GREAT BLUE NORTH DRAFT REPORT
NEWS AND INFORMATION ON THE NFL DRAFT
 

2015 DRAFT PREVIEW: RBs

Overview: Time was not long ago that RB was one of the prime positions on draft day. That was then though, but with the NFL increasingly becoming a pass-centric league the position has become almost an afterthought, at least in the opening round of the draft. Indeed, for the second straight year, no RB was selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. In fact, the first back taken this past May - former Washington Husky Bishop Sankey who was selected by Tennessee - did not come off the board until the 54th pick overall. At the same time, though, 2 other backs were taken almost immediately after Sankey at the end of the second round, while another 5 were selected in the third. As well, a total of 22 backs were taken this past May suggesting that teams still value the position at the draft, just that there may be better value on the second day and in later rounds. In fact, one of the problems at the position this past year was that there were a lot of potentially very productive backs in the draft, but none with future superstar written all over them. Indeed, even as the 2014 draft was unfolding this past May there were literally a half dozen RBs that could have been the first guy off the board at the position.

Time will tell whether the RBs will get back into the opening round this coming spring. Certainly, it is a particularly difficult position to predict this far out from the draft because of injuries and other vagaries. On paper, though, it appears that there is definitley some talent at the position this year. Indeed, in a perfect world, Georgia junior Todd Gurley would be a virtual lock to be a top 10-15 prospect, while fellows juniors T.J. Yeldon of Alabama and Wisconsin's Mel Gordon would not be that far behind. And there is also some intriguing RB depth this year including seniors Karlos Williams of Florida State and Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah and juniors like Mike Davis of South Carolina and Miami's Duke Johnson, while Mike Davis of Texas, underrated Jeremy Langford of Michigan State, Florida junior Mike Jones and Louisville's enigmatic Michael Dyar all have the potential to have big years as do any number of other backs. The latter group includes juniors like Terry Magee of LSU and Byron Marshall of Oregon who have the chance to step up and be the main ball-carrier at their respective schools this fall.

In fact, the running game could very well come back into fashion in a big way in college football this fall as so many top teams are breaking in new QBs. That's the case, for example, for both Gurley and Yeldon, this year's top two RB prospects with former long-time starting QBs Aaron Murray of Georgia and Alabama's A.J. McCarron having moved onto to the NFL. Indeed, the folks at Georgia are quietly talking about a potential 2,000-yard season for Gurley, although to be honest NFL types really don't want to see him take the punishment from the carries he need to get to pile up that kind of number.

At the same time, other juniors who could impact the early rounds of the 2015 draft if they were to declare for the upcoming draft include Jay Ajayi of Boise State, Javoris Allen and Tre Madden of USC, Arkansas' Jonathan Williams, Tevin Coleman of Indiana, Johnathan Gray of Texas, Keith Marshall of Georgia, Tra Carson of TexasA&M, Paul James of Rutgers, Travis Greene of Bowling Green, Jamaal Williams of BYU, Ken Dixon of Louisiana Tech, and D.J. Foster of Arizona State.

Meanwhile, there is only a short list of redshirt sophomore RBs who should consider entering the 2015 draft; its headed by  explosive Shock Linwood of Baylor, who is only 5-8, 200, but is exceptionally quick, elusive and very difficult to bring down in space. Meanwhile, other redshirt soph RBs pro scouts will be following include Trey Edmunds of Virginia Tech and West Virginia's Rushel Shell.  There is also a relatively short list of potential impact RBs transferring in this year from the junior college ranks, although Akeem Judd of Mississippi, De'Chavon Hayes of Arizona State and Kansas' DeAndre Mann  should get plenty of touches this fall. In fact, the one junior college RB transfer pro scouts are really intrigued to see is Tyreek Hill who will play for Oklahoma State this fall. Hill isn't very big at just 5-8, 185 and he's more likely to be graded as a receiver or athlete whenever he does enter the draft, but he is a playmaker with world-class speed.

Top 20 RB Prospects
#
Player
H/W
School
CL
#
Player
H/W
School
CL
1
Todd Gurley 6-0, 235 Georgia JR
11
Byron Marshall 5-9, 205 Oregon JR
2
TJ Yeldon 6-1, 225 Alabama JR 12
Jay Ajayi 5-11, 220 Boise State JR
3
Melvin Gordon 6-0, 210 Wisconsin JR
13
Terry Magee 5-9, 215 LSU SR
4
Mike Davis 5-9, 220 South Carolina JR
14
Michael Dyer 5-9, 215 Louisville SR
5
Karlos Williams 6-0, 220 Florida State SR
15
Cory Grant 5-10, 205 Auburn SR
6
Duke Johnson 5-9, 210 Miami JR
16
Javoris Allen 6-0, 215 Southern California JR
7
Ameer Abdullah 5-9, 200 Nebraska SR
17
David Cobb 5-10, 225 Minnesota SR
8
Matt Jones
6-0, 235 Florida JR
18
Dominique Brown 6-1, 235 Louisville SR
9
Jeremy Langford 5-11, 205 Michigan State SR
19
David Johnson 6-2, 225 Northern Iowa SR
10
Malcolm Brown 5-11, 230 Texas SR
20
Kevin Parks 5-8, 205 Virginia SR

Sleeper file: David Johnson of Northern Iowa, a 6-2, 225-pounder with decent speed, is generally considered to be the top RB prospect outside the ranks of FBS programs, but the top returning rusher in all D1 football is Zach Zenner of South Dakota State who piled up over 2,000 yards last fall, while scoring 23 times. In fact, its the second time in his career that Zenner has eclipsed that mark; he's a physical 220-pounder with good power and instincts, although he lacks sprinter speed. Indeed, there are a number of teams around the league that think Zenner might be a better FB. At the same time, Eastern Illinois is better known for its QBs and receivers, but the Panthers may have a gem of a back in junior Shepard Little who ran for over 1,500 yards last fall despite starting only two games; for good measure, Little who didn't play in his first two years at EIU is also a dynamic punt returner who averaged 23.5 yards per try last season in which he brought two back for scores.

Future file:
There are almost always good young RBs in college football, but the really special ones only come along so often. And the buzz around the country is that LSU may have the 'next great back' in true freshman sensation Leonard Fournette, a 6-0, 225-pounder with track speed who was the top-rated recruit in the country this year; for the record he was also the first high school
freshman ever to sign a scholarship offer from the Tigers, although of course he won't be draft-eligible until 2017. As good as he is Fournette still may not even be the best young back in the SEC West as true sophomore RBs Alex Collins of Akansas and Derrick Henry of Alabama are also special talents as is Virginia Tech soph Trey Edmunds. Same story for emerging Washington redshirt freshman Lavon Coleman. 

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