running back draft, Chandler’s ability to catch passes and return kicks should help improve his chance of being selected on Day 3.

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Damian Parson, The Draft Network:

Ty Chandler was a consensus 4-star recruit coming out of Montgomery Ball Academy in Nashville, Tennessee. He earned a 2017 U.S. Army All-American Bowl nomination and was a candidate for the 2016 All-USA Offensive Player of the Year award. He amassed more than 6,000 rush yards and 92 rushing touchdowns. His father, Chico Chandler, played running back at Ole Miss. Ty Chandler possesses a dual-threat skill set. He is a compact back with speed to gash teams for sizable gains. He has 47 kick returns in his career. He has shown flashes of a mismatch receiving option but lacks consistency. He is reliable and competitive in pass pro.

Ideal Role: No. 2 back in a committee with potential as a lead

Scheme Fit: RPO-based with balance of zone and gap runs

Vision: Chandler has solid vision and finds daylight at a good rate. He finds open creases between his blockers and slips through. His eyes and feet are paired together. His body and mind are on the same page. He displays the ability to identify cut-back lanes prior to bending the run in that direction.

Footwork: Chandler is an effortless and sudden cutter. He is able to press a gap forcing the defender to commit before using his jump-cut to a vacated area. He does not panic in tight spaces. He maintains the lightness and quietness of his feet as he prepares his next maneuver.

Contact Balance: He boasts a compact frame and upper-body strength to fight through arm tackles. Chandler absorbs upper contact and continues forward. He uses a straight arm to subdue incoming defenders. He could benefit from improving his lower-body balance and power.

Durability: Chandler has not missed much time throughout his college career. Toward the end of the 2020 season with Tennessee, he left a game with an undisclosed injury. He does not have a ton of wear on his tires.

Explosiveness: Chandler displays a good burst through the defense into the open field. Once he breaks contain, his gears shift to separate from the defense on big gains. When he plants his foot into the ground, he generates enough power to catapult him into daylight.

Versatility: Chandler brings three-down versatility to an offense. His ability to pick up free rushers in pass protection is a coveted trait. He has pass-catching potential. Also, he adds special teams value as a kick and punt returner.

Elusiveness: Chandler has shown the capability to make defenders miss in the open field. His go-to is a smooth two-step to break defenders down. His spatial awareness allows him to evade incoming defenders in their pursuit of the ball.

Ball Security: Chandler does a good job protecting the football overall. Throughout his career, his fumbles of the football are few and far between. He properly keeps the ball tucked between his forearm and elbow with his hands controlling the tip of the ball.

Passing Down Skills: He lacks consistency as a pass-catcher. At Tennessee, he saw more reps split into the slot and on the boundary as a receiver. There are quality flashes of his tools in space. Only 72 receptions since 2017. His workload and opportunities have been limited. If given the opportunity, Chandler can grow into a big-play threat as a receiver.

Discipline: Chandler scans the line of scrimmage and finds work as a pass protector. On delayed releases, he ensures the quarterback is clear from free rushers before releasing into his route. He follows his blocks with a lead puller. He’s a patient runner that gives his OL time to set up their blocks to spring him into daylight. NFL Draft profile. Find out ()’s NFL Draft ranking, background, college, height, weight, and more.

FIT WITH THE VIKINGS

Chandler will likely begin his career with the Vikings as a 3rd down back and special teamer. He is a speedy north-south runner who’ll pay big dividends if the offensive line can open a hole for him. That said, he’s not a power back and isn’t going to create much if his offensive line isn’t able to open a crease for him. But once he gets through the initial hole- and he does a good job of finding it and accelerating through it- he can do damage with his speed and ability to break defensive back arm tackles and press forward with his momentum- keeping his legs churning. He has a lot of big plays on tape last season.

Chandler also has what appears to be some untapped potential as a receiver. He can run more than wheel routes and does a good job tracking the ball and catching it on seam routes downfield. Lastly, he shows good ability and effort as a blocker. He’s not afraid to take on linebackers or defensive ends and is an effective blocker- rarely missing an assignment.

He’s a year or two older than normal as a rookie, having played five seasons in college, but Chandler has the potential to take 15-20 carries a game and be a 3-down back for the Vikings in Dalvin Cook’s absence, and could be a viable option as the lead back next season if the Vikings decide to move on from Cook as a salary cap casualty, and should Alexander Mattison decide to go elsewhere as a free agent.

COLLEGE FILM

Poll

What level will Ty Chandler reach in the NFL?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    All-Pro / Pro Bowl
    (30 votes)
  • 6%
    Top 20% of running backs
    (33 votes)
  • 21%
    Above average starting running back
    (106 votes)
  • 30%
    Average starting running back
    (152 votes)
  • 9%
    Below average starting running back
    (47 votes)
  • 25%
    He won’t be a starter
    (123 votes)
491 votes total Vote Now