MOBILE, Ala. -- For former Auburn running back Tre Mason, one question comes up whenever discussing his NFL potential: how will his lack of size translate to the next level?
Mason is listed at 5-foot-10 but is likely a few inches shorter. He became Auburn's workhorse under new coach Gus Malzahn in 2013, rushing for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns on 317 carries en route to being a Heisman Trophy finalist. But it was his last three games in which he amassed 663 yards that brought about the NFL buzz.
"He plays bigger than his listed size and finishes every run," Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage said.
Mason knows that the critics have questions about his size, and he addressed the issue when he initially declared for the draft.
"I guess they are just going to have to watch tape," Mason told reporters last month.
"I'm not afraid to put my nose in there and get dirty. I feel like I can run between the tackles and outside the tackles. I try to be very dynamic and run the ball in different ways."
One scout mentioned names like New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles and San Diego Chargers running back Danny Woodhead as players Mason should model himself after. Sproles, at 5-foot-6, and Woodhead, at 5-foot-8, both make a living on third down while occasionally running between the tackles.
"The way the running back position is going, most people are carving it up into different roles and I absolutely believe he can find a role in the NFL," Savage said.
Savage said Mason's lack of size won't be NFL teams biggest question when evaluating him for the draft.
"What he's going to have to prove in the spring," Savage said, "is his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and his ability to pass protect because you didn't get to see him do much of that in Auburn's system."
Mason had just 12 receptions for 163 yards and one touchdown reception.
No running back was taken in the first round of last year's draft, and Mason likely won't be the one to change that as he received a third round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory board.
While Mason isn't projected to be a first-round pick, some are still high on him.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt projects Mason to be the first running back taken in the draft.
Brandt is also a former NFL scout.
"In terms of skills, he doesn't have to improve anything," Brandt wrote in his evaluation of Mason.
"He can catch the ball really well, he's got good vision and he's tough. I believe he will be a real threat as a runner in the NFL.
"And he can also do a lot of other things for you, including returning kicks."
Mason returned 15 kickoffs for 395 yards, including a 100 yard touchdown return.