Max Borghi: “I really feel like I’m one of the biggest sleepers in this draft.”
Max Borghi is just waiting for his moment to say I told you so.
The Pomona High alum is not considered among the best running backs in this year’s draft class. Many rankings don’t even have Borghi in the top 20, despite the Washington State star tying the school record with 41 total TDs as a dual-threat workhorse over the past four seasons.
Borghi, the 2017 winner of The Denver Post’s Gold Helmet Award, is motivated by that lack of attention heading into next week’s draft. He is projected to be a late-round pick, if he’s selected at all.
“I feel like I’m disrespected in this draft,” Borghi said. “It just fuels me. I’m not really being talked about, I’m barely being mentioned in the top backs. But I know what I’m capable of, and that’s just more fuel to the fire.
“I really feel like I’m one of the biggest sleepers in this draft. There was more hype and talk about me in earlier years. But I’m still the same player, I’m still the same guy. Once I get my time to show it, the country’s going to start to learn who I am.”
With the Cougars, Borghi amassed 369 carries for 2,158 yards to pair with 156 catches for 1,134 yards. His game is modeled after the likes of fellow Coloradans Christian McCaffrey (Valor Christian, now with the Panthers) and Austin Ekeler (Eaton, Chargers). Borghi is dynamic catching balls out of the backfield and is tough to corral once he gets to the edge or in open space.
“He’s always been a tough, physical runner, and he’s got kind of a unique running style where his shoulder pads are pretty far out in front of him — he’s got a little bend at the waist there,” says ex-Washington State running backs coach Eric Mele, now special teams coordinator at Mississippi State.
“So when people go to tackle him, they’re eating his face-mask and shoulder pads, and they can’t get to his legs, which keep churning behind him. His style is unique and effective, and he’s built to run the football in addition to what we know he can do receiving and as a home-run hitter.”
Borghi hasn’t visited any teams during the pre-draft process but has done video calls with an array of them. The Broncos, Chargers, Bills, Chiefs and Lions are among those with the most interest.
The running back’s stock this spring was affected by a high ankle sprain that Borghi suffered on the first day of practice for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. That kept him out of that game and the combine, but Borghi healed up in time for the Cougars’ pro day, where he ran a 4.47-second 40-yard dash.
“The process was a little bumpy and not exactly what I wanted, but I dealt with it and I’m glad I’m better now,” Borghi said. “My mindset’s in the same spot as it has been. I just need my shot and my opportunity, and whatever team takes that shot on me is going to get a great player, someone who has a lot in the tank, and like I said at the combine — someone who is ready to be unleashed.”
Borghi burst onto the collegiate scene in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense during the running back’s first couple years on campus. He had 12 total TDs as a freshman. Then, as a sophomore, was the lone Power 5 player with at least 800 rushing yards and 550 receiving yards. A back injury and a COVID cancellation limited Borghi to one game in 2020, but he rebounded with 880 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior.
Current WSU running backs coach Brian Smith, who called Borghi “a complete player,” said Borghi improved between the tackles to address the criticism that he is a marginal power runner and lacks the strength to run inside in the NFL.
“What you saw more of was him finishing runs, physical and going forward, as opposed to going out the sideline,” Smith said. “He was good down around the goal line in his first couple years (at WSU) — he was tough to tackle and always falling forward — so you could see that physicality potential when he was near the goal line. He brought that out more the past two seasons.”
If he’s selected next weekend, Borghi would be the third Pomona player drafted, joining tight end Frank Wainright in 1991 (eighth round, Saints) and offensive lineman Derek West in 1995 (fifth round, Colts).
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