"If only Thomas Rawls got a chance to play." "If only Thomas Rawls didn't get injured." "If only Thomas Rawls hadn't gotten himself arrested." "If only Thomas Rawls hadn't gotten himself suspended."
Rawls, the incredibly gifted, but much-maligned running back out of Central Michigan, is the prime example of an "if only" athlete. After transferring from historical B1G power Michigan where he had 73 carries, 333 yards and 5 TDs (most of those stats coming from an inflated sophomore season,) the Flint native looked to prove that he belonged on the field as a starter, and contributed early and often. After running over the Tennessee-Chattanooga Mocs for 121 yards in Week 1, he shone against Purdue, with a wildly impressive 205 yards of total offense, with two touchdowns. The anticipation mounted for Week 3, but then, he was arrested for larceny hours before the game, and the Chips lost. The crowd turned on him after that, even despite two 200+ yard performances against Northern Illinois and Ohio, post suspension.
Despite not playing for 4 games during the season, Rawls still churned out 1,103 yards and 10 TDs on offense during the season, he proved to be a stalwart of the offense, virtually guaranteed to run 100+ yards with 20 carries or more in a game. There were only three games where he failed to reach the 100 yard mark, and two (at Buffalo, vs. Miami,) were hampered by an ankle injury.
Although Rawls and fellow Chippewa-turned-pro Zurlon Tipton wore the same number, Rawls has been a very different type of runner from Tipton, in that Rawls has more of an ability to cut and break away from defenders more readily than did Tipton in his collegiate career. Rawls also showed that he was not afraid to fight for the extra yard, often dragging multiple defenders behind him at crucial parts of the game. However, Rawls is not nearly the pass and run back that Tipton was, which somewhat limits his stock unless he vastly improves on that between now and draft day. Rawls also had a habit of fumbling the ball, something that Tipton did not have a reputation of doing, and that could plunge his stock a little further down.
Tipton was undrafted due to a deep running back class, and it is likely Rawls will face the same fate, as CBS Sports has him ranked the 29th best RB in this draft class. With as quick and powerful a runner as Rawls is, many teams will be hesitant to take a back with such a limited sample of numbers and multiple red flags, namely the larceny conviction. Ralws should at least get an invite to run with an NFL team, since the limited tape that there is shows a great potential for success. Tipton was a practice squad player that was called up to the Colts' roster for the playoffs, where he scored multiple touchdowns as a surprise option for the Colts, so anything is possible for Rawls.
Rawls will have to trust a team that will take a risk on a product that needs refining, and the Raiders, Seahawks, and Patriots are three teams notorious for selecting the sort of prospect that Rawls is. We will have to wait and see in February.