Polk, a highly touted recruit, originally signed with Washington as a member of Tyrone Willingham?s final class. He appeared ready to make an immediate splash for the Huskies, starting the first two games of his career, but injured his shoulder and was granted a medical redshirt in 2008.
Bigger and stronger in 2009, Polk enjoyed the greatest freshman season in Washington history, rushing for 1,113 yards and enjoying some of his most impressive performances against the Huskies? top competition (90 yards vs. LSU, 96 all-purpose yards in upset over then No. 3 ranked USC, 104 yards and a TD against Oregon).
Polk was even better this past season, rushing for 1,465 yards and nine touchdowns ? second behind only Corey Dillon?s (1,695 in 1996) in Washington?s storied history. It was Polk, not Locker, whose performance in the final three games of the regular season assured Washington of its first bowl berth since 2002.
Polk rushed for a gaudy 519 yards in the final three games, scoring four touchdowns over that span. He carried that momentum into the rematch with Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl, rushing for 177 yards and a touchdown. Perhaps not surprisingly, it was Polk, not Locker, who was voted as the Team MVP in 2010 by his Husky teammates.
Due to the medical redshirt, Polk enters the 2011 season with two years of eligibility remaining. Nonetheless, some believe this will be his last season with the Huskies. An ultra-physical back who has already undergone two shoulder surgeries, Polk has proven himself at the collegiate level and might subscribe to the theory that every running back only has so many carries in their body before they begin to break down.
Inside: Strong interior runner. Quickly presses the line of scrimmage and has the burst to get through the line of scrimmage and into the second level quickly. A classic North/South runner who doesn?t waste time moving laterally. Good vision to set up cutback lanes once into the open field. Doesn?t possess eye-popping breakaway speed, but is fast enough to gain yardage in chunks when he finds a seam. Fights for extra yardage and is a reliable short yardage runner. Good forward lean. Keeps his legs churning on contact. Protects the ball with both hands.
Outside: Not truly explosive, but possesses enough speed to beat the linebacker to the edge. Looks to get upfield. Won?t rely on his speed to run around defenders. Looks for the hole and can stick his foot in the ground and cut upfield quickly. Does not possess top breakaway speed, though he?s rarely caught from behind.
Breaking Tackles: Unquestionably his best attribute. Very physical runner who keeps his legs churning on contact. Rarely goes down with the first hit. Lowers his shoulder into defenders and shows a variety of natural running skills to break free, including a stiff-arm, spin move and pure determination. Runs low to the ground and with good forward lean to generate the tough yards. Keeps his arms wrapped securely around the ball.
Blocking: An underrated component of his game. Cognizant pass defender who is willing to take on the hard-charging linebacker head on. Keeps his shoulders square and brings his hips to jolt the defender. Will resort to cut-blocks, on occasion, and could use some technical work, as he?ll lunge low. NFL pass rushers may be able to leap over him? Willing to help teammates downfield.
Receiving: Not used on a variety of routes here, but possesses the athleticism and soft hands to contribute to an NFL passing attack. Reliable hands out of the backfield (46 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns), demonstrating the ability to quickly secure the pass and turn upfield. Good flexibility, balance to adjust to the poorly thrown pass. Good vision and patience for screens.
Intangibles: Doubled as a kick returner as a redshirt freshman, averaging 19.8 yards a return on 12 attempts? Final pro grade may not be determined until the Combine as team doctors will want to check out his medical? Has already undergone two shoulder surgeries, a concern considering Polk?s highly physical running style? Signed with Washington largely due to the fact that it was where his mother wanted him to go?"
Allows his blocks to set before accelerating through the hole. However, possesses only an average first step. Showcases more of a second gear once he gets his legs churning in the open field, but it takes him a couple steps to reach top end speed.
Doesn’t do a great job running behind his pads inside and despite his aggressive, hard/physical-running style can be tripped up easily at times. Isn’t overly fluid when trying to change directions at top end speed.
Showcases some subtle foot quickness when picking his way through the line and when trying to side step a defender. But gets narrow with his lower half when trying to make a defender miss at full speed and goes to the ground too easily.
Now, he does run hard and will lower his pad level into contact, churn his legs through the play and create additional yards. However, isn’t the type of overly physical back many make him out to be because he often exposes too much of his frame and can be wrapped up easily on contact.
Isn’t real shifty at the line and despite doing a nice job reading his run keys, is more of a weaver when picking his way through traffic and not a real sharp/sudden change of direction back. Doesn’t play overly fast, seems to build speed as he goes and might time better than he plays, but in tight areas looks like a 4.55 guy.
Will catch the football well out of the backfield though. Looks natural snatching throws off his frame and has experience as a wide out in high school. Is also a natural blocker in blitz pickup.
Is able to quickly to recognize the blitz, slide his feet and anchor on contact. Would like to see him do a better job sticking on contact though, but works hard to stay engaged and will be able to play on third downs early in the NFL.
Impression: Is a big kid with a good feel inside, runs hard and will break some tackles because of his aggressive natrure. However, pad level, initial burst and lack of great change of direction skills make me think he’s a bit limited as an NFL starter."
Outside Running: It’s hard to say Polk isn’t an outside runner because he rarely attempts to go outside the tackles. That said, he won’t make a living running on the edge as he lacks the speed to be effective on the edge. He’s a north-south runner.
Hands: Polk will have to develop as a receiver in the NFL. He has the abilities to become an above-average receiver at the next level with soft hands. He’s very raw in this area with limited receiving opportunities in the Washington offense.
Blocking/Durability: Polk is relatively disappointing as a blocker. He has excellent strength at the point of attack which would lend itself to be a strong area. But his failure to recognize blitzers is frustrating and at times cost Washington big play opportunities. He’s a high volume back that remained durable throughout his career. He injured his foot in 2008 after the second game and had a scope done on his knee in the summer of 2011.
Bottom Line: Polk is a power runner that will need to develop as a receiver and blocker in the NFL if he wants to be a three down back. At this point he would have to come off the field on 3rd down due to his deficiencies in those areas. As a pure power runner, he’s a close second to Trent Richardson.
Draft Projection: Polk is a mid-second round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft."
Chris Polk will likely feel the wrath of the declining running back market. He is one of the top running backs in the country but remains a bit of an unknown. Polk has been very productive throughout his career and at times carried a struggling Washington program.
He is a tough runner that does the majority of his damage between the tackles. His best attribute is his ability to identify the opening and pick his way through the defense. Polk is a reliable target out of the backfield and does a good job plucking the ball with his hands.
While Polk has been an effective college running back, he doesn't possess a lot of skills that translate well to the NFL. He has an up and down running style which exposes a lot of his frame making it easier for the defenders to make a tackle. Polk doesn't have break away speed and lacks the elusiveness to make a lot of defenders miss. He isn't going to outrun many defensive angles.
Overall, Polk doesn't have the explosiveness and upside that is coveted in the NFL. He has a shot to make an impact but likely as part of a rotation. If he adjusts his running style and keeps his pads low he could improve his stock. Polk will need to make a living as a power runner which is all about pad level.
Bold Statement: Polk will be selected no earlier than the 3rd round of the 2012 NFL draft.
Games Viewed: California ('10), Stanford ('10), Nebraska ('10), Washington State ('10)
- Polk has good size and bulk
- He has a thick lower half that helps him remain balanced and generate power
- Polk has a tendency to run high and expose his body
- His running power is impacted by his up and down running style
- He doesn't quickly press the hole and spends too much time searching for an opening
- Polk has patience and isn't afraid to wait and let the play develop
- His ability to side step and cut is what helps him weave through the defense
- Once he identifies the hole he has enough quickness to get through before it is filled
- Polk doesn't not possesses great speed or explosiveness
- He is more effective between the tackles picking his way through the open holes
- His powerful running style helps him pick up yards after contact
- However, he would be more powerful if he was able to run behind his pads
- Polk is a tough runner
- He isn't afraid to pass protect but tends to lunge his shoulders at the defender rather than using his hands
- Polk is not a dynamic receiver but is a reliable target that plucks the ball out of the air"
Also has good vision and makes crisp cuts in the hole; has decent straight-ahead speed, but lacks a real burst, although he’s seldom caught from behind in the open field; is also a good blocker and receiver and takes care of the ball;
Health is an issue, though as he has undergone two shoulder surgeries, including this past spring which will be a red flag to pro teams given his physical running style; grounded, hard working player comes from a solid family background."
Simply runs through arm tackles, defenders have to wrap him up to take him down... Displays good balance for a guy who has a tendency to run high... Holds the ball high and tight, secures the ball well and rarely fumbles... Great vision, picks his spots well and does a good job of finding the hole... does not dance in the backfield...
Good blocker who anchors well and picks up his assignments... Solid receiver out of the backfield, displays soft hands and an ability to run good routes... Prolific runner at Washington where he had three 1,000 yard rushing seasons and back to back years of 1,400 yards or more... Consistent, had ten 100-yard outings this year...
Ended his career on a strong note with 147 yards against Baylor in the Alamo Bowl... Good intangibles, has worked hard to come back and improve after numerous injuries... Has some experience returning kicks... Does a lot of things well, but nothing spectacular, an overall solid player.
Negatives -- Does not have elite top-speed, it's good enough to be effective, but he's not a burner by any means... Runs high which has exposed him to some big hits, needs to lower his pad level... Has a bit of a choppy running style, looks awkward... Is almost too patient at times and doesn't explode up field the way you'd like to see...
Suffered a serious shoulder injury in 2008 and has had two shoulder surgeries... His physical running style will continue to make him prone to injuries... Limited upside due to his lack of long speed and will always be an injury risk due to his style of play."