He has trouble sifting through tackles at the linebacker level and is a one-speed runner most of the time. He hasn't displayed the competitiveness and will that he did in 2010 for quite some time."
Baker had his best season in 2010 as a sophomore with 12 starts, recording a team-best 1,201 yards (third-best in Big Ten) on 207 attempts and 13 scores, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors.
He shared the starting running back duties with Le'Veon Bell in 2011 as a junior (8 starts), finishing second on the team with 665 yards on 170 carries (3.9) and five touchdowns, adding five catches for 60 yards (12.0) and 1 score. After the season, Baker surprised many with his decision to make the jump to the NFL a year early.
Baker burst onto the scene as a true freshman and emerged in 2010 when he took over the starting running back role, rushing for over 1,200 yards with 13 touchdowns. But he took a step back in 2011, losing grasp of the role as the featured runner with only two games of more than 15 carries.
He doesn't have prototypical size and build, but he packed muscle onto his frame and runs with pop. Baker's decision to go pro went under the radar, but NFL teams are fully aware of his game-changing initial burst and quickness -- an ideal change-of-pace back who could thrive in the right secondary role.
Strengths: Has a smaller, compact build with adequate thickness throughout his frame. Has shifty footwork with the natural burst and lateral quickness to make defenders miss and turn upfield in a hurry -- tough to tackle in space.
Possesses agile feet with the patience, balance and vision to sidestep and elude defenders -- nice job following his blocks and working well in tight areas.
Physical at the point of attack and keeps his feet moving through contact to fight and squirm through tackles. Was productive in East Lansing, finishing third in the Big Ten in rushing in 2010, and is a confident and ambitious player.
Weaknesses: Lacks elite size for the position and looks maxed out physically -- also carries some durability concerns. Has short legs with only average top-end speed and can be caught from behind. Not the most instinctive runner and too often tries for the big play, dancing and losing yards.
Lacks the natural power to push the pile and feels more comfortable avoiding contact. An inconsistent receiver out of the backfield with suspect concentration and limited experience (only 15 receptions in his MSU career). Needs extensive work as a blocker in the backfield, struggling in pass pro.
Also has ball security questions with some costly fumbles over his career. Wasn't nearly as effective in 2011, sharing the running back duties with Le'Veon Bell this past season and struggled to match his production from 2010 -- only one 100+ yd game as a junior after five such performances last year.
NFL Comparison: Javon Ringer, Tennessee Titans."
-- Dane Brugler
Compact runner keeps his pads low and can move the pile; not all that elusive but makes quick cuts upfield; ran for 1,200 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 5.8 yards per carry in 2010;
Has never been used much as a receiver and is not a particularly good blocker in pass protection."
Strong and is capable of running through arm tackles, gets very low and pushes through defenders... Good balance through the hole, tough to knock off center... Looked like a top talent during his sophomore season...
Great inside runner, runs with good forward lean and keeps his legs moving on contact... Strong character, a workout warrior and a leader... No significant injury history, hasn't missed a game in either of the previous two seasons.
Negatives -- Production severely dropped off as a junior, saw his rushing yards decrease from 1,201 in 2010 down to 665 in 2011... Touchdowns fell from 13 to five from 2010 to 2011... Averaged under four yards per carry last year, a huge drop off from the past two years...
Declared for the draft early with the reasoning that he didn't want to get hurt and could have a worse year, not exactly the type of confidence NFL teams want to see coming off his worst year of his career to date...
Lost most of his playing time to Leveon Bell, seems like a similar situation to John Clay declaring last year after losing most of his carries to Montee Ball... An indecisive runner who chops his feet and doesn't head up field as quickly as you would like... Not a game breaker, didn't have a single run over 25 yards this past season...
Rarely used in the passing game... Not a great pass blocker despite having the strength to be above-average... A one-dimensional back who should only be used in short yardage situations and as a between-the-tackles runner."
Baker is built like Ray Rice even though Baker is not necessarily the same contributor out as a pass-receiver. His speed is good and should run in the high 4.4s during the 40-yard dash. Too often, he is looking to dole out punishment rather than avoid it or minimize. This works in the Big 10 since the NFL-caliber players are spread thin.
Michigan State's offense is lead by quarterback Kirk Cousins. When teams draft a running back, you either want a game-changer who can break the big runs or a grinder. Baker is in that middle zone between both.
What will really set off his style of play is hitting the holes more aggressively. He seems to scan the gap assignment and pause for just a split second to assess while hole to hit. If he can cut down on that and accelerate into the second level, Baker could develop after a few seasons as a solid backup."