By Matt Bressington
During my time scouting in person, I have seen many prospects that I have noted as future players to keep an eye on. During the 2022 U19 European Championships, I saw many of these prospects, one in particular I felt would be considered one of the best all-around Running Backs that Europe has produced in the last few years. During the championships, he secured the game MVP and then a championship for his country. Following the footsteps of the many great Austrian Running Backs that have lifted the crown and gone on to do great things in the leagues around Europe. Raphael Komeyli-Birjandi is the next in line for Austria’s dominance in the continent.
Running Back – Austria – Raphael Komeyli-Birjandi – Graz Giants
I mentioned that well-rounded was a good way to describe Raphael, this is an extreme understatement. The man can do everything a Running Back needs to do, lining up in the backfield, in the slot, outside the numbers, Wingback, kick return and punt return. Overall, there are common factors that appear wherever he is on the field, the vision when the ball is in his hands is above the level of some players in ELF. Inside or outside, he sees the gap and can hit that next gear and burst through the secondary into open space. When he gets into that space, he is a home run hitter, he just seems to slice through the seam and never gives the defenders a chance if they are remotely flat-footed or a yard too wide/narrow. It’s the movement that allows him to do it, he is never still, always looking for the gap while moving upfield as to not lose progress and keep momentum. His hands are well above average in his position and even above average for a receiver in many leagues, he focuses on the ball and takes the contact in the middle if he’s coming out from the backfield or slot. Outside he uses the speed he possesses to simply go past Corners. His route running is about where it needs to be for a Running back and although Graz does play him as a receiver a lot, I think he is best utilised from the Back position as he is more effective for the passing and running game.
To see him progress to the next level, he has some fundamental and technical improvements to adjust to. Firstly, he takes contact too high up, lowering his shoulder in contact is not part of his shown skill set, and to be featured back in the ELF he needs to be able to fight for the yards. Similarly, the blocking is not where it would need to be as of now, and I think that’s part of the scheme as well, as an offensive weapon he hasn’t needed to be a blocker. With his lack of bulk on his frame, he may struggle to take the contact in these blocking and short-down situations, so I do have concerns with his durability. His cuts and breaks can also be sharper, he does have a gliding style of running but when the space is more compact, he will need to make tighter angle adjustments to exploit the gaps when they are there because they will close quicker in harder leagues.
Play Style Comparisons
Predicted Possible Landing Spots