2015 NFL Draft: Top 3 Running Back Sleepers
The devaluation of the running back has been a trend the last few years in the NFL. More and more teams have gone by a running back by committee approach and it seems as if the belief of many General Managers is if you build a solid offensive line, you can plug even a mediocre running back and get good results. Having said all this, running back is arguably the deepest position in this year’s upcoming draft and there are a plethora of running backs that will get drafted. While only two running backs have 1st round grades (Melvin Gordon out of Wisconsin and Todd Gurley of Georgia,) it is a good bet to have ten to twelve running backs off the board by the end of the third round. Let’s take a look at the top three running back sleepers in this year’s upcoming draft.
- Duke Johnson, University of Miami
The junior back decided to declare for the NFL Draft after having the most successful career of any running back in the University of Miami’s storied history. In 2 ½ years of play (he missed half of his sophomore campaign after breaking his ankle,) Johnson shattered UM’s rushing record finishing with 3,519 rushing yards.
Johnson has the speed and explosiveness to be a star at the next level. When running in the open field, he changes direction effortlessly without breaking a stride and can stop on a dime then burst forward. Furthermore, he is a huge threat out of the passing game averaging over 10 yards per catch during his college career. He compares favorably to Lesean McCoy and C.J. Spiller and would fit in well with an offense like the Eagles or Saints. Look for a team with a heavy passing offense to take him and make him a big part of the offense. With a 3rd round grade on him, whoever snags him will be very happy with the output. Look for Johnson to be a star in the next few years and one of the biggest steals in this year’s draft.
2. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
Abdullah has been one of the most consistent running backs the last three years with Nebraska. Finishing with 1,137, 1,690, and 1,611 the last three seasons respectively. While some scouts may be put off by his size at only 5”8’, there is a lot to like about the Cornhusker product. He is a very patient runner with elite down the field vision comparing to the Cardinal’s Andre Ellington. He will be a commodity in the passing game, having not dropped a pass since his sophomore year of college. Furthermore, he has an extremely high football IQ and is a high character person who will impress General Managers during his interviews.
Similar to Johnson, he is a player currently projected in the 3rd to the 4th round. Look for a team like the Patriots to roll the dice on Abdullah to help replace the production of the recently departed Shane Vereen.
3. Karlos Williams, Florida State
Williams, a former five star recruit out of high school has the ability to be a legitimate running back in the NFL. However, unlike Johnson and Abdullah it is the off the field issues that will cause his draft stock to slip. Williams is currently being investigated for an assault against his ex girlfriend and mother of his two children. Given the light that has been shined on domestic abuse in the NFL the past few seasons, many General Managers will shy away from him. Nonetheless, the talent is there. He finished first in the Speed Score among running backs at the combine, which compares a player’s speed in the NFL Combine 40 to his weight. The logic being, a player who runs a 4.5 at 250 pounds is much more impressive than a player that does it at 210 pounds. He is also just a year removed from averaging over 8 yards per carry with the Seminoles.
Williams could fit a power back role that many NFL teams covet, similar to Legarette Blount’s role with the Patriots and Steelers the past two seasons. Look for him to be a very productive player for a team that takes a chance on him sometime between the 5th and 7th round.
Every year there are late round gems at the running back position. Look for these three players to make big impacts with their new teams in 2015 and beyond.